Autobiographical Order No. 638: Electric Wizard – Dopethrone

I might have bought Dopethrone a little earlier than this, but it’s not on the Google doc, but generally speaking, this is about right. It’s in the big glut of metal albums from 2017, so where it falls probably isn’t that important, just that I happened to get it somewhere between a bunch of death metal and old-man metal records and between some Brazilian and Nigerian record reissues. I think as my taste evolves, I tend to go through these weird periods of obsession, which in the past year have included ambient/drone, industrial, reggae/dub, hip-hop and so on. And when you have nothing to do other than think about and listen to records, you get a lot of obsessions. (I don’t see this changing anytime soon, to be honest.)

So I picked up Dopethrone in the middle of a big metal binge. Ostensibly for the purposes of DJing but as always, it’s an excuse to get records I would have wanted anyway. And at the time I was basically picking up all of my desert island metal records, which includes this beast of a doom metal record. It’s easy to look at the cover and think there’s a campy aspect to this—it’s a wizard smoking a bowl! Stoner goofiness, right? Nope! (Look at the ghouls in the background, for instance.) I’m not sure I’ve heard a nastier doom metal record. This record, which is epic, is also just vicious.

That nastiness also contributes to some naysayers’ dismissals of it, unfortunately. In general, I think this is pretty widely recognized as a classic (and rightly so). But I’ve definitely read some critiques of it (“critiques” is maybe too generous, I’m just talking about nerds on the internet) that basically say the only reason it has the reputation it does is because of the guitar tone. That’s definitely a part of it—every riff is just caked in layers of filth, and it’s what makes everything sound even more evil than it would have otherwise. But that’s just it—doom metal is sad, not evil. So for Electric Wizard to take it that extra step and make the whole thing feel just malicious and vile kind of changed the m.o. for doom, not to mention the fact that, you know, the songs are good. That boogie riff at the climax of “Funeralopolis”? Exquisite. Not to mention the distorted “…fuck!” at the end.

Electric Wizard never topped this album, and maybe some fans would debate that, but the minute you put this record on and “Vinium Sabbathi” blows your face off, it’s pretty clear this is something pretty remarkable. And while all their records are pretty good, a lot of them are more standard stoner/doom stuff without as much of the thick, toxic production that this album has.

Back when live shows were still a thing, the most common compliment I ever got from people was something along the lines of “Your guitar tone is amazing!” Which I always took as backhanded, because like…do you care about the songs? Or am I a hack with a dialed-in setup? But when I listen to this album, I totally get it.

Rating: 9.3

Sound Quality: Great

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