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3.5 out of 5 skulls

Electric Wizard Black Masses

Fuck yes! Electric Wizard are back with another helping of scuzzed out doom. The band’s seventh studio album, Black Masses, is running rampant over the general public right now, but not in the group’s usual doom fashion.

Carrying the themes and general sound from previous album, Witchcult Today, the eight tracks on this latest effort aren’t nearly as heavy as the band’s massive earlier material. Dominated by a more upbeat tempo and increased psychedelic elements, these guys (and lady) are pushing their brand of trudging, stoner doom through buzzing guitars and heavy footed rhythms. The overall vibe of Black Masses is pretty damn catchy and accessible as the band mixes their doomy riffs and mid-tempo rhythms with a decent amount of reverb, texture and sludgy tones to produce a suffocating atmosphere. It’s just not what I was expecting from these purveyors of doom.

Album opener, “Black Mass” sets the tone of the album with a catchy series of riffs while the vocals sit further in the background than on any of the band’s previous material. As the reverb fades from the opening track, Electric Wizard step into the next track (“Venus in Furs”) a smoke enshrouded, distant riffs and trippy, swirling production effects. The vocals again are a bit in the distance which only adds to the eerie feel of the song.

There’s an interesting under current to the album, that as each song progresses, it tends to also degrade a bit into a churning, twisting mass of psychedelic atmosphere, trippy vocals and dopes up guitars. “Venus if Furs” is a prime example of this phenomenon. After the eight minute plus third track, “Patterns of Evil” comes out of your speakers with a more enthusiastic series of scuzzed out, doomy riffs. The band still incorporates spaced out atmospheres, but the guitars are a bit more reminiscent of albums past, as they are in the near 10 minute long “Satyr IX” — which is a monstrously awesome track.

The next couple of tracks (“Turn Off Your Mind” and “Scorpio Curse”) are fairly middle of the road tracks. They’ve got plenty of layers and denseness, but there’s really nothing to them that makes you want to jump up and shout (or grab the bong). Unfortunately the album wraps up with a rather stale noise-packed instrumental — “Crypt of Drugula” could have been a nice spot to end the disc with a strong finish, but it was not meant to be.

The denseness and overall feel of the music is still all doom all the time, but each song is a bit more up-tempo, driven and airy — a direction I’m I find interesting for these denizens of the mighty doom riff. The swirling, psychedelic influences of 70’s era horror movies is an element that I welcome. It adds a great swirling, drugged out vibe to the music, but also at times takes away from the impact of the guitar work. The combined ingredients really make for a pretty solid release albeit different than their previous albums. In the end, however, “Black Masses” is really just more of the same. There isn’t as much progression as we heard on Witchcult Today. If you’re not at all worried about that, you’ll still dig this album.

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