Dorset. Not the English county that you would traditionally associate with the dark side but, thanks to the doom metal furrows that have been ploughed by Electric Wizard over the years, there is a sense that perhaps there is a darker, more menacing underbelly to the place that one would normally think of when considering summer holidays or household pottery.
“Black Masses”, Electric Wizard‘s latest album, was pretty much the perfect soundtrack to last Hallowe’en: genuinely dark, genuinely menacing and irrefutably metal. Ok, ok before you all start moaning that this record came out nearly eight months ago and why hasn’t TINAS gotten around to doing things until now: hold your proverbial horses. As you also probably know, Electric Wizard are about to do one of their biggest shows, headlining the Metal Hammer stage at this year’s High Voltage festival in London’s Victoria Park so this is, actually, a pretty timely occasion to look again at the dark delights of Dorset Doom Metal masters. Does “Black Masses” stand up to repeated investigation at the height of summer, taken out of the autumnal gloom of its release date?
The answer is a dark, defiant, yes.
“Black Masses” sounds like the soundtrack to a more organic, darker, evil Omen movie; its gothic strains beat a chilling path to your brain. The production is dark and ominous – you get a clear (although, as you would expect, not a clean) sound that provides a delicious backdrop that is foreboding and formidable. Ironically, despite what I’ve just written, it’s strangely accessible- thanks largely to the quality of the songwriting , the efficacy of the musicianship and the guile of the overall artifice. It’s believable, credible and memorable.
Opening growler ‘Black Mass’ is slow burning, gripping and intense. It swirls menacingly and grips vice-like, squeezing harder and harder through chord after progressive chord. ‘Venus in Furs’ has some eerie screeching presaging a chugging riff that Kirk Windstein or Pepper Keenan would have been proud to throw down and the acrid vocals of Liz Buckingham add a sense of menace and unease.
‘Night Child’, with its opening church bells, creaking mausoleum doors and brilliant chorus is as close as doom metal is going to get to an anthem; ‘Patterns of Evil’ and ‘Satyr IX’ consolidate an overall mood of unremitting gloom and despondancy. Both are lovely, as you might have gathered. Closing track ‘Crypt of Drugula’, with the Hammer horror thunder and lightning effects and ponderous basslines is a deliciously evil way to finish things off; as part of the musical narrative we’ve been offered thus far, it’s a suitably dark and bewitching end.
Let’s make no mistake: Electric Wizard are a dark and uncompromising band. “Black Masses” is a deceptively clever, authorative record. There’s plenty of fuzz- enough to fill a police convention, quite frankly- and the echoes of Kyuss are not wide of the mark but they aren’t totally representative either. There’s a coherence to their sound that is familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. Their headline slot at High Voltage is, I think, something of a risk as they do not have any huge singalong hits or mobile phone waving moments . Frankly, who cares: kids, this is as dark and intense as you’re going to get this summer. I bet it rains buckets when they play.