Very few records can accurately be described as ‘genre-defining’. There are plenty of classic albums out there, but it’s a special pedigree of record that summarises an entire style so succinctly that it can be seen to represent it as a whole. Such was the case with Electric Wizard’s 2000 opus ‘Dopethrone’. Crushingly heavy, superbly made, and produced with a sympathetically filthy ear, the album was as near-as-dammit perfect. Even today, anyone approximating Electric Wizard’s singular brand of distortion-overload Doom Metal will have their work compared to that album. Perhaps even more impressively, it’s predecessor – 1996’s ‘Come My Fanatics’ – was every bit as good, if not even a sliver better, although it doesn’t quite have the same far-reaching influence.
The question facing any band to have created a genre-defining album (or two, in this case) is surely how to follow it up. For 2002’s ‘Let Us Prey’, Electric Wizard did the only logical thing; instead of trying – and inevitably failing – to beat ‘Dopethrone’ at its own game, they went in a whole new direction. With ‘Let Us Prey’, the band took the liberally used psychedelics on display in ‘Dopethrone’ and made them the centre of attention; in the process creating the band’s strangest and darkest record – ‘Let Us Prey’ is one hell of a bad trip.
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All of Electric Wizard’s output has a certain spontaneity about it – a side-effect of the stoned jamming that has birthed so much of the band’s material – but ‘Let Us Prey’ still manages to rank as the band’s loosest, most experimental set of songs. Whereas much of the band’s previous material centred around a concrete motif, much of ‘Let Us Prey’ centres on something far less tangible: ideas. Entire songs are built around concepts rather than the more overt inspiration of a lyrical thread or a particularly potent riff. It’s a design choice that lends the album an innately bizarre aura, as though it were an album crafted from fundamentally different materials to any other.
‘The Outsider’ is the perfect crystallisation of the band’s attitude on the album – doing away with anything as conventional as a verse/chorus structure, it instead stands as a 10+ minute drone-doom-piledriver, full of crashing drums and sub bass rumbles. The distant, tortured wails of “I am now an outsider/always watching/never screaming” ricochet around the sonic onslaught, only adding to the brutish Hawkwind meets Bathory insanity. It’s mesmerising, intense and some of the most powerful of all the band’s work. ‘We, The Undead’ likewise trades-in a normal song structure for a five minute blast of scuzzy doom-punk that suggests what Electric Wizard may have been like had they first formed as a garage rock band in 1969.
The two-for-one sonic assault of ‘Master of Alchemy: House of Whipcord/The Black Drug’ does away with conventions such as vocals altogether, instead presenting a barrage of loosely wound riffage that – although not quite in the sub-hellscape leagues of heaviness which ‘Come My Fanatics’ occupies – still packs quite the punch. It’s perhaps ‘Night Of The Shape’ that takes the biscuit for sheer individuality, however. A genuine anomaly in the band’s discography, the track sees the band momentarily part ways with their well-worn fuzz pedals and, instead, focus on creating a trippy whirling dervish of a song. Piano and violin are the order of the day here, the piece’s crashing drum work being the only link to the Electric Wizard that we know and love. It’s a deviation, certainly, but a welcome one.
‘Let Us Prey’ would prove to be a last hurrah for the original Electric Wizard. Bassist Tim Bagshaw and drummer Mark Greening acrimoniously parted ways with Oborn after a particularly tense US tour promoting the record, subsequently going on to form the equally doom-laden Ramesses. Oborn went on to assemble Electric Wizard mark 2 shortly afterwards; a line up that would include Iron Monkey drummer Justin Greaves and 13’s Liz Buckingham, who would prove to become the band’s only consistent member aside from Oborn himself. The band’s output since ‘Let Us Prey’ has certainly had its ups and downs but it remains largely excellent. 2004’s ‘We Live’ was superb and remains a criminally underrated effort, whilst the better known ‘Witchcult Today’ (2007) established a sound that the band have largely stuck with ever since. With rumours of a new album in the works (the first since 2014’s Time To Die), now seems as good a time as any to revisit what perhaps stands as Electric Wizard’s most surprising effort – ‘Let Us Prey’.