A trickling waterfall and cawing birds are met with understated, tumbling drums, a ’60s church organ and a news report about teenagers involved in a Satanic, drug-fueled murder ritual. Then, with a hellish scream, a martial beat and a phlegmatic down-tuned riff, Electric Wizard immerse us in the doom-laden tones of their eighth full-length, Time to Die. As if to emphasize the point, “Incense” ends with the two-minute vocal mantra and manifesto, “We wanna get high before we die.”
The rest of Time to Die is equally mind-altering, simplistic in structure, but overflowing with fuzzy guitars and hallucinogenic imagery — an orgy of demonic, down-tempo metal that rivals the band’s best records, 1997′s Come My Fanatics…and 2000′s Dopethrone. The return of original drummer Mark Greening is a welcome element, but after Time to Die was recorded it was time for him to leave; such instability (seven members have entered and exited the coven since its formation in 1993) is a significant part of Electric Wizard‘s sound. This isn’t a bunch of college buddies smoking bowls and listening to prog-rock. They’re a volatile, hard-living batch whose music resounds with chaos and disorientation. Clearly influenced by Black Sabbath (from whom they got their name), Electric Wizard are also inspired by Sleep, Trouble and Krautrock, and they enhance their songs with a wide array of counter-melodies cathedral keyboards and showers of noise.
The title track is built with dense layers of distorted guitar and bass, creating a foundation for frontman Jus Oborn’s echoing, fatalistic vocals (“Wake up children, it’s time to die”). And “SadioWitch” is a death march with chugging, unrelenting guitars and a sustained wail of banshee feedback. To remind listeners that they’re more than a traditional doom band, the album closer, “Saturn Dethroned,” is an experimental bass-and keyboard-driven track that resembles Goblin grappling with Neu! and ends with a quote from a 20/20 program on Satanism, which was also used in Dopethrone: “When you get into one of these groups, there’s only a couple of ways you can get out. One is death. The other is mental institutions. Or third, you can’t get out.”
Whether Electric Wizard are serious about their lyrical content or whether their tongues are firmly embedded in the acid tabs that line their cheeks doesn’t matter. Even after two decades and multiple lineup shifts, these U.K. misanthropes still deliver some of the best, most devilish thrills in metal. Who would want to “get out”?