Friday, October 10, 2014
…say you love Satan: ELECTRIC WIZARD – ‘Time to Die’
Before getting started we need to establish a precedent. Up to this point I think Electric Wizard’s ‘Black Masses’ is easily the best thing the band has released. It’s dark, murky, and completely and totally acid-damaged beyond repair. The album has maintained a replay value around these parts that is only rivalled by their more traditional sounding debut. Not to diminish or detract from the band’s previous accomplishments, but this is simply where my head’s at.
The release of ‘Black Masses’ saw the band garnering their most mixed reviews for an album since the nail-in-the-coffin ‘Let Us Prey’, the release that ushered in the demise of the “classic” lineup. So where would they go next? Bringing Mark Greening back (briefly) into the fold was a brilliant move considering the exalted place that ‘Come My Fanatics’ and ‘Dopethrone’ holds for many Electric Wizard and doom fans. But if it has not been painfully obvious from the band’s early days, Jus Oborn seems too have no intention of releasing the same album twice. This has become even more apparent since teaming up with Liz Buckingham and their ever-revolving cast of drummers and bassists. After the release of ‘We Live’ the band has made some sharp adjustments to their sound, particularly in the production department—a trend that continues with ‘Time to Die’. The album takes the boggy, lo-fi garage rock sound of ‘Black Masses’ and pulls it deeper into the mud.
‘Time to Die’ may fail to match ‘Dopethrone’ in terms of overall heaviness or anger, but it easily eclipses their earlier accomplishments with pure unadulterated hate and pharmacological excess. With inspiration drawn from Ricky Kasso’s murder of Gary Lauwers, among other influences, ‘Time to Die’ empathetically construes psychosis and drug addled rage. For the first time Electric Wizard has truly succeeded in concocting a soundtrack that matches the seedy, exploitative underbelly of society that is embraced and championed by the band.
Without a doubt the album is front loaded. “Incense for the Damned” begins with the sound of rushing water, ominous organ, and Greening fading in from behind the kit overlaid with sound bites related to the Kasso murder case. Distortion begins to roar, Jus bellows, and the song falls into a head-nodding sinister groove. Despite being slightly buried in the mix, Greening’s busy drumming is a propulsive driving force for the tune, particularly when the song implodes and ultimately loses its form in a disjointed crawl before ultimately reincorporating.
“I Am Nothing” easily stands as a crowning achievement amidst the band’s vast collection of tunes and even rivals the sheer heaviness of anything on “Come My Fanatics” or “Dopethrone”. The tune is centered on a simple, yet menacingly simple cluster of notes that seem to sickeningly lurch and reel. When not invoking madness the tune exemplifies the epitome of heavy with a pummeling main riff and plenty of feedback and swirling noise. Again, Greening is in top form as his drumming seems to ebb and flow from within the whirlwind of howling distortion.
Despite presenting some of the band’s most unique and menacing tunes haphazardly enveloped in a psychotropic induced psychosis, ‘Time to Die’ is a bit long in the tooth. “SadioWitch” is a killer tune, but pretty much is a reworked version of “Black Mass”. “Funeral of Your Mind” is somewhat of a sonic mess that sounds more like a long lost Comets on Fire tune than what Electric Wizard is traditionally known for which could good or bad depending on your mood or state. Regardless of the album’s runtime and the presence of a few revisited riffs ‘Time to Die’ is worth the admission for the first four tracks alone.
To be honest I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by this album like I have been. Following the release of ‘Black Masses’ I imagined that the band would shift their sound in a completely different direction. Instead, they seem to be continuing a trajectory that is taking them further into a hate filled, murky abyss that embraces the darkest side of psychedelia and human nature. Tastefully placed organ and mellotron scattered throughout the album are excellent atmospherics touches. The band lays it on a bit thick with the sound bites, but this does not prevent the album from standing out as one of the year’s best. But, if you’ve written off the Wizard following the release of ‘Witchcult Today’ and especially ‘Black Masses’, then there might not be a whole lot here for you.