English doom and stoner metal legends Electric Wizard return with their ninth studio LP entitled Wizard Bloody Wizard. If the album’s title doesn’t give away the band’s evident, and career-long, homage to Black Sabbath, then the sound will be sure to do so. Founding member Jus Oborn and longtime guitarist Liz Buckingham, who is also Oborn’s wife, return with a revamped supporting cast for their 2017 release. For the third straight record, Electric Wizard have a new bassist and drummer laying down studio tracks. Simon Poole returns on drums after a brief stint with the band in 2012, and Clayton Burgess lends his talents as the group’s fifth bassist since 2003.
Wizard Bloody Wizard kicks off hard and heavy with the albums only single thus far, “See You in Hell”. The Black Sabbath worship is strong with this track. Even the aesthetics of the song’s music video are dripping with ‘70s nostalgia: a cheesy green screen (featuring a revolving display of ghoulish, sexual, and psychedelic imagery), bell-bottom pants, and denim jackets. Additionally, Buckingham sports an inverted cross necklace while playing her ’67 Gibson SG…two features that Black Sabbath fans should associate with riff lord Tony Iommi. Like most doom metal tracks, “See You in Hell” features a massively crushing riff that is exaggerated by its mid-tempo pace. However, here the fuzzy guitars are less distorted than the band’s Dopethrone days nearly two decades ago. Consequently, the clearer mix allows each instrument to stand out much more prominently. Nothing is buried in this mix. Burgess and Poole’s driving rhythm support is as clear as either guitar. Therefore, the track sounds much richer than previous compositions.
The third track, “Hear the Sirens Scream”, is another standout number. The four-piece opens up with another crushing guitar riff. If there’s one thing Electric Wizard almost always delivers on, it’s overwhelming riffage. Oborn proves once more why he is one of the best riff writers in modern metal. Just when it seems like the band has run out of ways to adapt or alter a classic Black Sabbath guitar sound, Oborn delivers something perfectly suitable for traditional doom metal. And whenever the Dorest native meanders into an occasional guitar solo, Buckingham maintains the band’s crushing sound with some powerful support on rhythm guitar. At nearly nine minutes long, “Hear the Sirens Scream” is yet another quality composition that only furthers Electric Wizard’s legacy in modern doom metal.
“The Reaper” follows immediately after with an interesting organ accompaniment that, once again, reeks of nostalgia…but in a pleasant sense. However, the song never really opens up, and remains more of a subtle, ambient filler wedged between two heavier and more compelling tracks.
“Mourning of the Magicians” closes out the album and clocks in at over 11-minutes long. Unlike some of the aforementioned tracks, this concluding piece acts as more of a slow burn. Or, to keep in line with the album’s artwork, like a knife slowly piercing one’s skin. It plods along without the initial energy or density of the prior track, “Wicked Caressess”. But shortly after the eight-minute mark, the song finally opens up with a noticeable surge in tempo and note density. Oborn cries out “I’ll see you in hell” as both guitars proceed to attack with a spiraling, distortion-soaked intensity. The band’s sound swells and swells for the final two minutes before Oborn laments “But at last, the light has come/As you die.” And with that final lyric, the furious sound halts almost immediately.
Wizard Bloody Wizard’s lyrics are steeped in matters of the occult, the macabre, mental anguish, and torment. In other words, it’s a classic Black Sabbath record…made by Electric Wizard. As previously mentioned, the Godfathers of Metal have clearly left an unrelenting mark on Electric Wizard’s artistic direction, both sonically and visually. However, Electric Wizard seems to have succumbed to the same pitfalls of other contemporary metal acts striving for a “classic” sound. Though their musicianship and collective talent is enough to make quality music, the lack of artistic risk taken by bands such as Electric Wizard fails to create anything particularly novel or interesting. As the band ventures further into a traditional doom metal sound, they are destined to be viewed as nothing more than a nostalgic act. Specifically, they are sure to be regarded as a group that is content with duplicating a sound that has already been done ad nauseam.
For fans of: Black Sabbath, Pentagram, and Trouble