Electric Wizard’s Time to Die: Stoned to Death
On their last two albums, 2007’s Witchcult Today and 2010’s Black Masses, Electric Wizard began to get fashionable. Tracks like “Dunwich” and “Venus In Furs” felt glam-influenced and upbeat (as upbeat as stoner doom metal can sound), and overall the albums seemed to have a bit more tongue-in-cheek swagger than the band’s previous output. This wasn’t a bad thing—it introduced a whole new legion of fans to one of metal’s best bands—but it definitely hinted at a shift towards more mainstream-palatable sounds for the Dorset four-piece. Which is why it’s heartwarming to see that on their latest record, Electric Wizard have gone in the opposite direction entirely. Time To Die is a dense monolith of misanthropic drug-drenched morbidity that will separate fair-weather fans from the Chosen Few.
The hallmarks of the band’s sound are all present on Time To Die: groaning Lovecraftian riffs by Liz Buckingham, sneering vocals by Justin Oborn, cymbal-heavy percussion, the occasional horror movie sample, reverb that echoes for centuries. But from the get-go, this record presents listeners with harsher sensibilities; opener “Incense of the Damned” includes the lyric, “I don’t give a fuck about anyone,” which sets the stage for the songs that follow it. This record is light on far-out earth-loving hippie-isms like satyrs and space travel; instead, it focuses on the unholy metallic trinity of death, Satan, and dank-ass weed. Time To Die isn’t a joint passed to you at a concert, it’s the bong rip that leaves you wondering if the world’s gonna collapse.
But that level of crushing darkness is what makes Time To Die so incredible. This record doesn’t sound retro in the ways at which some of Electric Wizard’s peers—Ghost, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats—so desperately grasp. The songs owe as much of their atmosphere to black metal as they do to the 1970s. The title track is driving in its slow stomp, while “Funeral Of Your Mind,” with its huge chorus and swinging guitar leads, is both infectious and deeply pissed-off. “We Love The Dead” would smack of Hammer Horror if it didn’t feel like the anthem of an actual group of deranged junkies digging up bodies. There are a few shifts in tempo, but they don’t feel drastic—“Lucifer’s Slaves” is funky and danceable for the first half, but even that sinks into a pit of crushing riff quicksand in the middle.
Everything about Time To Die (including its title) suggests that it’s Electric Wizard’s final album. The closing track, “Saturn Dethroned”, is a psychedelic mindbender that ends with that famous opening sample from 2000’s seminal Dopethrone: “When you get into one of these groups, there’s only a couple ways you can get out…” Maybe I’m reading too much into that, and the band has ten more records planned. That said, if Electric Wizard called it quits, Time To Die is an incredible album to go out on, an album as heavy, morbid, and lasting as any tombstone that’s ever been carved.