Wednesday, January 12, 2011
[nytimes.com] ELECTRIC WIZARD - “Black Masses” (Metal Blade)
The imperative behind most doom metal is one that’s useful for nearly all musicians: make a noise that’s as inevitable and incontrovertible as possible. Make it seem as if that slow and low, scrofulous power chord was already sounding before you got there and will be sounding long after you’re dead. All you’re doing is keeping it aloft for a while.
Even within that frame some bands manage to innovate: High on Fire, Salome, Yob. Not Electric Wizard. On “Black Masses,” this English band’s seventh album, songs arise and dissolve in wheezes of feedback. Single-note riffs, made of notes as fat and furrowed as truck tires, get pushed through old amps and a flagon of echo. It’s almost palpable music: blocks of sound with shape and density. Nearly every guitar solo receives heavy wah-wah ministrations. Jus Oborn, the band’s frontman, sings in a hysterical monotone. The production is kind of primitive. The incantations describe permanent conditions: “Your rotten world means nothing to me/under cover of darkness is when I am free.” Or: “Patterns of evil, casting shadows/ Patterns of evil, forever in my mind.”
Electric Wizard is not pulling anything fancy on you here. “Black Masses” is more or less a re-enactment of the narrowest understanding of early Black Sabbath. And except for the last track, “Crypt of Drugula” — nine instrumental minutes with a two-chord vamp in the background and stormy rumblings up front — it’s not as abject and feral, or nearly as exciting, as “Dopethrone,” from 2000, this band’s high-water mark. Instead it’s focused and unmovable and sort of artisanal. It’s something to be admired. It’s a dry stone wall. You may sit on it. It will bear your weight. - BEN RATLIFF
CAGE THE ELEPHANT - “Thank You Happy Birthday” (Jive)
Matt Shultz’s scratchy, wobbly, jumpy voice isn’t pretty by any means. But it happens to be the perfect instrument for the manic desperation and sardonic defiance of his band, Cage the Elephant. Formed in Bowling Green, Ky., Cage the Elephant had enough success with its self-titled debut album — extensive touring and widespread rock radio airplay for hard-headed singles like “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” and “Back Against the Wall” — to embolden the band on its second, “Thank You Happy Birthday.”
The new album is more abrasive, rowdier, more unstable and pushier in the right ways. Where “Cage the Elephant” glanced at the Rolling Stones, punk, grunge and Kings of Leon, the new album also throws in post-punk, the Pixies, more electronic effects and more flat-out hollering from Mr. Shultz. The music can swerve in odd directions at any moment, like “2024,” which in its first 15 seconds opens with an electronic swoop, introduces a serviceable upbeat guitar riff, speeds up and tosses that riff aside to change keys for a galloping punk-pop song — which, minutes later, is interrupted once more by that opening riff.
An operatic soprano warbles within “Rubber Ball,” a waltz of self-doubt. “Japanese Buffalo,” a testimonial to derangement, segues from fast, shouting hardcore to a slow, pounding chorus bellowed over classic 1950s doo-wop chords: “We can play by the rules or just leave it alone.”
The songs whipsaw between fury and pessimism, between cynicism and tenacity. In “Always Something” the narrator observes a good Samaritan helping a man stranded in a rainstorm. “You save him from the flood,” he sings, “and a couple of miles down the road, he’s covered in your blood.”
The songs spare no one, even (or especially) the band’s peer group. Guitars churn frantically in “Sell Yourself” as Mr. Shultz sputters, “I know your type, I know exactly what you want to do/and if the money’s right, you think I’ll just agree.” And amid the revved-up, dissonant surf-rock of “Indy Kidz” Mr. Shultz sneers, “I wanna be just like you.”
Mere punk insolence would be too one-dimensional for Cage the Elephant. Its slower songs — still frayed with noise — counsel perseverance against any odds. “Flow” marches steadily, with snare-drum rolls and screams in the background, as Mr. Shultz sings, “Dead and gone, so long, hold on.” And there are two versions of “Right Before My Eyes,” which declares, “I can’t take this anymore it breaks my mind.” One is a paradoxically upbeat surf-rocker with big harmony choruses; the other is a hidden track that closes the album. Played quietly, like a Beatles ballad, it’s brave enough to set bravado aside. - JON PARELES
Posted by Dan Goldin at 7:58 PM