Electric Wizard - Witchcult Today (Rise Above Records) - Keith Boyd - 12.19.7
There is a peculiarly British genre of horror movies made from the late 60's through the early 70's that, for a lack of better phrase, might be referred to as "Satanic Witch Flicks". These prurient, blood-soaked epics had it all. Ritual nudity, vaguely evil plot lines about ancient curses and loads of creepy atmosphere. Most of the best of these films were made by either Tigon British Film Productions or Hammer Films and they stand the test of time in that they've become "cult classics" loved by many. What is about these films that give them their appeal? Well I suppose it has to do with a number of things. First is the over the top nature of the story lines. They usually involve ancient familial pacts with the "Dark Lord" that play themselves out in stylized medieval villages with near psychedelic dreaminess. Nude virgins cavort through forests on their way to strange bonfire lit rites. Puritanical "Witch-Finders" reveal themselves to actually be worse than those they hunt. Blood flows freely but implied violence is more the norm. The pure crudeness of these films is another charm. It's as though by aiming so high on such limited budgets you find yourself rooting for the film as though it were underdog cinema. I think the two aspects that really lend themselves to enjoyment however is the color and sound of these films. Movies such as "Blood on Satan's Claw" and "The Blood Beast Terror" are awash in a gauzy, soft-focus Technicolor. Colors seem hyper-real at times and this combined with the droning mellotron and organ flourishes goes a long way towards setting an affecting mood. If there were ever a band that has intuited the energy and flavor of the movies from this period it would have to be Electric Wizard. On their new album, "Witchcult Today" they invoke the legacy of British Horror films then dose it with a wonderfully heavy hand of distortion, reverb and groove to come up with their best album yet.
Electric Wizard is primarily the vehicle of one Justin Oborn and through several permutations in the lineup throughout the years he's stayed fairly true to his vision of DOOM-DOOM-DOOM. The Wizard's sound is almost always based on the almighty crushing power of the riff. These riffs are soaked in midnight black pitch then set ablaze to better illuminate the swirling rituals they both empower and are sacrificed to. Mammoth and glacial tempos swat out at the listeners head like the tail of the Kraken smashing a whaling boat. The vocals are buried in the mix emerging almost as secondary riffs to punctuate and accent the proceedings. 'Witchcult" is the best thing EW has done since their landmark, "Dopethrone" disc of seven years ago. What is that makes this such a tasty and satisfying listen? It's as though the dials on what have always made EW good have just been turned way up past eleven and are now shining through. Stand out tracks include, "Satanic Rites of Drugula" (perhaps the greatest stoner-doom metal song name of all time!), "Witchcult Today" and the wildly experimental, "Black Magic Rituals and Perversions". This last track is a true highlight in that on it we hear the band reaching out beyond the riff to sculpt some truly eerie horror inspired soundscapes. This track could have easily fit in as the soundtrack to one of those scenes of bloody mayhem from the British Horror films. The whole disc is lovingly and psychedelically packaged in killer 1960's occult graphics and filled with nude pix of some sort of Anton LaVey ritual going on. The center spread is a killer picture of the band who finally looks as though they've achieved their goal of becoming extras on the set of "Witchfinder General". If you find yourself in need of some extra good and creepy molten groove metal (and really at this time of the year who doesn't?) slip this one in the stereo and let the ceremony begin!