Doom-Metal Titans Grow a Witch Cult
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because some things are better nonacoustic.
By Michael Nordine
“The heaviest band in the universe” is a bold title to self-apply. In the case of doom-metal titans Electric Wizard, it almost feels like an understatement. The loudest export from Dorset, England, has a sound most easily understood as updated Black Sabbath; in an interview, frontman Jus Oborn admitted that the band’s name is an amalgam of two Sabbath songs, “Electric Funeral” and “The Wizard.” The quartet prefers to record on the same analog equipment their genre forebears used in the ’60s, with lyrics focusing almost exclusively on drugs, Satan, horror movies and witchcraft. (Anyone who takes this seriously does so at their own peril.)
A trip to one of the final dates on the North American Domination tour confirmed the Electric Wizard as the standard-bearers of doom. This being their first Stateside jaunt in nearly 15 years (their last, after the release of 2002’s Let Us Prey, brought tensions among the band to a boil and ended with the announcement of their dissolution), fans were naturally abuzz. Electric Wizard has a certain crossover appeal that few others of their ilk enjoy, something fellow concertgoer Omeed Izadyar took note of as well.
You feel a doom-metal show as much as you hear it; put a phone on a table and the vibrations will move it like a jumping bean.
“I’ve never seen people crowd-surfing and stage-diving at a doom show before,” says Izadyar, who curates the Crossing and has toured with such metal acts as Cynic and Enslaved as a lighting technician. “These people were so excited after years of waiting for this band that they didn’t know what to do with themselves … Jus called the audience ‘the chosen few,’ but one of several sold-out shows around LA is much more than that, and pretty remarkable for this kind of band.”
Something that the Wizard and groups in a similar orbit — Earth, YOB and Sunn O))) especially — emphasize in live performances is the physical aspect of their music. You feel a doom-metal show as much as you hear it; place your phone on a table and the vibrations will move it around like a jumping bean.
The set list of just nine songs focused heavily on the Dopethrone, Witchcult Today, Black Masses and Time to Die albums, with little love given to the band’s early releases or the two immediately following Dopethrone. This was for the best: Electric Wizard is often transcendent, but their discography is uneven. Though Dopethrone is their most adored release and the absolute high-water mark for all of doom, the three songs from Witchcult (“Satanic Rites of Drugula,” “The Chosen Few” and the title track, which opened the show) translated best to the live experience.
The Wizard devote themselves to harnessing the power of the riff, and Witchcult Today features the sort of rhythmic, down-tempo guitar work that creates a veritable trance among performers and listeners alike. For their efforts they were rewarded with a surprisingly energetic audience — doom metal lends itself to a certain kind of blissed-out lethargy — and no fewer than two bras thrown onstage. The band took no notice of the latter, too lost in the churning power of the riff to look up and see the room erupting around them.