Welcome to the first edition of our Ranked series. Whilst everyone and their mum is talking about the new Electric Wizard release at the moment (it’s actually pretty good), we figured we wouldn’t run just the one review before the release of their ninth opus. To celebrate the band’s almost 25-year long career, we – with the help of the internet doom community (thanks to everyone who participated in our survey) – have come up with a comprehensive ranking of Wizard releases one through eight.
Whether you’re a veteran purveyor of the Wizard’s back catalogue, or a newcomer to the band’s monolithic feats of noise, we hope this feature will help you gain a deeper insight into the back catalogue of doom metal’s favourite druggos.
8. Let Us Prey
One of the band’s most experimental albums (despite a shorter runtime), Let Us Prey also proved one of Electric Wizard’s more hit-and-miss releases. Sonically, it didn’t stray far from the abrasive doom found on previous record Dopethrone, but with added guitar layering and, as Oborn once noted, a greater desire to use the studio in order to create a more “technical” album. Let Us Prey’s greatest downfall was its lack of cohesion. Where previous efforts had comprised intriguing concepts, its tracks were, by the band’s own admission, each inspired by less tangible “ideas” that led to an inherently bizarre aura. An album suffering from an identity crisis, Let Us Prey was not short of the band’s signature feedback-drenched riffs and stonerisms, but mismatched infusions of psychedelia made the album more of a bad trip than a mesmeric voyage, with the laid-back vibes of ‘Funeralopolis’ nowhere to be found.
7. We Live
If the self-titled release through Let Us Prey marks the original incarnation of Electric Wizard, then We Live saw the origins of Electric Wizard Mark II. Now the band’s sole remaining founding member, Jus Oborn upgraded the band from power trio to a quartet fuelled by twin guitars. The result was far from poor, and whilst We Live is one of the band’s least fondly remembered LPs, it was met with generally positive reviews upon release in 2004. Bolstered by the addition of guitarist Liz Buckingham, the band’s sound began to take on a form almost entirely different from the group that formed a decade prior, but plenty of Cathedral and Sabbath-isms remain. Though it’ll never live up to the hypnotic heights of Dopethrone, We Live proved that life after Greening and Bagshaw was very much possible, even if it meant stripping away some of their more psychedelic tendencies.
Electric Wizard’s official bio claims that the band formed “in homage to vintage amplification, marijuana and Black Sabbath.” Their eponymous self-titled debut EP displays this aim more than any other, crawling forward with mind-numbing riffs that revel in Tony Iommi worship and hallucinogenic sonics. Though the LP now seems almost lightweight when compared to what would follow, it’s a remarkably solid album of Cathedral, Saint Vitus, and Sleep-esque sludge, basking in the depths of the lowest frequencies known to man, only emerging for a breath on tripped-out, spacey romp ‘Mountains Of Mars’. From day one, Electric Wizard’s music was a harrowing listen for the uninitiated, but doom metal fanatics everywhere would soon bow to the Dorset trio, with killer tracks like ‘Stone Magnet’, ‘Devil’s Bride’ and the title-track providing an earth and mind-shattering experience that set the stage for one of the most important doom metal artist’s of their generation.
5. Time To Die
Seen as a return to form by some who found the band’s post-Dopethrone material a little lacking, Time To Die embraced Electric Wizard’s darker side. After Witchcult Today’s inspired riffing and menacing atmosphere won a place of reverence in the doom scene, Black Masses went on to feel, at least to some, a little flat in comparison. Time To Die reignited the doom maestro’s fire by trying something slightly different, burbling and crackling as frequently as the band’s most drug-fuelled trips, with an ominous air that seemed to pass beyond the gore-obsessed world of the band’s usual Hammer-horror shtick. Liz Buckingham’s hazy guitar continued to win over sceptics who preferred the band as a trio, and Jus Oborn’s wails, cries, whines and murmurs proved effective throughout, topping off an album that, whilst far from their best, was hypnotic enough to garner some well-earned praise.
4. Black Masses
There’s an unusually frantic quality to Black Masses that somehow doesn’t quite fit right with the production values Electric Wizard generally adhere to on record. The release’s murky sound, coupled with its faster tempo, somehow loses the analogue feel of their older material, resulting in a somewhat disjointed sound. The drum sound is probably the worst of all the records so far, but apart from these annoyances there are some definite high points, ‘Venus in Furs’ in particular, and the title-track. There is a feeling when listening to the release that the band was lacking in ideas somewhat, especially when it came to finishing a track.
3. Witchcult Today
Generally regarded as one of the greats from Electric Wizard’s back-catalogue, Witchcult Today is the bridging point between the fuzzy, unhinged madness of their earliest releases, and the far more polished clarity that’s made so much of their later discography controversial. Themed around a plethora of old-school horror characters, locations, and films, Witchcult Today is arguably the group’s most unhinged release. The release was also the first release following the introduction of guitarist Liz Buckingham to the mix, resulting in a sound refreshed and deepened by the introduction of new blood. From the organ-driven lunacy of ‘Dunwich’ to the epically minded ‘Torquemada 71’, the album’s tightly wound paeans to Hammer horror are perhaps the most palatable incarnation of Electric Wizard’s cleaner sound.
2. Come My Fanatics…
The band’s second studio album was described by Cathedral frontman Lee Dorian as “breaking the mould of traditional Doom” and with abrasive tendencies in abundance, it’s not hard to see why. Come My Fanatics features the ludicrously fuzzed out swagger of ‘Return Trip’, which is still a staple of the bands live set. The whole album has a ’70s horror movie vibe and is littered with HP Lovecraft references, probably more so than through the rest of the bands back catalogue. The finale of the album revolves around leaving earth before disaster strikes and has some of the most chaotic and spacey elements to any Electric Wizard album to date.
“Nuclear warheads ready to strike / world is so fucked let’s end it tonight”
Dopethrone was Electric Wizard’s masterwork, a 70-minute long hymn to doom, drugs and the roiling horror of existence. It was music born of paranoia and isolation, three Devonshire heads channelling the pastoral unease of The Blood on Satan’s Claws through sludge riffs that came across as much as Napalm Death slowed down to a zombie lurch as they did a mentally broken Black Sabbath. From ‘Funeralopolis’ to ‘We Hate You’, this was doom with an edge of existential threat – life presented as a bad trip you might never come back from. It was the last time Electric Wizard sounded genuinely dangerous. Hell, it was the last time they sounded like Electric Wizard.
Words: Andrew Day, Tom Kirby, David Brand and Richard Lowe.