Electric Wizard Jabez Clegg, Manchester, 27/04/2005

Sun 29th May 2005

Support from Capricorns, Lazarus Black Star


Tonight is a night I've been looking forward to a for a long time. After releasing their comeback album 'We Live' last year, the UK's premier doom band Electric Wizard have managed to get a tour together, and are ready to level venues across the country.

This is the third time I've seen the Wizard, and I'm wondering if the new line-up will be up to scratch. Reports from previous gigs and reviews of the new album suggested that the Wiz had become tighter but had lost their aura of unpredictable chaos that once surrounded them, so I approach the entrance of Jabez Clegg not sure what to expect.

First, though, I get to enjoy the sounds of Lazarus Black Star over a pint. Formerly Khang, before they got a new vocalist and name, they aren't really that different from their previous incarnation, given that the songs they play are, according to the guy standing beside me, old Khang songs reworked. Whatever. It doesn't matter when the music's good, and it certainly is-groove soaked Sabbathy doom with a frontman who looks and sounds as if he's on the edge of sanity, screaming desperately at times, frighteningly at others. The tunes get the crowd nodding and I find myself going along with the groove, getting into the atmosphere. Excellent stuff, get an album out soon boys.

Capricorns come on next, and don't exactly waste time; straight away they bulldoze the crowd with mostly instrumental music that's as subtle as a brick to the face at times, yet hauntingly quiet for extended periods as well. Truth be told, the lack of vocals does make my attention wane slightly as the set progresses, but it's still hard not to get drawn in to their sonic blasts, and once the mammoth riff of 'Queen of Bruises' kicks in, I'm beginning to wonder if the Wizard can top this.

I'm still wondering if they can when they come on stage about fifteen minutes later. I'm still wondering if they can when Jus Oborn plugs his amp in and the hum of feedback grows louder and louder. I'm still wondering as Justin Greaves taps his sticks to count the band in...

And then I don't need to wonder any more, as the opening chords of 'Eko Eko Azarak' completely flatten the crowd and make the floor shake. I can't help but think that this might be the heaviest I've seen them, the floor and my body are fucking vibrating with the sound and the depth of the music. My mouth's half open in dazed awe when they pound into 'We Live', create a sonic apocalypse with 'Dopethrone' and completely annihilate with 'Another Perfect Day'. "This one's from Come My Fanatics" says Jus as the droning groove of 'Return Trip', the opening track from their best album, provokes a near-hysterical crowd reaction. Oddly enough though, I'm slightly underwhelmed by this rendition. Perhaps it's because I'm so used to the studio version that any other version doesn't do it for me; but never mind. Tonight the Wizard are a tight, precise, grooving subsonic beast, with a sharply focused attack, delivering pounding blasts of doom, one after another. While I kind of miss the old trippy, jam vibe that prevailed at the previous Wizard gigs I've been to, this new sound is fine by me.

And then the last song of the night comes (play longer sets guys!) and we all know what it's going to be, as the opening notes of 'Supercoven' echo and drone around the room. In contrast to the 25 minute plus version I got last time, we get a fairly normal length, standard version with minimal jamming. But heavy. Oh my god, how heavy. By about halfway through the song, the riff is pinning me to the floor, completely entrancing me, and it just gets heavier until the second riff comes in after about five minutes, getting the whole place headbanging. Psychedelic solos squeal and flow over the audience as the song draws to a close, the band laying down a thick, absurdly heavy groove for the final time, before ending in droning feedback, then silence, followed by a rapturous reaction.

It's their first UK gig for two and a half years. Welcome back.


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