Dorset doom legends Electric Wizard don’t mess about. They know what they’re good at, and what they like to do, and stick to it without compromise. Their sound (think Black Sabbath playing Sleep or Kyuss at half-speed), though hardly unique, is far fuller and more accomplished than that of many of their contemporaries and imitators. On Time To Die, their first album since 2010’s Black Masses, they predictably deliver more of the same – and that’s a good thing.
10-minute opening behemoth, “Incense for the Damned”, starts the record off in typical style, all crushing riffs and militaristic drums. The guitars sound fantastic, coated gratuitously in exactly the right kind of fuzz. Jus Oborne’s vocals are as impassioned as ever, throaty and clenched-jawed. As the song peaks and troughs its way through a labyrinthine structure, it’s difficult not to get swept away by the crashing waves of distortion and cymbals. The title track follows suit, condensing the feel of the previous song into a more accessible (but still nearly 8-minute) 12/8 monster. Oborn’s wonderfully hammy chorus of “Wake up, children/It’s time to die!” is delivered almost gleefully by a man who knows very well how to drape a hook over such dense music without it getting lost.
Although it never strays too far from the standard Electric Wizard template, Time to Die is not entirely without nuance or change. “Funeral of Your Mind” is an almost catchy mid-tempo number, with drums that bounce rather than topple and seethe as they do on much of the rest of the album. “Sadiowitch” lifts its central riff wholesale from Focus’ silly classic “Hocus Pocus”, but replaces its daftness with yet more doom by virtue of more fuzz and more sneery howling from Oborn. Penultimate track “Lucifer’s Slaves” grooves pleasingly, the rhythm section really coming into its own, before disarmingly short instrumental “Saturn Dethroned” closes the album in a smoky haze of funereal organs and swirly guitars.
Admittedly, these are all pretty minor changes of pace, but it’s actually quite refreshing to see a band so resolutely stick to their guns. The only other slight variations the band offer on this album are the brief samples that fill the gaps in between songs – of running water and stern, Cold War-period American broadcasters explaining the dangers of Satanism – and, frankly, they’re just a little cheesy and unnecessary. Happily, the quality of the rest of the record’s undiluted sludge far outweighs the flabbiness of these brief deviations. Electric Wizard are arguably the most revered band of the doom metal genre since Black Sabbath themselves, and on Time To Die, they remind us why.