Electric Wizard needed to change after 2014’s Time to Die. It wasn’t a bad album, but the drama behind the scenes made the already phoned in music even more of a bitter pill to swallow for some. The band itself seems to have acknowledged this fumble in a way, referring to the album as a funeral for their old style and prophesizing a new direction with a more stable lineup. The adorably titled Wizard Bloody Wizard seems to live up to this promise, even if it is still filled to the brim with Electric Wizard’s signature brand of grimy misanthropy.
As indicated by the homage title, the band stated that this album is intended to be a “back to the roots” sound. However, this is not intended to mean the roots of the band but rather of the hard rock/heavy metal genre itself first set up by Black Sabbath, MC5, and the Stooges among others. This is not only reflected in the album’s shorter running time but also in the mix as the vocals are up front and center and the guitars are downright lightweight by Electric Wizard standards
But for a band with such a raging fetish for the 70s, I’m not sure if Electric Wizard actually understands how the 70s are supposed to work. While the production is seemingly in line with the grittiest proto-metal outings, the songwriting tends to just sound like watered down versions of their past albums. Bands like Dust or Budgie wouldn’t be caught dead with such simplistically plodding riffs, and the vocals aren’t charismatic enough to evoke the energy that made Ozzy worth listening to in the early days. “The Reaper” lives up to this idea thanks to its early Alice Cooper-style keyboard freakout, but it doesn’t quite carry over into any of the other tracks.
Like Time to Die, the inherent pleasantness of the style is the one thing keeping this album in good standing. The opening “See You in Hell” made it a pretty good lead single choice thanks to its blues stomp, “Necromania” aims for a more upbeat rock structure, and “Hear the Sirens Scream” has a decent swing to it. The closing “Mourning of the Magicians” may actually be my favorite track, an observation that I can’t help but find ironic as it is a ten minute jam on such an intentionally brief album and comes the closest to capturing the old Electric Wizard spirit.
Wizard Bloody Wizard is thankfully not as bored with itself as Time to Die was, but it still makes for a rather watered down Electric Wizard album. The band’s attempt at a new direction is palpable but it feels like they’ve neutered themselves too much to really make the style work as well as it did on Witchcult Today or Black Masses. You’ll still enjoy this album to some extent if you’ve enjoyed everything else by the Wizard, but considering how many of their imitators are outdoing them nowadays, the band still has more work to do if they want their quality to match their reputation. The band isn’t dead yet, but they’ve become a dinosaur in the scene they helped define.
“See You in Hell”
“Hear the Sirens Scream”
“Mourning of the Magicians”
Wizard Bloody Wizard is now available from Electric Wizard’s MerchNow store.