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Electric Wizard : Wizard Bloody Wizard

Electric Wizard's latest is a throwback '70s psychedelic studio jam that actually works quite well.

My first thought, listening to this, was that it's surprisingly mellow for an Electric Wizard offering. Though, on reflection, 'mellow' is probably the wrong word, even as a comparative - too many Donovan and Tyrannosaurus Rex 'flowers and sunshine' connotations about it. But to ears familiar with the extremes of Doom - including many of EW's own massively oppressive Stoner works - musically, this is a long way from the uttermost pit of aural darkness.

More than anything, it feels like an authentic, old-school Hard Rock album - one of those bluesy, grimy, heavy offerings from the turn of the '70s when everyone wanted to grab Blue Cheer's 'loudest band in the world' crown, and back it up with music that explicitly pushed the boundaries of acceptability. Revisiting that 50 years on means there's not the same struggle with sound technology that crippled albums like 'In For The Kill!' - the strong, clear production is something Budgie would have murdered for; in fact, it's significantly less murky than many of EW's previous works.

Wearing that particular heart on its sleeve, 'Wizard Bloody Wizard' has a jamming psychedelic feel which covers those original bands, going as far back as early Hawkind-style descending progressions and basslines - but inevitably stamps its own mark and heritage across them. In this case, the sneering, misanthropic and sometimes downright nasty lyrics are what really carry that. Familiar subjects to EW fans, of course, though perhaps a little more abstract, and a little less self-referential or movie-based than usual - and wherever you stand on the subject of Jus Oborn's vocals, there's no denying he delivers them with a consistent sincerity, no matter what the topic.

I suppose there's a certain irony in taking the stance that an EW album (their ninth, as it happens), from a band that could be accused of both drawing on the generic and so often-imitated that they'd find it hard to stand out from the crowd under any circumstances these days, is at its best when it seems to be trying to sound like somebody else. Wicked Lady's somewhat filthy, pornographic and subversive early '70s blues-based axemanship is probably the comparison I'd make (despite the obvious 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath' reference begging to be used), and 'Wizard Bloody Wizard' does a pretty good job of dragging that into the modern era. Well, it works for me, even if the necrophilia, drug abuse, murder and suchlike of the lyrics is something of a 'yep, heard it all before'...

Although the guitar and vocals, as ever, dominate the sound, I'd have to give credit to the rest of the band - a stable line-up since 2014, though this is their first album together - for pulling 'Wizard Bloody Wizard' together. There's a clear feeling that they're comfortable working together, and the percussion session do a lot to make the 'live jam' session atmosphere work as well as it does. My personal highlight is the sadly brief but vaguely Iron Butterfly-sounding, keyboard-led workout on 'The Reaper', but maybe that's just me - regardless, to my ears it all hangs together a lot better than the last couple of albums managed.

In fact, my biggest criticism would be that even in a career dogged by dubious album art, this one is a new low. But I'd recommend not judging the book by its cover, especially in this case, and even as someone who really isn't much of a fan of the band - this may actually be the most playful and subversive reinvention of the Wizard sound yet. It's certainly become my favourite take on it since 'Witchcult Today' hit the streets.

Note: A shorter version of this review was originally published in print format in FIRE Magazine Issue 7, Autumn 2017.

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Reviewer's rating: 7.5/10


Tracklist :
1. See You In Hell
2. Necromania
3. Hear The Sirens Scream
4. The Reaper
5. Wicked Caresses
6. Mourning Of The Magicians

Duration : Approx. 44 minutes

Visit the Electric Wizard bandpage.

Reviewed on 2018-02-20 by Mike Liassides
Thermal Mass
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