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What rough beast slouches towards us from Bournemouth? It is Electric Wizard, Dorset’s heaviest export since Portland stone, prime adepts of the end-is-nigh school of heavy metal known as doom metal.
The foursome took their positions at the Roundhouse amid sepulchral gloom and forbidding howls of feedback. Out of the noise emerged the churning form of a song with slow riffs and a grinding bass-drum groove. Singer Justin Oborn chanted about witchcraft, his voice dragged into the rotating music as though by an awesome whirlpool. Deep in the aether a mighty spirit stirred. The unquiet spirit of Black Sabbath was abroad once more.
Electric Wizard are unabashed devotees of the celebrated 1970s heavy metallers. Formed by Oborn in 1993 — he is the only remaining original member — they channel Black Sabbath’s brutally monolithic blues-rock with uncompromising commitment. They are named after two Sabbath songs, “Electric Funeral” and “The Wizard”. Even Oborn’s surname appears to genuflect in Ozzy Osbourne’s direction.
Black Sabbath laid down deeper roots in the US than in their native UK. Electric Wizard restore a particularly British tang to the style, an atmosphere of occultism, 1970s erotic horror films, bad drugs and Anglican churchyards. At the Roundhouse they verged on Spinal Tap parody, performing tracks with titles such as “Satanic Rites of Drugula” backed by schlocky movie footage and bathed in psychedelic lighting. Yet the music was played with total rigour, an imposing wall of noise that made the smirk freeze on one’s face.
The current line-up includes Oborn’s wife, Liz Buckingham, joining him on guitar, Clayton Burgess playing bass and Simon Poole on drums. The setlist roamed over the band’s 22-year lifespan, up to last year’s album Time to Die. Malevolent riffs were animated by supple drums and bass. Guitar solos oozed out of the sludge, distorted by liberal use of wah-wah pedal. Cymbals jangled anxiously. Oborn’s vocals lacked the showy theatrics of traditional heavy metal.
Occasionally the pace broke into a Motörhead-style gallop. But mostly it remained at the same hypnotic tempo, ending, like some noxious brew simmered down to its essence, with the pared-down clatter of “Funeralopolis”, illustrated by film of a mushroom cloud. The deathly imagery couldn’t disguise the signs of life in Electric Wizard’s act of Black Sabbath revivalism.
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