Sound — 8
As living iterations of the stigmatic "pot-smoking satanic metalheads" and wearing that conceived notion with pride, Electric Wizard quickly became the perfect poster-band for stoner metal throughout their two-decade-long career, even in spite of a colorfully problematic streak of legal troubles and injuries - but if anything, that only further enhanced their anarchistic image in a "talk the talk, walk the walk" kind of way. But more importantly, Electric Wizard planted an iconic flag in the doom metal genre, with their second and third albums, "Come My Fanatics…" and "Dopethrone," further expanding the doom metal horizon by blending elements of psychedelia, sludge metal and black metal to create an even heavier and darker doom metal, which colloquially earned them the title "the heaviest band in the world."
Even while the majority cite Electric Wizard having hit their apex back in 2000, they haven't fallen from grace (then again, they'd probably be the first to say they had no grace from the start) and have continued their career without letting their smoke-filled sound grow unbearably stale. While not necessarily being considered "cleaner" by general standards, Electric Wizard's last couple of albums has been considerably cleaner compared to their earlier days. Frontman Jus Oborn has described the past two albums, "Witchcult Today" and "Black Masses," containing a dichotomy: with the former being more clear and mellow and the latter being more tight and aggressive.
With those two halves already make a whole that doesn't need any further building upon, Electric Wizard now release their eighth album, "Time to Die," which brings things back to how Electric Wizard were doing things in their heyday, and re-ups the ante of Electric Wizard's recent releases right from the beginning track "Incense For the Damned": an unapologetic 10-minute track that's thicker and dirtier than anything contained in their past two albums, and brings back the usage of a ground-splitting sludge breakdown; the same kind that earned Electric Wizard their weighty crown in the first place. And to further prove that "Time to Die" has the filthiest of intentions, the distortion is brought back to a cup-runneth-over amount in "I Am Nothing" and "We Love the Dead," where the down-tuned hits make the speakers rattle like they're in need of an exorcist.
Though it's a triumphant return, it's not all about the slogging thickness of sound in "Time to Die," and numerous elements help round out the album into being more than one dimension. The more structured, '70s-laden riffing in "Time to Die" and "Funeral of Your Mind" appeal to the more orderly side of the spectrum akin to the general ethos of "Black Masses," but the wailing psychedelic lead lines in both tracks juxtapose that order with an unkempt nature, rabidly oscillating and lashing about. The drums have noticeably increased in liveliness (especially in "Destroy Those Who Love God" and "Funeral of Your Mind"), which is probably due to the original Electric Wizard drummer, Mark Greening, returning to the band for the first time since 2002's "Let Us Prey" (though he ended up leaving again), and the analog synths also get their spotlight in the interlude track "Destroy Those Who Love God" and the ending track "Saturn Dethroned." However, it's the penultimate track, "Lucifer's Slaves," that not only deserves the credit for containing the climax of "Time to Die," but it essentially wraps all of the strong points of "Time To Die" together: from the strong, tight riffing and distinct basslines eventually melting into a heavy sludge, synth swells and drumrolls filling in the space between thick, distorted slams, to the spastic psychedelic guitar solo that closes the song.
Lyrics — 5
With Electric Wizard's lyrics always containing the overbearing themes of Satanism and the occult (it is doom metal, after all), "Time to Die" show more specificity on modernity - as opposed to "Witchcult Today" and "Black Masses" being more exclusive in draconian themes - and Oborn is found lambasting society numerous times: from pointing a finger of blame on humanity ruining the earth in "Time to Die" and scorning the technology-addicted in "I Am Nothing," to literally saying "I don't give a f--k about anyone or your society" in "Incense for the Damned." But ultimately, Oborn is still just penning scathing lines meant for recital by nihilistic stoners, and whether you want to chalk it up to an undying faith to their lyrical style or just sticking to what they know for the sake of simplicity, the lyrical aspect of "Time to Die" is much like any other Electric Wizard album. Though for the umpteenth time of sticking to the standard Electric Wizard subject matter, it's starting to feel like Oborn repeating himself more and more. While "I Am Nothing" contains fair callbacks to "Supercoven" and the "Come My Fanatics…" track "Wizard in Black," and "Lucifer's Slaves" calling back to the "Witchcult Today" track "The Chosen Ones," "SadioWitch" feels like an uninspired echo of the "Black Masses" track "Venus in Furs," and generally, the lyrics are just delivering the same Electric Wizard message - they still think the world is screwed, nothing new there.
Overall Impression — 8
While "Witchcult Today" and "Black Masses" helped Electric Wizard from running their fame-claiming sound into the ground by adjusting their formula, there were fans that were left with unsatisfied desires due to the considerably contained nature of those albums and the lack of unfettered sludge. For those fans of Electric Wizard that may have been waning from the band because of that, "Time to Die" is a return-to-form to remind everyone that Electric Wizard still know how to rock with the overwhelming dirtiness like they did in their heyday, and because they took a proper amount of time away from that classic formula, it not only feels fresh again, but Electric Wizard basically set it up for their fans to get hungry for it again. "Time to Die" doesn't supersede "Dopethrone," but with it triumphantly bringing back Electric Wizard's unfiltered sludge, it's the most satisfying Electric Wizard album in years.