Album Review: ELECTRIC WIZARD Wizard Bloody Wizard
When your ace in the hole happens to be Dopethrone, an influential monolith of omnipresent scope canvassing the firmament of modern doom metal, it can become overwhelming as an artist to post up new constellations amongst the stars with every subsequent effort. Sometimes you just say "fuck it". The fact that Jus Osborne and his rotating ensemble, Electric Wizard, have managed to maintain a high standard of quality in the two decades since is no doubt a defining tenet in the band's continued reverence in the metal community.
Still, sometimes a man just says "fuck it".
It would be presumptuous of me to assess Osborne's mindset or level of inspiration writing and recording Wizard Bloody Wizard, but certainly in a "death of the author" sense the charms of his current work are much more fleeting than on efforts past. Lead single "See You In Hell" was a curious choice for introduction, comprising the weakest cut on the album, but it's in good company. Osborne sounds perfectly fine on the mic, his quavering vocals well suited to the spare production, but the stripped down acoustics expose the thoroughly plodding, rudimentary riffing… which goes on unabated (more or less) for well over six minutes.
It does get better from there, if only gradually. "Necromania" is one of the catchiest tunes the band have ever recorded, particular in the chorus, but it too is a bit of a one trick pony, the horror chic lyrics and half-baked song structure fading fast on repeat listens. The story so far: we waited three years for this?
Fading much better are "Hear the Sirens Scream" and "Mourning of the Magicians" (the latter actually features the lyrics "I'll see you in hell" during the chorus, whereas the song of the same name does not; and that's about as sophisticated as Wizard Bloody Wizard gets). "Sirens" in particular is a welcome throwback EW track, rollicking and simple, but at least bearing purpose and drive, traits that too many of the other tracks sorely lack… sometimes in fairly spectacular fashion. "Mourning of the Magicians" is no more complex, even at 11-plus minutes, but its dirge-march pacing and overwhelming sense of dread at least give hope that the Osborne of yore is still mentally engaged in his work, if only for future benefit.
If prior albums represent the hazy insouciance of nihilistic substance abuse, Wizard Bloody Wizard is more akin to hair of the dog: clarity substituting for inspiration; clean, uncluttered lines reconstituting pleasant drone into focused, myopic monotony; in short, a glut of well-meaning ideas in which the formula stretches thin to the snapping point, falling flat to the ears of an increasingly demanding public.
Osborne hasn't exactly embarrassed himself here, to be clear. This won't go down as a Cold Lake level misstep or anything. But again, the question remains: we waited three years for this?