Decorate the darkness with sparks of guitar soloing.
Doom metal is interesting in that it eschews the typical goal of kinetic extremism in music. For a genre that prides itself on giving adolescents a utility with which to scare their parents and sneer at other musical identity groups, doom remains something of an outlier. It’s a relatively small subset of bands who enjoy the aggression but prefer to take the long way around to get there. Electric Wizard’s Come my Fanatics… in 1996 and 2000’s Dopethrone are widely considered to be first stops if you’re being introduced to the genre. Ridiculously down-tuned guitars, growling and wavering in frothy psychedelic swirls and passionate but indiscernible cries by Jus Oborn have remained consistent throughout the bands evolving lineup and prolific career. On 2014’s Time to Die, however, things were starting to get a little less muddied. That trend continues on the band’s latest highly anticipated follow-up, Wizard Bloody Wizard.
“Clean” might be overstating it a little. It’s a difficult word to use when you’re talking about a band which is part doom, part sludge and arguably a little bit blues. But relatively speaking, the first thing you notice on the opening guitar blasts of “See You in Hell” is that but for a slightly fuzzed out guitar and reluctance to engage in melody or dynamics, this could be a Black Keys track. It’s the same on each of only six tracks. It’s a long six, however. Four of the tracks are double the length of a typical metal song, a fifth comes in at just under 12 minutes and the unusual “The Reaper” feels more like a minor intermission at just three minutes.
“Wicked Caresses” allows each of the instruments to breathe a little while Oborn’s filtered voice whines. It’s the first track on the record where the rather relentless pattern to Oborn’s vocal style is truly noticeable and this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Part of the enjoyable thing about doom metal is the way its elements are sucked up in a spinning storm of distortion. The resulting cacophony resounds with a gloomy monotone that plods along laying waste to the happy little constructs of your psyche. One of the most important ways it accomplishes that is by not allowing you to become too distracted by the individual elements of any one track. For at least the opening few minutes of “Wicked Caresses,” Oborn is on display for all his flaws and the melodic weakness of the song. The same is true for most of the record until you reach the ending track.
The band hits their stride on “Mourning of the Magicians,” which appropriately harkens back to the other sort of extreme. What the world of doom metal brings to the genre overall are the extremes of length and self-indulgence. Ask anyone who picks up an electric guitar for the first time with the distortion dialed up—the first thing they did was pluck the strings or a chord and leave it open to wind, snarl and dwindle. Maybe they draw back their head or thrust their pelvis forward as though it were somehow bending the notes and folding them in upon the feedback. That sound is the entire foundation of the subgenre and so long as that’s intact, the only thing left for you to do is decorate the darkness with sparks of guitar soloing, snare drums and the smash of symbols. All of that is here in ample supply and they’re in no hurry to deliver it — which is exactly what you want from Electric Wizard.