With several lineup changes along the way (holy shit is that Liz Buckingham of fucking Sourvein on second guitar duties? Godhead!), including several members defecting to admittedly excellent doomcult Ramesses, one might be forgiven for worrying if Electric Wizard can keep up the puking, eye-watering, darkforce-sculpting that has characterized earlier releases. And for the metal fanatic, the news that Liam Watson jumped on to produce the album sets off further alarm bells — but that’s just fucking silly! A. Have you ever seen photos of the interior of Toe Rag? Fucking ace, rock n’ roll in labcoats. And B. Just listen to any Billy Childish record that came out of the joint and you’ll see that the potential is downright mouth-watering….
For once, the potential doesn’t outstrip the physical object itself. Witchcult Today is a somewhat different album than you may have come to expect from the Wizard, but it’s just a revelation of completely organic heaviness. A brown-red clay shade of doom. You can feel it in the more organic sound, dirt under the fingernails, blood on the floor. Sometimes the guitars don’t even sound like guitars, they’re so downtuned and echoey, more like vibrating columns of living purple coldfusioncube sound — all guitars should sound like this. It’s thick and viscous, but more solid and permanent somehow. Often the guitars and bass coalesce and envelop the surprisingly spry and octopus-armed drumming like a concrete cloud — riffs instead extend infinitely to a fixed point on the horizon. And mainman Jus Osborn’s vocals are cleaner, but distant in the mix, beamed in through a WW2-era loudspeaker, so these howls become yet another instrument in the soundpool. The driving focus is on the swing of the drums, as a foundation over which layer upon layer of guitars, bass, organ (subtle), and vocals are added to form an impregnable wall of flesh and bone ground into squalling, organic brickwork. Dense and opaque, yep, more so than ever, but more immediate and satisfying.
The lyrics still focus on literary horrors of a different age; check out the Lovecraftian homages in “Dunwich” delivered in a pinched and clear wail that recalls the best of the Melvins’ King Buzzo and/or Bobby Liebling from Pentagram, scuffling with an overloaded riff that grooves and frugs… shit the whole fucking album swaggers and staggers like a zombie Mark Bolan. A lyrical conceit like “Satanic Rites of Drugula” is shit that only the Wizard could get away with, smirking a little behind a pot haze instead of being a big pantomime puppet show, they spin a tale of a drug addicted Dracula who can’t drain his victims blood until he fucking drugs them up. Worth it just to hear the gonzo chorus of “Bloodlust, druglust, Count Drugula arise!”
But if epic Satangroovers like “Drugula” and “Dunwitch” don’t exactly float your pentagram-festooned boat and you want your black blacker than black, levitate on over to the sprawling “Black Magic Rituals and Perversions” a trip into innerspace on Kenneth Anger’s rocket, full of horror filmic soundz and creepy dark Latin whisperings. But if you get too far out, don’t fret none, the equally epic Sabbath-meets-Cream-meets-the-Dead drone of “Saturnine” will guide you back, like sunlight reflected off a gleaming, if abandoned, satellite, pulsing tunnels of soothing distortion and a righteous two-chord riff with like three different headtrip guitar freakouts at the end.
Candlelight Records: www.candlelightrecordsusa.com