Category: E

31 Days Of Halloween Albums – Day 29

Electric Wizard: Dopethrone (2000)

ELECTRIC-WIZARD-Dopethrone-CD-DIGI

After my explosive negativity regarding Rob Zombie I figured I’d change course today by offering up an alternative that retains the influences of classic Horror without being quite so gimmicky or pandering. Borrowing from inspirations such as Black Sabbath, Spanish Horror’s Jess Franco and H.P. Lovecraft, Electric Wizard are a juggernaut in the world of underground heavy music. With song titles stripped from Eldritch lore as well as modern horror heavyweight Wes Craven, Dopethrone is a perfect soundtrack for the Halloween season.

There are tons of bands that have tried to recreate the sound of Sabbath so it can often be difficult to parse the good from the bad. Disciples of the juggernaut band have been around almost as long as their inception but only a handful have made an impact on me, Trouble, Saint Vitus and Sleep to name a few that come to mind. Even then, those bands are so rooted in their Sabbath DNA that they can oftentimes come across as a bit unoriginal and boring. Electric Wizard differs in the risks they aren’t afraid to take. They are also a great deal heavier than the aforementioned bands with the vocals being the most noticeable change as Oborn opts for a much louder, shouting style than the more formulaic nasally whine that the others adopt.

The songs on Dopethrone are structured and sequenced in a way very similar to early experimental rock outfits such as Hawkwind and Uriah Heep. Vinum Sabbathi and Funeralopolis open the album with a pair of hard-hitting rockers before Weird Tales forces the listener on a nightmarish, Lovecraftian drug-induced journey filled to the brim with Eldritch imagery and sonic experiments. Altar of Melektaus concludes the 15 minute venture with an incredibly interesting effects-laden instrumental section before things get normalized once again with the very catchy track entitled Barbarian.

What is perhaps the most surprising is how coherent and concise this entire album is considering how utterly fucked up the band admittedly were during the recording process. Oborn himself openly told UK-based music magazine Kerrang in 2009 that the band would wake up after being camped-out in the studio, drink, do a bunch of drugs and just jam. The music in no way reflects this kind of debauchery as every instrument comes through cleanly and articulately. I mean, I can’t even have two beers before playing if I want something to sound even remotely decent. Perhaps I need to do more drugs and drink quadruple the amount to break on through to the other side, or maybe I’m simply not even half as good as I think I am.

While Electric Wizard’s Dopethrone might not scream Halloween on the surface as it doesn’t really do anything particularly spooky or scary, the content and influences behind the music definitely reflect this time of year. This was one that took almost a full decade to grow on me after purchasing it in the year it was released but it has slowly become one of the prized albums in my collection that I revisit quite often. It is much more available now than it was back in 2000 as it has developed a prestigious cult following and for good reason. This is one Black Sabbath influenced band that does so much different that they can stand on their own two legs.


Earth : 2: Special Low Frequency Version (1993)

Drone: A low continuous humming sound.

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Low frequency indeed.

Throughout the years many have attempted to create unique, noisy drone music with guitars. To me, most have failed. Dylan Carlson’s Earth was the catalyst, the inspiration and the drive (pun intended) for most of these other bands who continue to succeed. My point is, Special Low Frequency Version isn’t just static and noise. There is more to this than low guitars and loud amps. Everything has a purpose here and it all resonates very well. That is, for those who can handle it.

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I, for one, love goodies in my vinyl purchases. All 3 tracks on this record sound amazing on this reissue. It would be in poor taste for Subpop to misrepresent this sonic experience with anything but perfect production. Kudos!

Earth 2 takes a moment to get used to. It is meant to be heard loud with little to no distractions. The drones and tones here were created to entangle a listener in a thick layer of stringed mess. Before taking on this challenge, ask yourself these questions:

-Have you ever been caught in a spider’s web late at night in a foggy forest?
-Do your eyes glaze over occasionally to the low humming of the refrigerator?
-Does the sound of a buzz saw lull you to sleep?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, buy this record. It is that special kind of album that will break a party. Playing this in a crowded room will easily separate the good from the bad. If it is bad to love it; I’ll see you and the others who remained for Earth in hell.

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Track List:

Seven Angels
Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine
Like Gold And Faceted

 

 


Enslaved : Vikingligr Veldi (1994)

Genesis: The origin or mode of formation of something.

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“My level 63 Mage will decimate your level 58 viking!”

The first album from a band defines them. Such is not the case with Norway’s Enslaved and while this is technically their second album as the EP Hordanes Land predates this by a year, this is their first full length release. I won’t get too far ahead by describing subsequent albums but I will say that these lads are far from being a conventional heavy band and it all started here, more or less.

After the Hordanes Land (something that would later be amalgamated with an early Emperor EP) Enslaved began to show true greatness through spectacularly lengthy compositions. Vikingligr Veldi is a collection of a mere 5 songs that span past the 50 minute mark. With only one song under the ten minute mark, this isn’t your typical aggressive music. What’s more is just how rich, dark and atmospheric each individual song can be if you are patient enough to contend with the seemingly repetitive structures. I, for one love the unrestrained, long instrumental sections but I realize that they might not align with everyone’s tastes. As such, fans of other Enslaved albums might be disappointed by this debut.

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Great logo. Great inlay. Put on some shirts. Norway is cold. Pneumonia!

The production is very strong and the musicianship is top tier which is nothing short of incredible considering the founding members were 13 and 17 years old at the time. There are times when flaws can be heard but they only enhance the music. They are never so out of synch or poorly played that they become a distraction and only add to the raw complexities of the album.
Keyboards are used sparingly and only to add atmospherical flourishes. Perfect examples of this are on the first two tracks where they are played to break up the monotony of a few sections. They are produced well and retain the authenticity of this style of music. The swirling keys throughout Lifandi lif undir hamri are a personal favourite of mine. Many bands have tried to incorporate these elements with varying success over the years.

The bass is buried in the mix but that is a common attribute in this sort of heavy, atmospheric music. Still, when it shines through on songs like Midgards eldar they feel weak and acoustically hollow. This was something I wished they would have tampered with on the vinyl release. It boils down to personal preference so it is no way an objective flaw. Vocally, Grutle is menacingly adequate. His voice has a convincing sound but his lack of variety is a little underwhelming. The music is the real centrepiece here and it is warranted since every song is composed quite well. There aren’t a lot of dynamic shifts or experimentation but that wasn’t the intent.

Vikingligr Veldi is an onslaught of trance-inducing heaviness that rarely stops for a breather. It is one of my favourite entries in Enslaved’s ever growing catalogue. It feels like the last remnants of autumn hanging by a brittle branch while the first chills of winter rear their bleak gusts of wind. Frost is coming.

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Track List:

Lifandi Lif Undir Hamri
Vetrarnott
Midgards Eldar
Heimdallr
Norvegr