Electric Wizard - Dopethrone
Record Label: Rise Above
Release Date: September 25, 2000
[Picking up where previous effort ‘Come My Fanatics’ left off three years before, the Wizard took their mystical trip further afield with Dopethrone, far to a fairyland odyssey of melancholic drama and cosmic nightmare, a place where existing, dim reality is subconsciously distinguished and rightfully brought to the death sentence it deserves, just for a while.]
Some time ago many particular Stoner Metal fans may have pondered the question of whether the music they were heavily fascinated by could ever get more abrasive, louder and as a result more life-affirming than it already had, but in a context that actually resonated with their slowed down, effected states of mind? I’m almost certain many hands were raised immediately in support of more prolific bands of past and present: Kyuss, Acid King, and Sleep to list a few examples. But I imagine the colony - whilst still comforted by their recent intakes of Master Kush & White Widow- couldn’t quite pinpoint an act that answered their question to a level they were ultimately satisfied with. Things got a bit sceptical for years, with many new releases not quite making the cut, and then an album arrived with the new millennium that sporadically flawed any hopes or expectations, and finally gave these optimists an answer with worthy conviction. And now eleven years on, Dopethrone, Electric Wizard’s (highly regarded seminal third album) still continues to leave various Metal fans and Dope Smokers startled just by sight and rather rightfully ranks itself as one of the greatest Doom records ever made.
From the brutal vocal lurches of ‘Vinium Sabbathi’ through to the storytelling whirr of ‘Weird Tales’ and the deafening drawl onslaught of ‘I, The Witchfinder’, the first half of Dopethrone alone proves itself worthy of the ‘Greatest Album of the Decade’ achievement that it was heralded with by Roadburn’s Drew Webster just last year. One thing so noticeable about this record though, and probably it’s most famous asset is its almost needlessness to sound, well, musical. Their dropped, sluggish riff melodies and improvised song durations certainly don’t offer anything compelling or overtly musical for the listeners’ ear, but what they do grant us with is so much more. They carelessly build blocks upon blocks of starry, destructive mass and convince their listeners just through social understanding that this is a record to take out to your stoner parties for decades to follow. Dopethrone has become an abiding law in social frenzies and has excelled in bringing people together as a result. It’s stood up against the tagging of “acclaimed” music, and has given the critics a kick in the mouth for being too analytical toward anything that was unclassifiable in manner beforehand.
Lyrically, their image is dark and suitable, demonstrating themes of manslaughter and political annihilation, as well as the consistent mocking of today’s manipulative, conservative society. For example, a recorded snippet taken from an episode of ‘20/20’ opens first track ‘Vinium Sabbathi’. In the recording we hear a mother spewing her fears over her child’s wellbeing when it becomes slightly apparent to her that he or she is being drawn into the following of a teenage satanic cult. The worried mother states her suspicions to a somewhat sketchy mediator who replies by informing her that “When you get into one of these groups, there's only a couple of ways you can get out. One is death; the other, is mental institutions”. This theme of despair and communal dysfunction continues thereon throughout much of the record’s playtime. Decadent thrasher ‘We Hate You’ delivers the greatest example of this lyrical telling. Singer Jus Oborn shrieks the words “A seed of hate from the day I was born/ my right to vengeance from me has been torn/Hopeless and drugged, my black emotions seethe/ Loveless and cold, my hate begins to breed”. It’s personal and disruptive, but it bleeds reality. To state that even the drugs, the preservatives of your recreation can’t drown out the vulgarity of plain existence is a bold, brave statement to deliver. And it’s this constant ambiguity in the album’s lyrical unravelling that reveals the sincere, unavoidable frustration that those in revolt are forced to deal with on a daily basis. It’s a damaged world out there, and their table of malevolent statements certainly assure us of that.
However, it’s the behaviour of the music itself that signifies this point of mockery and humility in Dopethrone. A crashing tidal wave of constant ferocity pours all over the production of each track, pushing the absurdity of any vocal statements aside as they are forced to find themselves lost in the mix behind oceans of climatic, merciless sound.
The title track plays out the final scene of the album, and conceptually it’s a breath of fresh air in contrast to the discoloured appearance of previous tracks. Lines such as“Rise, black amps tear the sky / Feedback will free your mind and set you free!” put authority back into the hands of the people and glorify the power of the music and lifestyle they’re into. However that’s not to say that everything before the finale is a hindrance. Instead, we come out with a record that’s mightily brave, realistic, and inspiring in equal measure. A collection of songs that support escapism and instigate belief and reason in the individual, that suffocate the boundaries of artistic credibility and demand a constant right to free will. So loosen the chains, you mindless animals, and bow down to the Dopethrone. It might be the only chance you have. Nathan Tompkins