Electric Wizard: Dopethrone (2000)
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.