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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The Halloween Mix: Fall Beer and Music Pairings

So while I wait patiently for new records to fall in love with (I honestly have not been jazzed about any new releases enough to write a review in awhile), I’ll do something I love. Besides writing about beer, I love making mixes. While tapes and even CDs are starting to go away as formats, there still is something to be said about a collection of songs that mean something. These are my 5 favorite Halloween songs, paired with some of my favorite pumpkin or autumn beers. Enjoy!

“Black No. 1”- Type O Negative/Southern Tier Warlock

My number one pick for a Halloween song is the quintessential Type O track, “Black No. 1”. I love Type O Negative, and of course with all their references to Nosferatu and Goth culture, I have to rock out to them even harder around Halloween. “Black No. 1” is off their 1993 record Bloody Kisses. This album celebrates its 20 year anniversary this year, so what better time to dust it off and listen to it?

I’m pairing one of my favorite bands with one of my new favorite beers. I didn’t think Southern Tier could top the delicious Pumking, but they did with Warlock, a pumpkin stout that tastes like the darker, evil twin of that tasty pumpkin pie ale.

“Halloween”- the Misfits/Dogfish Head Punkin

Can’t have a Halloween mix without your old pal Glenn Danzig, right? “Halloween” was released as a 7-inch single on All Hallows’ Eve 1981, and later on the Legacy Of Brutality collection in 1985. Who doesn’t love thrashing around a good “bonfire burning bright”, with PUNKIN faces in the night? I wanted to pair the most punk rock track on this list with this totally punk rock pumpkin ale from Dogfish Head. It’s a brown ale, but with pumpkin, brown sugar, and spices, it’s a great seasonal drink. Despite the fact that it’s 7% ABV, it feels much light enough to finish in the short length of the average Misfits track.

“Dead Man’s Party”- Oingo Boingo

Like the Misfits and Type O, I’ll add another Halloween essential to the mix: Danny Elfman. His compositions from movies like Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas are as familiar as the films themselves around All Hallow’s Eve. Elfman fronted Oingo Boingo from 1972-1995, and the title track of 1985’s Dead Man’s Party is a favorite for all Halloween parties, whether you’re dead or alive.

I’ll pair this older favorite with a new beer that I love: 2Roads Brewing’s Roadsmary’s Baby. There are plenty of pumpkin beers out there, but this one stands out with its rum-barrel-aged sweetness. It’s 6.8% alcohol but drinks very easily.

“Time Warp”- Richard O’Brien/Rocky Horror Picture Show

“Time Warp” is a classic Halloween song. It doesn’t feel like Halloween until I’ve done the Time Warp at least 4 times. In that way, I picked a classic Oktoberfest ale to pair with it. Paulaner goes back a little earlier than Rocky Horror, 1810 to be exact, for the first ever Oktoberfest in Munich. I find the Paulaner Oktoberfest to be a little darker than some of the others out there, with that tasty roasted malt flavor.

“I Put A Spell On You”- Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

It’s one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 “Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll”. The performance is ridiculous but still musically awesome. Isn’t that what Halloween is about? A chance to be ridiculous no matter if you’re a serious musician or not.

I paired Screamin’ Jay, who was born in Cleveland, with a delicious beer that was too. Great Lakes Brewing puts out their Nosferatu imperial red ale, which is a nice change to see amongst all the pumpkin-heavy beers this time of year.