The Academy 3, Manchester 15/05/09
Stop your feasting, o’ blood-caked children of foulness, ’tis time to behold the big daddies of DOOM (no, not Saint Vitus). It’s been a while since der Wizard have toured around fucked old Blighty and their presence in the North West has long been overdue. So, as a treat to surpass all others, I took along my diminutive and elf-like thirteen year old son, a whelp of darkness who had been reared on the riff since he was old enough to remember. He needed to experience live Wizard; an essential rite of passage for any acolyte of the down-tuned dirge of death.
The Freezing Fog were approaching the climax of their set when we swaggered into the dark and spacious chamber of Academy 3. I once saw them at Satan’s Hollow and they unimpressed me (sorry lads) with their rather middle-of-the-road Oasis crossed with Iron Maiden Mancunian rock, but the little I saw of them tonight made me want to shout ‘yay’! A great fat sound and walloping chunky riffs shook me out of complacency and made me realise that these lads had been practising hard and were now a very tight unit of metal vengeance indeed. Maybe I had not been concentrating fully on their sound before, because I have to admit that they really fucking rocked, particularly their last number (‘The Freezing Fog’). The vocals were full and throaty and the twin guitars roared like V8 engines. They’d certainly put a smile on the leathery face of Tommy Vance.
Xela were composed of a bespectacled man in a fetching Zombi t-shirt contorting himself behind a lap-top, plus another bloke (I think he was John Twells, co-owner of Type records) fiddling with guitars and shit on the floor. They proceeded to whip up thirty minutes of really fucking loud apocalyptic electronic fury on an Apple-Mac, a sequencer, some big amps and various other ‘gadgets’. Although I probably wouldn’t listen to this much at home, live it was quite the visceral experience (my weaker left ear was starting to groan under the barrage of low frequency) and it became apparent that the choice of Xela as support was rather inspired. The harsh electronica, obviously influenced by a nauseating stew of Italian horror soundtracks, Delia Derbyshire and plain old white noise, provided an excellent prelude to the entrance of everyone’s fave doom-mongers, setting a tone and atmosphere of rising anticipation, and…dare I write it…IMPENDING DOOM.
Some time around ten, Jus Oborn sauntered on to check his Orange amps, raising a nonchalant devil sign to a huge smoke-damaged roar from the damp pulsating crowd. The band gradually gathered on stage (Liz Buckingham receiving a particularly rapturous greeting), pissing around with leads and bits of drum kits etc., as musicians tend to do. Eventually they coalesced into the hirsute entity we know and love as Electric Wizard, circa 2009, still with Shaun Rutter on drums and some new psycho-hippy biker dude covered in facial tattoos (or was it just a cop-out, e.g. facepaint?) plucking away on the Rickenbacker.
EW opened with a scintillating rendition of ‘Witchcult Today’ and then just rolled through classic numbers such as ‘Funeralopolis’ (for me, the spine-crushing highlight) and ‘Satanic Rites of Drugula’ like a stoned behemoth. The exhilaration of feeling their gigantic riffs boom out above your head and hit the audience like a tidal wave of evil black slurry is unsurpassed. EW represent an adrenalin fix, just like all the best bands. It’s just that they do it real slow. They lost their sound a bit into the second number and never really recovered it, but I didn’t really give a shit, I was just real pleased to be there, down the front, wedged next to a farting man smoking a spliff. My son was on some big bloke’s shoulders for a while, until he got fed up with beer being thrown at him. Rites of fucking passage.
Unfortunately, there was a rather dragging interval in the middle when a lead melted, and the band was kind of slow to react and sort it. Which was cool, because I do like to see a group of self-proclaimed super-stoners ambling around in a confused fug. Authenticity. In particular Jus appeared quite a bit mashed, like he was struggling to remember what to do next whilst he was playing, and his guitar went quite out of tune when a very excitable Welsh punk got on the stage to do a quick dance and he banged the guitar neck against his head. At the end of one song, he seemed to be soloing like he’d lost the plot, and Liz looked a bit muddled and stopped playing. All very endearing stuff really. I like to think that pre-gig they’d all been backstage, sucking on a giant granite bong on wheels, built by Druids before the Romans came.
What was disappointing was the fact that EW only played for about 45-50 minutes. They did one encore and that was it. Many in the crowd were a tad pissed off, but the Academy does tend to be strict when it comes to pulling the plug around eleven, and EW spent about ten long minutes sorting out the technical fault. Still, one can never miss an opportunity to catch the rupturing heaviness of these slothful horror-heads. Six stunning albums down the line (obviously some better than others), with a riff-laden career stretching back to the early nineties, EW have come to symbolise super-heavy psychedelic doom metal more acutely than any other contemporary band, particularly in the eyes of those who don’t particularly know anything about this genre. They’ve played better gigs than tonight, but so what? They’re human beings, who just happen to play the best SUPERFUCKING HUMAN doom-sludge on Earth. And for that, I will always be grateful. Roll on album #7.
Scribed by: Adam Stone
Photos by: Lee Edwards