It’s hard to see through smoke, but it seems a great medium for sound to pass through. Dorset based doom metal band Electric Wizard are currently leading the world in research into this phenomenon, and their eighth studio album Time To Die is one of their most compelling studies yet.
This band loves marijuana, a fact which became all the more evident in 2000 when they released the seminal LP Dopethrone, a record which has now resulted in a band of the same name and numerous cannabis worshipping groups who pay tribute in some form to this stoner classic (EG, Bongripper, Weedeater and Dopefight). Of course, if we are to play the who-influenced-whom game, all roads circle back to Black Sabbath, a group who has singularly spawned more clones than whoever the guy the clones in Star Wars were cloned from. I don’t know his name, I’m not some weird nerd or whatever.
Electric Wizard have always laid the Sabbath on pretty thick, even paying homage to a memorable lick from “N.I.B.” in the song “Legalise Drugs & Murder,” a single from 2012 that also ended up on a tasty EP similarly titled. Yet, their sound is still quite distinctive and wholly their own, even with the terrific surge in popularity that doom metal has received in recent years. As the Pallbearers and Elders of this world grow in hype, Electric Wizard builds like a fat rip that fills the chamber with a solid column of smoke.
Oh yes, pot. Time To Die starts with the nearly eleven-minute long “Incense for the Damned,” a title alluding, I deduce, to burnt marijuana exhaust. It’s a rollicking way to begin the record, a return to form for a band that has never ventured from the beaten, crushed, ground, rolled into a joint and passed, burning, around the circle path. Jus Oborn’s distant, occult vocals are as far back in the mix as ever, high-pitched and evocative. His guitar playing, accompanied by that of Liz Buckingham, is fuzzy and amply distorted. Bassist Clayton Burgess fills in the lowest end while Mark Greening keeps time, rides and crashes providing a percussive clanging in perfect rhythm.
The band gets a little political with “Destroy Those Who Love God,” a song calling attention to Satan as samples from radio or news segments play over a haunting organ riff. Lead single “SadioWitch,” at just over four minutes, is one of the shorter songs on the album, but certainly one of the strongest. Other standouts, “Funeral of Your Mind” and “I Am Nothing,” firmly place this album on the good end of the band’s discography. I was astonished and grateful that 2010’s Black Masses kicked as much ass as it did, and I’m similarly pleased with Time To Die.
There have been some other cool doom metal albums this year. Wo Fat’s The Conjuring is a psychedelic joy ride. Nadja have released a gang of quality albums. Castle shared Under Siege with the world. Raised Into Darkness by Whitehorse is one of the ugliest doom/grind hybrid albums in years. White Suns, Yob, Mantaur, Spectral Tower, Amouth and Lurk all put out something or other worth listening to. Now, Electric Wizard have made their reply, and it’s likely to end the conversation, or at least reduce the conversation to the point where you can’t even hold it without burning your fingers. The Wizard still commands power in this realm and Time To Die is the irrefutable proof.