ELECTRIC WIZARD’S IMPRESSIVE ELECTRIC WIZARDRY IN TOP FORM ON NEW ELECTRIC WIZARD ALBUM, BLACK MASSES
The issue with Electric Wizard’s 2000 classic Dopethrone was that it seemed to require smoking a Herculean amount of marijuana to properly enjoy it. And though saying one needs weed to enjoy something is usually a slight against the something in question — oh, how many post-rock and post-metal bands have become significantly less interesting to me once I’ve sobered up? — in Dopethrone’s case, it just seemed like a natural fit. Aside from having “dope” in the title, the album’s hazy sludginess — especially on the iconic closing title track — made one itchy to be high if they weren’t already. And although the band has matured, that sense is still there on their latest, the excellent Black Masses. Still sounding like Sabbath stoned to the point of being red-eyed and practically asleep, the band are more than a bunch of stoners in love with the sound of their (admittedly awesome) amps. Beneath the smoky veil draped over the album, there’s a bunch of excellent songs that bloom upon return. Like always, you don’t NEED to be high to enjoy it, but good Lord, it wouldn’t hurt.
The band’s dedication to the old school is what continues to pump life into them, from their vintage equipment to horror movies and good, ol’ fashioned Satanism as an inspiration. Like all great bands heavily indebted to the past, they manage to add their own flair to it. The album is undeniably an Electric Wizard affair, from the thunderous drums to the wobbling, monolithic doom riffs to Jus Oborn’s otherworldly wail. And even though a fog of noise covers Black Masses, what’s behind it can’t be obscured. “Black Mass” is the band at their most anthemic, while more sparse and dense numbers like “Scorpio Curse” and “Venus in Furs” (thankfully, not the umpteenth cover of the Velvet Underground song) manage to impress as well. “The Nightchild” and “Turn Off Your Mind” are catchy enough to be singles, if we lived in some sort of alternate universe where Electric Wizard got played on the radio. Cribbing from dark psychedelia as well as OG doom metal, the album is awash in gorgeous reverb, making a bunch of sludgy stoner-doom riffs sound impossibly gigantic. There really isn’t anything here to not like: even seeming transgressions like the droning ten minute “Satyr IX” and the instrumental closer “Crypt of Drugula” wind up being charmers if they’re given the time to grow on you.
That is, of course, the key to Black Masses: giving it time. It’s a wall of slow, fuzzy riffs at first, which, at an hour long, can seem impenetrable. But at its core, it’s an immensely pleasing record wrapped in fascinating noise and production. Its density provides ample depth which will ultimately bring those sympathetic to the band’s charms back, as vets like Electric Wizard know how to do. And this is just as good as anything else the band have done, if not better in some spots. Yes, this could provide you with some sort of religious experience if you were stoned, but Lord knows it isn’t necessary. Black Masses, just like Electric Wizard by and large, manages to please on its own.