There's an excellent article over on the spoof punk website The Hard Times titled 'Innovative Stoner Metal Album Blends Influences from Black Sabbath and Black Sabbath'. Like all good satire, the piece neatly skewers reality, pointing out the genuinely ridiculous debt owed by an entire genre to one single band.
This is the difficulty with referencing Black Sabbath when talking about any modern stoner metal release. Given their status as the sole architects of the sonic template of all sludge, fuzz and doom music (that, variances aside, has been followed by literally thousands of bands worldwide for nearly half a century), even mentioning their influence on an album that pursues a similar sluggish, down-tuned form of heavy guitar rock can seem, at best, like a waste of time and, at worst, like an unsubtle hint that the record in question reeks of unoriginality. At the same time actively omitting their name from the discussion feels sacrilegious, like writing a thought-piece on the sociological history of zombie movies without mentioning George Romero.
With this particular Sabbath-tinged release Dorset doom-mongers Electric Wizard have cut such doubt off at the pass by literally naming their ninth album ‘Wizard Bloody Wizard’. Jus Oborn and Liz Buckingham have never been coy regarding where they get their passion for grinding riffs and Hammer Horror lyrics from, and, in lifting the title directly from Sabbath’s unsung sixth LP, the group effectively underline their quest to capture the most classic, straightforward version of themselves they can be on record.
There’s a patent absurdity to this tribute. ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ is by far Black Sabbath’s most experimental album, while this record is by far Electric Wizard’s least. However, given that this is the band that gave us the ridiculous slowness of 'Witchcult Today' and the terrifying, feedback-drenched 'Let Us Prey', this means that they pretty much manage to meet their heroes halfway. 'Wizard Bloody Wizard' is certainly their most attention-grabbing record since the unexpectedly commercially successful 'Dopethrone' in 2000. It might even replace that record as the one you'd reach for to introduce an uninitiated friend to Electric Wizard’s distinctive sound for the first time.
Never has the band sounded quite so direct and straight to the point before. The full-throttle riffs of 'Necromania' and 'Hear The Sirens Scream' make a beeline straight for the eardrums, battering aside all obstacles in their way. The group's preference for recording straight to amp without any of the usual pedal-board nonsense is audible in a way it never particularly was on previous releases, with every plectrum scratch and hammer-off cutting through the mix, clear as glass.
Despite ominous lyrics about black magic and copulating demons (not to mention 'The Reaper's suitably spooky organs), you can't really describe 'Wizard Bloody Wizard' as doom metal. It feels like, after the heartbreak and lineup changes of 2014's gloomy 'Time To Die', the band have simply had too much fun making the kind of music they love this time around to plum their grimmer side any further. Doubtless this will piss off a swathe of their fans (AKA the ones whose band t-shirts are genuinely illegible), but it might well win them a new host of fans more partial to ‘Era Vulgaris’ than ‘Epicus Doomicus’.
More than anything else, however, ‘Wizard Bloody Wizard’ proves that the music Black Sabbath birthed can still hit hard without much in the way of embellishment nearly fifty years later. In time could it even go the way of folk or classical music – a truly immortal style that echoes from one generation to the next eternally.
Words: Josh Gray
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