Sunday, March 27, 2011

Electric Wizard—Black Masses (Rise Above)

Electric Wizard doesn’t want to be your friend, so don’t try to get all chummy. Keep your distance, give them their space, and everything’ll be cool. Still, you remember the good times; those hazy, lazy days that became nights that became days hanging out with Come My Fanatics, or maybe Dopethrone. Then things seemed to go bad for them and you lost touch. You thought it’d be best to leave Electric Wizard alone to let them sort through their hassles. That’s what being a friend is all about—knowing when to step away, but being there nevertheless, listening for clues as to when to get in touch again. On Witchcult Today, they almost sounded like they were ready to party again. A song like “Dunwich” was downright bouncy compared to a lot of their other stuff. The mid-range throb the album emanated made them quite presentable. Now, on Black Masses, they reek a bit. Everything, including the vocals, is caked in relentless distortion. It can’t be healthy. Once you’re accustomed to the grimy atmosphere, though, Black Masses makes sense. They throw us a decoy with “Venus In Furs,” but it’s an original tune; their Jess Franco obsession trumping any deference to the Velvet Underground's claim to the title. “Satyr IX” is somehow both crude and majestic. After its dying Mellotron makes you abandon all hope, the catchy psych of “Turn Off Your Mind” lets in some fresh air, but just a couple lungful’s worth; after all, mental obliteration is the priority here. That’s the genius of Electric Wizard—their elementary crash ‘n’ burn approach sounds like something anyone could pull off given a basic knowledge of power chords and a big enough amp. But trust me, you’d screw it up. You’d add at least one too many notes. You can’t channel their genius without living the life. It’s best to just give in to Black Masses and visit it as often as you can stomach. Contemplate the noise, the trudging tempos, the half-eaten, mouldering food, the freezer bag of weed spilling over the table, the kitchen sink full of “matter,” battered LPs and VHS tapes strewn all over… This is who they are, bless ’em. Don’t try to change them, man!