Sound — 9
I am, first and foremost, a fan of grunge music. Therefore, you can understand that with the 90's long gone, a fan of this genre can easily become bored with not much new grunge music being produced. So, having exhausted all my Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains records, I tried to search out another music genre I could enjoy as much as grunge, without the worry of running out its production any time soon. I took all the qualities of grunge that I enjoyed (the heavy gain and distortion, the deep undercurrent of rhythm, the generally pessimistic atmosphere), and settled on one genre that could possibly emulate both Soundgarden (in terms of grungey, heavy riffs) and Black Sabbath (another of my favorites, with more sludgey, detuned riffs and darker lyrics): stoner metal. This genre, however, has more than surpassed my expectations. The prime example of how stoner doom metal can be refreshing for hardcore grunge fans who are burnt out by listening to the same material over and over again is seen in Electric Wizard's "Dopethrone" album. Quite possibly some of the heaviest riffs (thanks mostly to the slow, slow, slow rhythms and C# standard and drop B tuned guitars) I've ever heard came off this album. Electric Wizard don't just carry on the Sabbath tradition; they take it further, creating out of it an even heavier, bass-ridden record the likes of mainstreamers have never heard. Ever. Even more surprising is that these sludge fanatics don't lose their talent in poor mixing and production; the instruments are all mixed well, with guitars and bass playing nearly equal roles (as I think it ought to be), and the vocals not overpowering all other instruments, a trend becoming more and more apparent in popular music.
Lyrics — 7
Not surprisingly, Electric Wizard occupy themselves with much of the same lyrical content that Sabbath did; "Funeralopolis" is comparable to "War Pigs" and "Electric Funeral" in its contempt for war and human stockpiling of weaponry, "Dopethrone" to "Sweet Leaf" in its literal worship of that certain magical plant, and "We Hate You" to "Children of the Grave" in its warning of later generations of the dangers and damage of hate. Electric Wizard also sing their lyrics in much the same way that Ozzy did his: rather unclear, muddied, but still there. As others have noted, the singer's style in Electric Wizard is truly as using his voice as an additional instrument. The eerie use of shouting and what seems to be a massive amount of distortion put on the vocals adds to the air of mysticism and darkness. However, if one does indeed listen, the lyrics coming through shine as deeply inspired by mythology, heavy metal, and, of course, marijuana. However, one should note that there is not much change in the singer's persona throughout the record; constantly, one hears a dreary, depressed individual that shouts and isn't entirely clear. While this seems that it would grow tiresome, it actually doesn't take long to like it. However, it also should be noted that for a good part of the record, the singer takes a backseat to the others and doesn't say much. No matter, what he does sing is still a good addition to the band.
Overall Impression — 9
As far as stoner music goes, I'm not sure I could judge; I've heard only a limited amount of music from the genre, from bands such as Sleep, Orange Goblin, The Sword, High on Fire, and Acid King. However, I can say that from a position as one who is generally very familiar with music and very able to hold an intelligent discussion on almost all genres, that this album is super good. Listening to this album, unlike some experiences with lesser stoner bands, does not produce the deja vu effect ("Ahh, I've already heard this...") for me. Most noticeable on the record are the songs "Funeralopolis" (with its truly great mix of the band members and the epic intro), "Barbarian" (with its demented Sabbath-esque rhythm riff), and "Dopethrone" (with the most epic, heaviest moments on the record). I can't say I dislike much about this record, but don't take it from me; I'm a grunge fanatic, who is really into superbly distorted masterpieces. Therefore, these guys are right up my alley. I would most certainly get this album again were it stolen; it's a great listen in the car, cruising at night down the highway with wind your hair. With the perfect amount of just plain sludge and doom, you can't get much better than this, in my opinion, if you're looking for the modern day Sabbath.