“When you get into one of theses groups, there’s only a couple of ways out, one is death, the other is mental institutions” is the sampled line that intros Electric Wizard’s – Dopethrone.
It sets the sinister tone that the album will use to steamroll the listener for its 70 minute span.
I’d never heard Electric Wizard until just over a year ago. I was recommended them due to their “non-slower, non-heavier” sound by a friend. I imagined from the description I was given that they’d be good. I didn’t expect them to be this good, not by any stretch.
Dopethrone is Electric Wizard’s best album, it sees them at their peak.
Vinum Sabbathi picks up after the sample that sounds like it’s come from a horror B Movie. Straight away it has a sound somewhat akin to Black Sabbath around the period of their 4th / 5th albums. However everything is tuned so low. The whole sound is organic and sounds so incredibly heavy it really does sound like nothing you’ve heard before.
I never thought I’d hear a heavier hypnotic sound than that Godflesh showcased on Streetcleaner. Dopethrone sees that standard (Godflesh) pounded to bits. The sound is not clean at all. It’s dirge, muddy, relentless. There’s a lot going on.
Jus Oborn’s vocal is near undecipherable. Bagshaw’s bass is locked to the guitar in the album opener. Greening’s drums provide the streamroller, the pace is slow – very slow. It’s devestating. The guitar attempts to screech but is locked in – like a pact. The chaotic slow ultra heavy opener drains into coughing and a near bluesy bass line emerges.
It runs into Funeralopolis – the first real classic on Dopethrone. The bass shows they can actually play. The layers of dirge from the opener fade. The bluesy feel is quietly coughed over. The cough turns to an evil sound. It inhales. You brace yourself. A devastating riff has formed without you really noticing. And What A Riff it is. Oborn cries out his vocals. The lyric is near impossible to make out. It continues to steamroll for a good 5 minutes before it bridges. The pace picks up. The sound is so bogged down but it walks towards you like a man on his last legs very threateningly – with no fear – it attacks. The guitar almost escapes the dirge attempting to solo. It cannot get away, it gives up and the tracks jams into a very menacing swirl the vocal lifts but too is trapped. Exhausting art. It zones out.
Weird Tales / Electric Frost / Golgotha / Altar Of Melektaus continues Dopethrone. It’s my least favourite track on the album. A 15 minute sprawl. It still has that devastating sound. It angles more than we’ve heard so far. It closes with a long noise. Atmospheric and in line with the theme. It is perhaps too hardcore.
Barbarian again has that muted, ultra low key Black Sabbath sound. The vocals are there but they are buried in a total wall of dirge layered noise. Electric Wizard have the conviction that they really mean business. The bass hints at psychedelia. Barbarian adds fuel to the menacing fire that is Dopethrone.
Onto I, The Witchfinder. This is the stand out track and the best piece i’ve ever heard by Electric Wizard. It works on many, many levels. The track bleeds in slowly. VERY SLOWLY. The drums are crisp yet still muted in a truly evil sound. The intro could be a very doom metal Beta Band. The hypnosis qualities it has could be Spacemen 3 – Suicide. Albeit a Beta Band and Spacemen 3 that have done away with their respective producers. The sound is so heavy how could any producer control it?
The vocal cries but is held down by the sheer onslaught of steamroller bass, guitar and drums.
After 5 minutes the track does what no track on Dopethrone has managed to do. It morphs. Properly. The drum gathers. The vocal repeats. You get transfixed. P.I.L.’s – This Is What You Want, This Is What You Get, would fit this oddly well if a talented mixing DJ could find the right crowd. Too nerdy an observation there, i’ll continue in earnest. The guitar and bass attempt to leave the locked sound. Both bass and guitar escape and the riff alters. The sound suggests Hawkwind for a period. Incredibly it gets heavier whilst sonically merging into space rock slightly. Maintaining the hypnotic pounding whilst spinning and sounding increasingly crazed it chugs, echoes and bleeds away. A devastating piece of music.
The Hills Have Eyes noodles at you. Essentially it’s a brief opener to We Hate You. Layered sound hits you. The vocals carry so much hate you begin to hope it’s slightly tongue in cheek. I doubt it. The guitar is freed up more than we’ve heard before but it only strains and briefly solos like it wants to be locked back in with the rest of the sound.
Dopethrone is the album closer. Abrasive – yet still in line with the bulk of the LP. It strains and manages to make Black Sabbath sound like Take That. The whole album has the sound of Black Sabbath at their best, but a Sabbath after a nuclear fall-out in a twisted parallel world. As much as I respect Black Sabbath, for me they never made a truly classic album. Electric Wizard amazingly pass Sabbath by making an essential genre defining album without even seeming to try. Dopethrone manages to homage the 70’s rock scene yet sound bang up to date and timeless too.
Knowing little about the band when I first heard Electric Wizard -Dopethrone almost single handedly re-kindled my enthusiasm for music. I think working in a record store for 7 years, as much as I loved the job destroyed my love for music after a while. After hearing Dopethrone I wanted to make music again, it had that much impact. Dopethrone has something I just cannot pin down. The band sound like the real deal. It manages, unexpectedly to get into my Top 20 Albums and i’d recommend it to anyone open to alternative unique sounds….