REVIEW: Electric Wizard “A Time To Die”/Thimble Island Dark Pumpkin

THE ALBUM: Electric Wizard A Time To Die 2014 Spinefarm Records

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It has been nearly 5 years since Electric Wizard’s last album. I feel like there have been random days where I just kept checking in on the Internet to make sure I hadn’t missed any news about it. But now it’s 2014 and it’s Time To Die. I feel like the years between records aren’t a bad thing. Electric Wizard’s latest is comparable to the erupting of a dormant volcano. We have been expecting it, without knowing when or how it will awaken. The time has come.

The record starts off with the 10+ minute burner “Incense For The Damned”. The first 30 seconds consist of the sound of trickling water, with an organ in the background, seeming to signify an (unholy) baptism. I would recommend burning some nag champa incense or candles before putting down the needle on the record.

“We wanna get high before we die” is the chant at the end of the song, and while I won’t argue that the music is totally fitting as a soundtrack for illicit activities, it’s also music that will figuratively get you high. Just sit back in a comfortable seat and let the fuzzed out guitars transport you into a different world.

The interplay between guitarists Liz Buckingham and Jus Oborn is incredibly effective. Especially on two of my avorite album tracks, “Lucifer’s Slaves” and “Funeral Of Your Mind”. The latter also features a great showcase of Oborn’s vocals. They sound a bit like they are echoing down a hallway, set slightly back in the mix while still remaining prominent. Halfway through the song the vocal effects change, and the low end and very high frequencies sound like they were slashed with a Viking sword, leaving only the mids. It gives the effect that Jus Osborn is singing to you through a telephone.

“SadioWitch” is the first single off the album. The video has “Clandestinely filmed scenes of Luciferian depravity”, as Oborn calls it. It is worth checking out, although probably not safe for work, depending on where you work. If you find drugs, witchcraft, torture, or Iceland offensive, then yes, possibly NSWF. EDIT: In fact, I am guessing a lot of people thought that, because I can no longer find a working link to the video anywhere.

“I Am Nothing” sounds like the thunderstorm at the end of the universe. I guess that is the second nature-related comment I’ve made about this album here. However, simply calling it “sludge” does not do the band justice. I think that this record is more fittingly compared to a natural phenomenon or disaster than a slew of other bands that have similar sunds. I found this album difficult to review because I love it, yet the things that I love most about it are hard to describe in musical terms. All I can say is that it is the perfect soundtrack for Halloween parties, black masses, fighting Cthulhu, and carving ‘Slayer’ into your forearm before returning to work.

I love “Saturn Dethroned” before listening to it, because I love astronomy references, especially in metal songs. I also appreciate mellotron in metal songs, and there just happens to be one in the beginning of this song, presenting it with an eerie vibe. It’s an instrumental album closer to remind you that there might be another 5 years before the next album, but it will be completely worth it.

THE BEER:

Find Our Beers

Pumpkin beer is everywhere. Some are great, and others are just okay. Thimble Island Brewing’s Dark Pumpkin porter is no Warlock, but it’s a bit easier on the liver with 5% ABV and the flavors are subtle and less of a sensory shock. It’s slightly sweet, but not anywhere near saccharine. There is roastiness makes me recall the taste of pumpkin seeds that were baked in the oven slightly too long. It pours a deep espresso color, that in the light almost shines an orange hue. I poured this on draft and the head was cream-colored, with a slight fluff that disappeared quickly. Unlike other pumpkin beers where I tend to maintain a “one and done” attitude, the Dark Pumpkin can go for a few more without being overwhelming.

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THE PAIRING: Thimble Island proves that not everything involving pumpkin spice has to be white girls in yoga pants. On a similar note, Electric Wizard proves that even the dankest of doom metal can have interesting elements that aren’t just heavy. But, in the words of Lavar Burton, you don’t have to take my word for it. Listen to the album, and while you listen, take a look at this great interview they did in 2005 that I actually just read for the first time. It’s pure gold. Just like this record should be.

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REVIEW: Skeletonwitch “Serpents Unleashed”/Brooklyn Brewery Fire and Ice

THE RECORD: Skeletonwitch Serpents Unleashed Prosthetic Records 2013

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Skeletonwitch hasn’t needed to do much to become one of my favorite bands. Constantly touring and releasing new records, they’re always working hard and just seem to show up all the time with new stuff. Their latest album, Serpents Unleashed is out now on Prosthetic Records and continues their trend of putting out fantastic albums of thrash metal gold.

Serpents Unleashed is unrelenting from the beginning. They don’t start slow and elevate to a high level, they start off at the top from the beginning and don’t stop until the record is over. I think a lot of the energy on this one has to do with the aid of producer Kurt Ballou of Converge. The sound shows that he works really well with the band to maintain their sound and clean it up a bit. Polished? Maybe. Just so the guitar riffs are crystal clear to the ear though.

The guitar riffs are so amazing on this record. Check out “Blade On The Flesh, Blood On My Hands”, and “Burned From Bone”. So face-melting, and actually pretty catchy too. The mix is perfect in the way that it allows these to stand out.

I think that’s what’s awesome about Skeletonwitch. They put out great records that sound professional, but you know you can still see them and thrash the hell out at their live shows.

Okay, I guess it slows down a LITTLE on “More Cruel Than Weak”, the last track. It’s just so you can give your head a break from banging it though, and it brings you back to speed pretty quick.

I would be remiss not to name drop one more time- Baroness’ John Dyer Baizley, who did the stunning artwork for the cover. There aren’t really any bands that Baizley has done the art for that I don’t enjoy (that includes Flight Of The Conchords!). Serpents Unleashed is just another excellent piece from his portfolio.

The band itself doesn’t quit either. It seems like they are always touring, but the great thing about the ‘witch is that they mix it up with the bands they play with. I’ve seen them three times; with Kvelertak (ON A BOAT!), with Havok, and with Ghost. All those bands are pretty different from each other, but the crowd always loved them because they put on such a great show. I’m looking forward to catching them on tour in Spring 2014 with Amon Amarth!

THE BEER: Fire And Ice- Brooklyn Brewery- Brooklyn, NY

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The brewmaster’s reserve collection is hit or miss to me; I loved There Will Be Black, but Fiat Lux was just so so. Maybe they just need to give all their beers brutal, metal-sounding names and I’ll like them. Case in point, Fire and Ice. It’s a deliciously smoky porter. I often shoot for the sweeter side of the porter and stout spectrum, but sometimes a crisp, dry porter just hits the spot. Fire and Ice knocks it out of the park. Don’t be mislead by the style it says on the label of oatmeal porter. The ingredients do include rolled oats, but everything else, like the hop profile (Fuggle, Willamette, and East Kent Golding) makes this brew deliciously smoky with a touch of bitterness. At 7.2% ABV it’s right in the middle of the scale, which is nice to see in a sea of so many super-strong stouts and porters this time of year.

THE PAIRING:

I always feel inclined to pair metal albums with pretty dank beers. When you’re rocking out to an intense, heavy record, you need a beer of equal caliber to go along with it.


The description on the Brooklyn Brewery website sounds like it could fit in a Skeletonwitch song too:

When the world gives you darkness and Ice
We put a Fire into your glass and give you warmth and light

While the beer isn’t that accessible in stores and bars since it’s from the brewmaster’s reserve series, it’s super accessible, easy to drink, on the palate. Yes, it’s intense and big, but it’s surprisingly drinkable. Much like Skeletonwitch- their sound is in your face, but they are a blast to see live and so much fun to listen to.