by Dylan Pennell (@dylan_pennell)
Doom metal’s presence in the zeitgeist has never felt like it was ready for its close-up, at least in its purest incarnation. Sure, some of the stylistic cornerstones have been borrowed by the likes of Josh Homme and Alex Turner, each taking the most attractive and contemporary attributes and pasting them onto pop songs embraced by critics and fans alike, but the genre itself and the acts it encompasses have rarely embraced their moment in a commercially elevating fashion. The way in which it has continued since its inception to run analogous to a musical culture quickly casting off and recycling numerous acts and genres has only strengthened its vitality, resolve, and ultimately, integrity.
Electric Wizard, an act whose roots go back to the mid-eighties, has similarly managed to weather lineup changes and the shifting tides of musical taste and come out the other end... actually... kinda the same exact band. Though the band toyed around with faster tempos and more aggressive instrumentals in the past ten years their new release Wizard Bloody Wizard shows them riding densely distorted riffs from start to finish in a way that recalls their eponymous debut. Rather than feel like homage or desperate pandering, the more simplistic approach to song structure and dynamics serves to remind fans why they fell in love with these guys to begin with.
With six songs clocking in at 43 minutes, it’s clear that the band is letting these songs develop and open up in their own time rather than racing to a non-existent finish line. Opening tracks “See You In Hell” and “Necromania” thrash at the hallowed ground of Sabbath, but with a palatial grandiosity rarely embraced in this genre. The riffs in each song manage to both conjure their own twisted worlds of sludge and then giddily allow that world to collapse into hopeless depravity, musically and lyrically. Speaking of hopelessness, while the lyrical themes on this album don’t necessarily tread new territory for the band, in this political and cultural climate, bandleader Jus Oborn’s lyrics take on a relevance rarely seen in the genre. Songs like “See You In Hell” characterize a world in which our own personal evils are an inevitability against a backdrop of chaos and dread. Later on “Hear the Sirens Scream,” despite the cliched imagery almost feels like an ironic rallying cry for Trump supporters. Perhaps it isn’t so much a conscious effort on the band’s part to address the state of the world, but rather the world is finally realizing the worldview that doom bands have heralded all along. Regardless of the reasoning, it’s hard to hear the album’s closing lines as addressing anyone but the one percent: “Your gods are dragged beneath you and crucified/Now you have everything, but everything has died.”
Even without considering some of the more topical moments of the record, it’s easy to appreciate the economy of songwriting on display here as songs follow singular riffs throughout each song’s runtime, allowing for the dirt and grime to build up around them before you find yourself unable to resist head-banging along. Whether or not you choose to buy in to the lyrical subtext here is beside the point; what their truly is to appreciate on Wizard Bloody Wizard is an astonishing third act from a band that has proven itself not only able to still construct powerful and robust songs, but also able to continually and stubbornly refuse to ever compromise their devotion to their craft for the sake of commercial success. Frankly, the fact that they can still completely kick ass while doing so is something worth acclaim.