“Most of us were stuck in some drug addiction or alcoholism at the time, and it was just pure hate. It was us against the world, and we just wanted to make the most disgusting, foul, putrid record that anyone has ever recorded. We camped out at the studio, so it was literally just wake up, consume as much fucking drugs as possible, and then just start jamming.”
Man, Cliff Richard & The Shadows really took it to the fucking edge, didn’t they? just filth beasts the lot of them.
No mortal, I jest. Welcome to what I consider to be the nastiest heaviest British LP to date, Electric Wizard Dopethrone. I downloaded it about a decade ago assuming it would be some good, choogling, aggressive stoner rock, a lot like their chums Orange Goblin. What I heard was … just … too … much! It frightened me, it sounded like a massive looming cliff* of pure, oppressive darkness. It was too much for me, too primal, there was no way in, the sound almost made me nauseous.
But I persisted. I figured that anything there had to be something in a piece of music that could make me feel that strongly and I am made of reasonably tough stuff, musically speaking**. The turning point was picking up a reissue of Dopethrone on purple vinyl – inviting the beast into my abode. I think it is a truly incredible LP now.
Just take ‘Weird Tales’ for example. Like all good songs should be it is 15 minutes long and split into three sections. ‘Electric Frost’ is a head-mashingly hostile boogie on the time-served subject of H.P Lovecraft’s eldritch writings^, filtered through an aura of pure menace – the guitar solo is the most distorted, fucked up thing I have ever heard. Then after about 7 minutes it subsides into ‘Golgotha’, all eerie sound effects and drums that sound like the aftermath of a battle. The last 5 minutes of the track is ‘The Altar of Melektaus’ (named after a 1932 story in Weird Tales), which is a spooky atmospheric ambient track – one of the very best things on the LP.
Oh and there’s still room on that side of the LP for a 6 minute track about Conan too, ‘Barbarian’. Spat out like it was venom into a foe’s eye, the vocals are amazing and the music just CRUSHES. This is so definitely going to be the first dance next time I get married:
His black mane sweeps across his face
Grim and silent with a steely blue gaze
Like a panther ready to strike
His blade crashes down to end your life
Rewinding a bit, ‘Vinum Sabbathi’ is the opener that had me all nauseous first time around. The bass just sounds loose, the track is being sung by a man clearly in the throes of a trip you really don’t want to get involved in and the guitar just growls like nothing I’d ever heard before. And at under 4 minutes that’s just an hors d’oeuvre for the total whiteout carnage of ‘Funeralopolis’.
Black Sabbath are the obvious progenitors of Electric Wizard’s sound but that only begins to scrape it. Imagine if Black Sabbath had been able to spend their entire time growing up listening to Black Sabbath and you get a little closer. Imagine growing up compulsively watching video nasties while huffing lighter fuel in a picturesque but dead rural town and you’re partly there too. You know that kid in your school that collected road kill and who got sent away somewhere special after he did that-thing-that-people-won’t-talk-about in the woods? well Dopethrone is what the inside of his head sounds like. True story. Electric Wizard are the kids from River’s Edge.
This really is the ‘disgusting, foul, putrid’ record that Jus Osborn was talking about in the opening paragraph. Proof? just crank up the ‘I, Witchfinder’ with its’ gory horror-inspired lyrics and dank brain-crunching heaviness. The drumming of Mark Greening is brilliant on this one, just like Master Ward himself he plays only exactly what he needs to play and not a cymbal crash more. Then hit up ‘We Hate You’, a plea for the world to end – it is truly enthrallingly horrible. There is an aggression and, yes hatred, in the delivery that is scary, music made by the truly psychotic – whiting out with all the needles in the red.
The catchiest track on Dopethrone is the title track, which is another genre highlight as far as I am concerned. Jus Osborn’s vocals are totally frantic and his guitaring is made even more monumental than usual because it has a little less fuzz attached, a little more room to breathe. It sounds like worlds colliding.
Dopethrone, in this land of sorcery
Dopethrone, vision through T.H.C.
Dopethrone, feedback will free
Dopethrone, three wizards crowned with weed, yeah
I know there’s more extreme music than Dopethrone out there these days but very little strikes me as extreme in attitude as it. The rage that is (barely) contained in these grooves is incredible, getting it all down on wax was an incredible feat. I just wish the band had managed to survive with this volatile Osborn, Bagshaw and Greening line-up intact. Still, maybe that’s why records were invented – buy this one, it is truly evil.
If you follow me down this particular rabbit hole, or you’re there already toking away with the giant caterpillar with his hookah, remember the World Health Organisation recommend only handling Dopethrone with gloves, playing it no more than twice in a 96 hour period and making sure you never play it in a room without adequate ventilation.
But what do they know about partying, or anything else?!
*I got a 2 for 1 deal on using the word ‘Cliff’ today.
**non-musically I am a complete Bee Gee of a man.
^we used to have family holidays in unknown Kadath, so I know it pretty well actually.