The Stoner Metal sound had already been in existence for a while by the time ELECTRIC WIZARD dropped this fuzzed-out classic on fans, but even in the context of what had come before, this album shook things up. Rather than imitating the desert sound of pioneers KYUSS, or the meandering spirituality of SLEEP, the band instead embraced an aesthetic of drugs as a gateway into the occult, and in the years subsequent have established themselves as iconic figures in a genre known for the cult-like devotion of its fans.
This album contains all of the elements of drug-influenced music, and injects an extra dose of heaviness into them. The music and production quality are both fuzzy, producing a total composition in which all of the sounds bleed into one another, and making it difficult to pick one instrument out from any of the others, and mimicking a drug-induced reality in which the senses are unable to focus on any one thing. Psychedelia contributes an equally sizeable portion of the sound, and a further mind-bending, disorienting quality. It is worth remembering here that Psychedelic music was inspired by and took its name from the hallucinogenic drugs that were prevalent in the 1960’s and 1970’s, for the sound here is the aural equivalent of an acid trip. Instrumental track “Mountains Of Mars,” with its blurred sound and meandering organ melody, is especially suggestive of an impaired state in which one’s thoughts are difficult to sort out among swirling sensory inputs.
Further distinctive here is the focus on the occult, and while this has long been a dominant theme in Metal, its fusion with the drug-induced heightening of the senses is evocative, and at times frightening. “Behemoth,” with its deliverer-of-judgment subject matter coupled with fuzzy bass and single string scratching, is disturbing in the imagery that it conjures of having been cast into an abyss. Likewise, “Electric Wizard” is an homage to the drug-facilitated mysticism that is the band’s reason for being. The inclusion of a mellow Blues lead to represent the words spoken by the wizard protagonist is ingenious, allowing the listener to interpret what has been said and to absorb wisdom with all of the sense and a mind unconstrained by the limitations of spoken language.
This is an innovative and challenging album that reveals ever more nuances with every listen, and is worthy of its cult status.
(Online July 3, 2010)