The beating down of insufficiently motivated rabble with standing waves of steely humming noise is one of the grand traditions of metal. As a long-term strategy, it’s square with the benchmark formula of Manowar, i.e., create an ideology that infidel members of the audience are to be brought to heel through judicious application of intolerable volume. As practiced as the rule of law by Electric Wizard in England, it’s appended with decrees to the effect that fabricators of semi-commercial stoner metal (read Queens of the Stone Age ilk) are weaklings—also similar to the way Manowar personnel were rhetorically ever ready to admonish “false metal”-playing pantywaists of the mid ’80s for not being sufficient men to play on 10.
In another manner of speaking, EW’s Dopethrone is the doom metal equivalent of the Reinigung Gebiet, the German pure-beer standard: bitter and sulfuric to the point of unpalatability, but against which everything else seems watery. The bass shares lead instrument duties with guitar, which is freed to add the texture of a whirring pipe organ. Also greatly reliant upon scratchy, crackling improvisation over a loud drummer, Dopethrone owes as much if not more to Amon Düül II as to Black Sabbath.
And if you look past the code of metal accounting certifications to good quality—the blandishments to “spree killing” and to “legalize” drugs, the gratuitous dirty poster of the biker-chick-to-the-Born-Losers—there’s evidence of a sly, laughing appreciation of old-school horror. “Vinum Sabbathi,” for instance, derives from Arthur Machen’s Novel of the White Powder, originally a tale in which a student takes a prescription drug that turns him into a carbuncle-plagued thing of angry disposition. Electric Wizard give the story a purulent airing. “Weird Tales” is a drone-rock opera, of all things, quaintly devoted to some of the forgotten authors from the magazine of the same name. And for those really schooled in the trivia of the arcane, “I, the Witchfinder” borrows from the flick Mark of the Devil, a ’70s fright that attracted junior high wannabe-proto-he-men types like me with ad copy promising the issuing of special sick bags to all prior to the screening.
Ugly in a magnetic fashion, Electric Wizard, as claimed by an overnervous fan, make metal to soil your pants to. Not bad—but Dopethrone as modern music for readings of the ghost stories of Ambrose Bierce is somewhat less vulgar, more exact.
Electric Wizard play Continental March 5.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 27, 2001