Electric Wizard: Black Masses

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Electric Wizard: Black Masses
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Electric Wizard: Black Masses
Doom Metal, Stoner Metal
Rise Above Records
January 18th, 2011
Release length: 59:09
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With the sudden surge of bands exploring the Doom Metal and Stoner Metal fields, a lot of bands that have existed for a while have been lost in the mix. This include Electric Wizard, a group who has gone through many different names before setteling on this one back in 1993, and has been issuing material under this monicker since 1995’s debut self-titled full-length. This United Kingdom-based Doom/Stoner Metal group has paid their dues and finds their seventh full-length effort picked up by Rise Above Records, being released in conjunction with Metal Blade Records. But, for their seventh musical incarnation, is it the one to really put the band on the map, or is Black Masses another effort to be loss in the sea of today’s appreciation to this style despite having existed much longer then the aforementioned recent fascinations?

Electric Wizard really does take from some of the earlier acts of the style, having heavy traces of bands such as Black Sabbath mixed with today’s standard of Stoner Metal, laced with a crushing, bass driven sound to capture the Doom Metal presence. Much like early Stoner Rock acts, the band utilizes a loud, heavy, and deep bass presence throughout the recording against rather low guitars with the signature Stoner Rock/Metal distortion that feels a little distorted from realty to create music guaranteed to make individuals who walk into the style high on anything feel right at home with the illusions or newly found laid back attitude. The drums do end up aiding the atmosphere well with the heavy, loud thuds from the bass kicks and rather loud and echoing cymbol performances that are often more dominant then the snares, which also sound as full as the already mentioned bass kicks. This can lead to some rather trippy music being created, such as with the song “The Nightchild,” but at the same time leaving you feeling more relaxed and ready to unwind, even if walking into this effort clean. Sometimes you can pick out some influences from other bands, including a bit of a Mercyful Fate sound to the first track, “Black Mass.” But, despite all that, the main allure here is the overall audio quality not only being deep and rich with a bass presence, and not just the more laid back performance meeting somewhat psychadelic moments throughout the songs, but the more raw and analog production quality to the music that really sets up the atmosphere of the recording nicely. This does include some distortion on the more toned down clean vocals, but they end up suiting the album nicely with the more nasally performance that matches the overall laid back atmosphere and Stoner qualities to the release. The only time these seem to get a little out of hand are on “Venus in Furs” when the vocal distortion is way too high pitched and it clashes horribly with the music.

Sometimes the tracks on here can be more catchy then they are heavy or crushing. This is exactly how Black Masses starts out. “Black Mass” introduces the album well through some crushing riffs, but it’s a far more catchy track that seems to really take a vintage Stoner Rock approach then trying to really feed into a more traditional Metal interpretation of the style, and for that the song itself becomes a song you simply can’t help but bang your head along to, or at least bob it along with the more laid back atmosphere that surprisingly does exist amid the faster, more upbeat sound found in the track until you start to reach the closing when the pace slows down and closes with guitars ringing out with feedback that gives way to what sounds like a woma screaming bloody murder. This closing does set up the slower, dismal sound of the tracks that are about to come, but while “Venus in Furs” does have a really heavy Stoner sound to it amid the crushing sound, nothing can brace you for the louder and higher pitched vocals that hit during this track. “Turn Off Your Mind” does make for a strong and enjoyable trippy Metal experience, using more of a simpler approach to the song and really focusing on using a good deal of distortion to really capture a more traditional Stoner Rock vibe, but manages to makie it the band’s own with an energetic performance and suiting laid back vocal style that matched the atmosphere of the song, though it greatly departs from the more tribal or ritualistic approach that seems to revolve around much of the album, especially the heaviest of the songs here.

While “Black Mass” really gets listeners excited about Black Masses, the majority of the album really does come at you with a more serious approach though, really feeding off the fuel of the crushing audio well. “The Nightchild” is a nice showcase of this due to it’s slower pace and really heavy sound, but it also has a strong enchanting beat to it thanks to the trippier music and bass kicks that almost give off a ritualistic drumming performance to the song that would match the darker, more occultish atmosphere of the song and it’s lyrical content. The following track “Patterns of Evil,” however, does have moments that blend both the heavier sound and catchier riffs, but no real avail. The song itself is alright, but it features moments of psychadelic music that the band seems to push, but in the end just sound like they were trying too hard and outside their presence behind the guitar solo, they ultimately fail. That and some of the catchier riffs outside the chorus, especially after those trippier moments, end up sounding hollow, as if a whole other layer to make the hooks actually catchy in any way was omitted.

“Satyr IX” is another song that has potential, but the band really utilized a good deal of white noise to try to induce a psychadelic presence to the music, as if something strobing or spinning fast and slow to create a random buzzing noise to the song that is really loud in the music mixed with a louder, more enthusiastic vocal performance, both really overtaking the song, though the latter of the two just clashes more with the music then that buzzing sound does which really just ends up giving a migraine to the listener by the time the just under ten minute track finally reaches it’s conclusion. The song itself is also not the most fantastic track, really taking a simpler, and even generic approach to the music being played, leading this longer track to be one that really just doesn’t stand out on the recording other then through it’s more annoying musical composition and performance thanks to it’s faults and really going overboard to create a stronger Stoner atmosphere. Really, there’s nothing else all that spectacular on the album, but at least the songs are a little more enjoyable then this track. “Scorpio Curse” does utilize a good deal of guitar distortion in an effort to increase the psychadelic vibe of the song, and it works, but ends up just sounding like another alright track that doesn’t really offer too much to really feel engaged with like “Black Mass” and “The Nightchild”. All of this leads to the closing track “Crypt of Drugula”, which is bled into from “Scorpio Curse”, and this instrumental closing does a nice job establishing a nightmarish storming atmosphere well suited to an early horror film’s atmosphere and visual presence, becoming one of the better tracks of the closing to the album.

Black Masses is far from the masterpiece many claim the album to be. While there’s no denying the solid performance and music the band has placed on this recording, it’s hard to enjoy it past the longer track “The Nightchild”. Much of the music brought after that track tends to feel a little more generic on the Stoner Metal and even Stoner Rock side of things, and if it weren’t for the crushing Doom Metal atmosphere of the heavy bass and distortions, the songs wouldn’t have much of a unique appeal to them. Extreme measures are often taken to create a trippy or psychadelic element to some songs, but they end up hurting the music sometimes due to the rawer audio quality used, and the vocals can clash with the bludgeoningly heavy music at times due to it’s higher pitch thanks to the moments where more enthusiasm is brought into the mix. Electric Wizard‘s seventh album definitely has some material well worth hearing, but in the end it’s not a lot. Black Masses is still well worth a listen despite some of it’s faults, but don’t walk in expecting the most amazing nostalgic Stoner album to ever be recorded.

01. Black Mass – 6:06
02. Venus in Furs – 6:22
03. The Nightchild – 8:02
04. Patterns of Evil – 6:30
05. Satyr IX – 9:58
06. Turn Off Your Mind – 5:51
07. Scorpio Curse – 7:31
08. Crypt of Drugula – 8:49
Initial Pressing Score: 6.5/10

Electric Wizard (band)
Electric Wizard

Physical review copy of this release provided by personal funds.