“A thousand amps toll the end-time riff,” sings Electric Wizard shaman Jus Oborn on “The Chosen Few,” from his band’s sixth LP, Witchcult Today. “Put down your bongs/ Take up a knife . . . Satanas Luciferus, we pledge these souls to you.”
It’s the kind of shit that would have gotten the band crucified by the PMRC if this were the ’80s. But for Electric Wizard, whose Dopethrone (2000) is still considered a cornerstone of any doom-metal collection, those words are a mission statement. Weed, Satan and volume: the holy trinity of the church of stoner metal and inspirations for pretty much everything that Electric Wizard does.
New drummer Shaun Rutter fits in just fine (another album, another E-Wiz lineup), fueling the band’s lumbering riffs with enough power to keep ‘em chugging ad infinitum (which they do). And Ex-Sourvein guitarist Liz Buckingham (now Oborn’s wife) has come into her own on her second album with the band, pleasantly polluting the rising pot smoke from riff jams “Dunwich” and “Torquemada ’71” with psych guitar leads and Hammond organ.
Some of Witchcult Today’s experiments aren’t so successful — after all, it can take a while to break in a new bong. For the first time, Electric Wizard channels occult atmosphere into proper instrumental tracks, and the results are mixed. Where the droning “Raptus” is pleasingly sinister, the monolithic doom that opens “Black Magic Rituals & Perversions” dead-ends into six aimless minutes of backward tapes and drum pitter-patter. And Oborn’s vocals are clearer in the mix than on past releases, revealing a singer with limited range and even less charisma.
A doom album lives and dies by its riffs, though, and the riffs on Witchcult Today, crushing as they are, just aren’t that inspired. The positive “refinements” on the album are mostly cosmetic. Strip away Buckingham’s lysergic guitar work from “Satanic Rites of Drugula” and it’s basically a heavy “Wild Thing”: all distortion and no muscle.
There’s plenty on Witchcult Today for the already stoned, but if you think heaviness should be means to an end rather than the end itself, you can safely pass this dutchie to the left.