Published on November 15th, 2014 | by Keiran Allen0
ELECTRIC WIZARD – The Ritz, Manchester 23/11/14
It’s a bleak night in Manchester and Metalheads, stoners, hippies and the living dead are out to wreak havoc. Even sitting in Manchester’s premier metal pub, you can feel the anticipation for Electric Wizard to take to the stage and do what they are so famous for. As you step into The Ritz and meet the surprisingly sober crowd of fiends that is the Electric Wizard fan base, you can instantly feel that tonight will be a special night to remember.
The openers are Witchsorrow, who’s 70’s oriented Stoner/Doom has risen from strength to strength in the Doom underground in recent years. Tonight they pull off a tight, yet sadly underwhelming performance due to sound issues. The volume is just too low and considering that the key to any effective earthshaking doom performance is a sheer ton of volume, it just doesn’t seem to have the velocity you feel is appropriate, failing to allow the band to reach their peak. Through adversity they still make it enjoyable through some pounding riffs and an impressive 10 minute set finisher.
Next is the unfamiliar Shazulla, which to everyone’s major surprise aren’t four bearded males screaming about getting stoned, but instead is a female on a mixing board. This set had to be the most courageous of the night. She was creating an evil and haunting Drone soundscape reminiscent of bands such as Sunn O))) and Nadja, which acted as a backing track to a collage of Occult mystery, featuring videos of satanic ritual, worship and self harm in the name of Lucifer. It almost felt as if you had been transported from the setting of a Doom Metal show into the darkest of crypts, to experience an art piece of the darkest of wonders that the Earth has to offer. As surprised as the majority of the audience were, this set managed to make sure that they were utterly entranced and enveloped in this spectacular performance.
Next was Satan’s Satyrs which included current Electric Wizard bassist Clayton Burgess on bass and vocals. They bring a new element of 70’s Proto Rock to the night. An enjoyable set though was slightly spoiled by technical difficulties on the bass amp side. Ultimately you could feel in the air that everyone was too heated in the tension of Electric Wizard arriving to sonically sledgehammer our skulls to be able to focus enough on Satan’s Satyrs.
The time has arrived for what everybody had been so riled up for, and the Dorset Doom legends Electric Wizard hit the stage. The atmosphere is just tense as the band come on to do a soundcheck, which results in just sonically painful feedback. Smoke builds up around the band as they do the final tuning to their Gibson SG’s. Frontman Jus hits into the opening riff of the title track from the ‘Witchcult Today’ album, which acts as a powerful sledgehammer and instantly sends the audience into a fit of excitement and bewilderment. The sheer volume of Electric Wizard tonight would be painful to unenlightened ears! The powerfully distorted guitars of Liz Buckingham and Jus Osborn feedbacks at relentless levels as the 10 minute opener comes to a finish, and they move into the classic ‘Black Mass’. This song really gives Electric Wizard a chance to shine, and reminds the audience that through all the chaos that is Electric Wizard’s staple in music, the catchiness of ‘Black Mass’ shows just how tight a live band they are, almost bringing an element of Pop to the set, something most people wouldn’t expect from a band that has the title of “The heaviest band in the universe”. They quickly move onto what is the first of a few songs from the new album ‘Time To Die’, which the crowd seems keen for, going down as much of a storm as the classics.
What you notice throughout this set is that Electric Wizard are a no nonsense band. They came to Manchester to do a set of straight mind-boggling Doom and that’s what they carry off. There is very little crowd interaction and very little consideration. This is a band that truly comes to do what they want! In Electric Wizard’s eyes, you can take it or leave it, which is almost admirable in a band in this age of conforming crowd pleasing and compromise in music. Though you can’t help but feel that through this admirable attitude, they are missing some key songs in the set as they entirely miss out a classic album ‘…. Come My Fanatics’, which the songs, ‘Return Trip’ and ‘Wizard In Black’ come from, having been staples in their set for years.
From strength to strength Electric Wizard strike into the classic ‘Satanic Rites of Count Drugula’, which is accompanied by the only crowd interaction of the night, which is simply Jus asking the crowd “Are You High?” that creates a raging cheer. Jus screams the word “Druglust” throughout the cataclysmically heavy chorus. His voice is slightly wavering from note to note and is as effective and trippy as ever. The reverb of The Ritz acts a brilliant context for Electric Wizard tonight, as it really allows Jus’ voice to shine and soar more than I have personally ever seen him be able to do before.
Through the pounding feedback left from the earthshaking Fuzz of Jus Osborn’s frantic improvised solo, the opener riff of arguably Electric Wizard‘s heaviest track ‘Dopethrone’ comes in and as it reaches full swing the drums act as a sonic pile driver, as if every snare hit that Doom drummer extraordinaire Simon Poole does creates slight heart palpitations for every member of the crowd. This moment shows Electric Wizard at their most sonically brutal, even though this is slower than the usual rendition of their classic. Through the songs from the early albums, what you notice is that they really have a talent for making sense from chaos, especially live where you really can appreciate the articulation in the performance from every member. Even though Electric Wizard‘s particularly chaotic style of Doom can sometimes seem messy, it is entirely intended to have that effect. It is almost in the vein of Jus Osborn acting as a modern Doom Frank Zappa in making sense of such erratic and over the top music.
As the magnificent set comes to a finish and they have blasted through the second of only two new tracks off the new album ‘Time To Die’, ‘Lucifer’s Slaves’ psychedelic laden undertones almost remind you of early Pink Floyd, and the new track goes down a storm. Through more feedback as the penultimate track dies out, Jus hits into the opening clean riff of ‘Funeralopolis’ that defined a generation of Metal stoners and Doom Fans. The volume seems to be instantly amped up for the crushing finisher, though Jus changing amp heads manages to make an array of technical messes which takes about 5 minutes to fix. Luckily the crowd forgive and gives the most famous female in Doom, Liz Buckingham, an opportunity to shine and give the crowd what is possibly the most impressive improvised solo of the night. Eventually, Electric Wizard kick back into the finisher track which is as mind blowingly fuzz fuelled as ever, though ultimately slightly let down by Jus Osborn’s guitar and vocals consistently cutting out through the song. This doesn’t make the crowd any less enthusiastic though as they furiously and helplessly headbang. Jus obviously infuriated by this technical fault brings the song to a swift finish, though this chaotic finish acts as a Sonic Landslide which is the perfect accidental finish to the set.
This set created no other conclusion than Electric Wizard still hold the title for “Heaviest Band in The Universe”. As much as the slightly anti-climatic finish and lack of focus on the new album in the set, could have almost destroyed the crowds final opinion of the gig, they still held the set at such an incredible level through so much adversity and technical faults, which I think they deserve massive admiration for. Ultimately the only downfall of the night was the setlist avoiding so many key songs, though when a band as talented as Electric Wizard comes around, if they were to perform every key song, the set would have to be more than five hours. This is still a band very much on top of their game and seeing Electric Wizard is always a pleasure and an experience that very few bands are able to give you. The sheer heaviness and power of this set is a feeling and a memory I will always have engrained in my being. If you have the chance to see Electric Wizard, do yourself a favour and go, it’s an experience you will never forget!
Photos by Mike Ainscoe