What seemed like a one-time sonic detour on Electric Wizard's sixth album, Witchcult Today, was shown to be a concerted shift in aesthetic by its similarly conjured 2010 successor, Black Masses. On both releases, the hallowed Dorset doomsters once again sped up their typically creeping tempos and replaced their bowel-loosening bottom end for a slightly leaner, snarling guitar sound that opened some space for more prominent vocals, yet was often slathered in a ghostly feedback shroud. Change…it happens, and that means Electric Wizard fans will simply have to take or leave their heroes' latest direction and newfound sense of urgency, all of which are generously represented here by the bulldozer of a title track "Venus in Furs" (not a cover of the Velvet Underground classic, believe it or not) and "The Nightchild" (boasting oddly horn-like accompaniments). All three of these cuts inevitably lock into a hypnotic, insistent cadence over which vocalist Jus Oborn proceeds to moan and wail disconsolately while simultaneously weaving his seismic guitar parts in morbid harmony with those of Liz Buckingham -- now his longest tenured bandmate, given the debut of a new rhythm section in bassist Tas and drummer Shaun Rutter on this release. And, though no less energetic than the aforementioned songs (by historic Electric Wizard standards, anyway), the supremely wicked twosome of "Patterns of Evil" and "Turn off Your Mind" finally see almighty riffing overwhelm the otherwise dominant grooves as they always would in the past. Yet, amazingly, "Satyr IX" and "Scorpio Curse" are the only traditional doom grinds on display, and it must be said the first sounds pretty uneventful and tired, arguably justifying the band's wish to move on to something else, creatively speaking. Finally, the album closing instrumental, "Crypt of Drugula," joins a long string of sinister, soundtrack-like drones spread across Electric Wizard's formidable canon, proving that the group's blackened soul certainly remains fundamentally unchanged. And perhaps it is this partial reconnection with those roots that elevates Black Masses above the preceding Witchcult Today, and will surely remind fans why Electric Wizard's shadow still looms dark over the entire new millennium doom universe.
Black Masses Review
by Eduardo Rivadavia