Just Like Witches At…You Know…
As long as there are metal fans that want to get high, sit in darkened basements, and listen to freaky noises, stoner metal will always have a place. Returning to that basement is Electric Wizard, the British veterans of the doom/stoner scene, with their seventh full-length Black Masses. While the band’s sonority has mellowed a bit, they can still make you hallucinate with the best of them.
It’s apparent from the opening track that Electric Wizard is sticking to their guns. The vocals are low in the mix, the guitars are fuzzy, and the bass is an indistinct rumble, just the way they should be. This trend continues throughout the record as frontman Jus Oborn sings about the usual stoner metal fare: summoning the Devil on “Black Mass,” a witches’ Sabbath on “Patterns Of Evil,” and psychedelic drug use on “Satyr IX” and “Turn Off Your Mind.” As with any good stoner record, simplicity and repetition is key. Oborn demonstrates his mastery of the genre by keeping his compositions restricted to four or five riffs and a few lines of text, and just letting the song swirl around your consciousness. Oh, and throwing in weird sound effects just to scare you, as with the 9-minute white-noise closer “Crypt Of Drugula.”
Production-wise, Electric Wizard has gone for a vintage sound, like their previous album Witchcult Today. On Witchcult, the band utilized technology from the 1970s, and it sounds like they’ve done it again for Black Masses. The drums, in particular, have that early Black Sabbath “tinny” sound, and tend to get swallowed by the wall of guitars. The band also eschews dynamics, most likely to avoid startling the listener. These choices have the effect of letting the album fade into the background. It’s very easy to listen to this album without being distracted, much like the best works of Bach.
Stoner metal is a very specific niche. Drifting away from its conventions forces the reclassification of the music, and as such, growth within the genre is difficult. Sure, Black Masses sounds a lot like Electric Wizard’s other records, but in no way is that a problem. The band has shown us once again that they still know how to bring the rock. As long as the world has marijuana, the world will have Electric Wizard.