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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Electric Wizard

Dopethrone

Review by Mike Korn

There are certain records that stand out as archetypes in their genre. Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" epitomizes American rock and roll. Slayer's "Reign In Blood" is regarded as the ultimate thrash album. Yes's "Close To the Edge" is one of the apex's of progressive rock music. And now, Electric Wizard's "Dopethrone" takes the crown as the ultimate and uncontested heaviest record ever recorded. I kid you not, this piece of plastic makes Black Sabbath's "Master of Reality" sound like a breezy boy band LP. "Doom" is not the word for this. These three pot-heads from England have unleashed a tidal wave of massive, crushing noise that flattens everything in its path.

Speed has nothing to do with Electric Wizard's assault and battery. Instead, it is monumentally slow, bleak and depressing. Unlike the catchy, headtrip type of doom performed by Fu Manchu or Kyuss; there is not a shred of hope or melody to be found within "Dopethrone". St. Vitus is another band that can be compared to Wizard but even Vitus didn't have a guitar sound as soaked in sonic sludge as this mean mother. Everything is fuzzed out to the max. The bass threatens to blow your speakers to infinity. The guitar sound is pure hell, with lots of feedback and distortion. Even Jus Osborn's vocals sound like they are coming from the dark side of the moon. Riffs are reminiscent of Sabbath in their glory years, but are pounded out with such incredible repetition that a trance-like effect is created. This is doom that drones. This may sound like a negative review but the effect these guys create is awesome and I cannot compare it to anything else. It really does encapsulate everything about true doom metal and amplifies it to a new level. Lyrics are about as gloomy as you could imagine, with plenty of nods to H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, the Columbine massacre and of course, the leafy green herb. I doubt that Electric Wizard themselves (Jus Osborn, Tim Bagshaw and Mark Greening) would consider themselves great musicians but "Dopethrone" emerges as a paragon of the doom metal movement. The antithesis of progressive music, this is so bleak, it's brilliant. See if you can withstand Electric Wizard's spell of doom!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2001 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Vinum Sabbathi:
"Once you get in one of these groups, there's only 2 ways out. One is death and the other is a mental institution." With that cheery pronouncement, the journey begins - and what a way to kick it off. Only about 3:00 minutes long, this features a riff that Iommi would have killed to come up with. An oozing, crawling thing that sinks under your skin, this is an absolute masterpiece.
Funeralopolis
This is more typical Electric Wizard. It starts with a laid-back doomy riff. Then this same riff is hammered into your head with brutal fuzzy ferocity. The riff repeats and repeats as Osborn delivers tales of a "dead black asteroid". Just when you're ready to cry "uncle!" the track shifts gears to a more aggressive (though still moderate) pace. Feedback-drenched guitar solos wail and shriek.
Weird Tales
"Weird Tales" is a droning 15-minute epic that breaks down into three separate parts:
Electric Frost
No build-up here, this slams into a punchy mode that grooves along with a vengeance. Drugged-out lyrics are influenced by the criminally ignored fantasy writer Clark Ashton Smith. This track must kick butt live. It then mutates into the next section.
Golgotha
Mortal ears have not heard such absolute dreary doom as this instrumental piece dredges up. Funeral dirge does not begin to describe it. If you ever heard anything by the cult band Winter, this is pretty similar but much heavier. Keep away from sharp objects. It slowly fades into the next segment.
Altar of Melek-Taus
This is nothing more than about 5 minutes of a spaced-out guitar note that rises and falls while various spacey drones are heard behind it. It is as far from real music as you can get.
Barbarian
After the punishment of "Weird Tales", this is a little bit more on the sane side, but not by much. It's a groove-laden, Sabbath-drenched piece that praises Conan the Barbarian.
I, The Witchfinder
There's no mercy here, as the band unleashes what is undoubtedly THE HEAVIEST DOOM METAL SONG EVER WRITTEN! It is 10 minutes of sheer destruction. The track begins with a main riff so slow and ominous, you'd better cross yourself with garlic for protection. The main riff is pounded into your head like a nail into a coffin. Then, the song gives up a pulsing bass beat while Osborn's guitar wails with some pretty piercing noise. This goes on for quite a while and you will find yourself drifting off into a negative trance. Words just can't describe how doomy this is - brilliant!
The Hills Have Eyes
This sounds like a tiny snippet from a studio jam. Bass-driven, with some trippy guitar, it is a trifle.
We Hate You
And I believe it,too! This charming lullabye seems to be an ode to the Columbine Killers, spouting such inspirational lyrics as: "I'll take my father's gun, Walk Out Into the Street, I'll have my vengeance now, On everyone I meet!" The song is more compact than the others but no less crushing. There seems to be some half-hearted attempt at melody here, but it's another bleak bullet in Electric Wizard's Gun of Doom.
Dopethrone
Finally, the record ends with the title track. And the best may have been saved for last. The Sabbath influence is again strongly felt but the Sabs never played this heavy EVER. With classic mid-paced riffing and a chorus riff that is just so heavy, you can't believe it, this is what metal is all about. Another long jam ends the record, with drawn-out guitar wailing. This is a killer, killer track, ending one of the most monumental albums ever released.
You'll find an audio interview of this artist in the Music Street Journal members area.
 
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