Electric Wizard - Black Masses
Rise Above
Stoner Doom
8 songs (59:09)
Release year: 2010
Electric Wizard, Rise Above
Reviewed by Charles
It’s actually quite hard for a clean-living person to write an Electric Wizard review. From surveying other people’s write-ups of the band’s lengthening back catalogue, it seems that liberal sprinklings of references to something called a ‘bong hit’ are practically mandatory. This sounds like an orchestral percussion technique to me, but friends tell me I am being naive. Still, let’s give it a go: This album reminds me of that one time I inhaled some apple-flavoured shisha smoke in an Arab-run café, yeah? It made me cough. Trippy, dude!

I love the album cover, with the band’s logo drawn to look like smoke from a flame. As anybody with even a passing acquaintance with the band will know, Electric Wizard’s invariably slow and defiantly simple riffs are often buried under such a layer of scuzz that listening to them is like peering at shapes behind a thick, suspicious-smelling cloud. There’s a part of me that sometimes finds the band a little tiresome, particularly on mid-period output like Let Us Prey. Sometimes you can have too much simplicity, and throughout Black Masses’s hour-long running length I occasionally wish for something a bit more dramatic than this very familiar minimalist stoner rumble. I mean, if Lee Dorrian can throw some rapping onto the last Cathedral album, right? To quote This is Spinal Tap's Lt. Hookstratten, I'm joking, of course! Electric Wizard is a very different band, and their jams are not here to entertain or surprise but to suck you in and consume your brain. Often through force of repetition.

I suspect fans of the band will enjoy this immensely, perhaps a little more than 2007’s Witchcult Today. Like that album, it is roughly divided between surprisingly accessible rock numbers and oppressive stretches of bad-trip ugliness. Opener Black Mass belongs very firmly in the former camp, and as such lulls you into a false sense of security. It’s an exuberant (by the band’s standards) stoner anthem, with an authentically catchy, if cudgelling, chorus and proper headbanging riffing. In comparison to the last record, this sort of thing initially seems more prevalent, perhaps hinting at a return to the slightly more fun sound of albums like Come My Fanatics or Dopethrone. But get further in and those craving something darker will not be disappointed. The sound itself actually has much less of Witchcult Today's fuzziness and more metallic bite. Satyr IX is a frightening thing which works that difference to full effect. A maniacal and yowling guitar solo eventually rises hideously out of a swamp of wailing, tuneless vocals and churning guitar misery. From here it turns into a noisy and uncomfortable jam session that mercilessly tramples any cuddly stoner-dude mannerisms under a malevolent cavalcade of horrible sound effects and menacing noise. With the exception of the stomping light-relief of Turn Off Your Mind, this unhappiness becomes worse as the album wears on, with the last two tracks encompassing the unsettling doom of Scorpio Curse giving way to the unpleasant near-ambient closer, Crypt of Drugula.

This is an album that welcomes you in, gets you comfortable, and then starts to act weird. It may not be quite as engaging as the band’s earlier works but there is, I feel, a dark edge to it which is quite potent.

Killing Songs :
Black Mass, Satyr IX
Charles quoted 83 / 100
Other albums by Electric Wizard that we have reviewed:
Electric Wizard - Let Us Prey reviewed by Dylan and quoted 85 / 100
Electric Wizard - Witchcult Today reviewed by Adam and quoted 80 / 100
Electric Wizard - Dopethrone reviewed by Adam and quoted 94 / 100
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