“They’ve been handed everything and have nothing in return
Squirreling away in their barras, their roads, their dens, their thin dreams
The slightest clarion clang, a half note on a bugle, a tremor in the stillness
And they come climbing over themselves, streaming in droves
There’s nothing else to do”
Standing in the gentrified post industrial chill outside the Electric Wizard show at Brooklyn Steel, a serious question came to mind that went well beyond “Will they play anything off Dopethrone?” And the question was:
Who are all these people?
Hundreds upon hundreds of them. Thousands. From 50-and-60-something grizzled metal vets fresh off Long Island, upstate, Jersey to vaped-out 20-something-or-others in $450 vintage denim jackets. Lots of things in between as well. There’s the small gaggles representing actual bands, their members and followers, doom metalers and stoner rawkers and black metalers and Soundcloud psych lords come to pay homage to The Wizard. Then there’s the space cases, those on the drugs or selling them, the lumpens from the fringes, all blinking and dazed in the bright lights and commotion well beyond their respective insular realms. Nobody would understand the significance of a Hawkwind patch on your average street in your average city or town at any other time, but on this night, in this venue, on this street, among this teaming mass, it means absolutely everything. The faces are serious, the demeanors determined. This isn’t a fun night out by any means. This is an education, a calling of sorts, a pilgrimage and a holy mission. It’s a chance to bear definitive witness to a thing that isn’t supposed to exist any longer.
While it’s true that these Dorset crusties rarely tour The States, there must be other factors going on here that make it possible for an openly satanic, proudly cultish band that plays middle-Earth-black psych/doom metal in front of massive screens showing clips of ’60s snuff slasher flicks to pack out an industry venue like Brooklyn Steel right in the deadened center of the modern NYC cultural void.
It definitely isn’t “technical proficiency”, a thing that tends to hoist up the carcasses of various metal acts well past their expiration dates. With The Wizard last night, it didn’t matter if they were tackling “Witchcult Today” or “See You In Hell” or “Satanic Rites Of Drugula”, it was all the same forward-march lurch of down-tuned lumbering riffs, a dinosaur on Xanax about to topple off the side of the mountain. You could play these riffs yourself after 10-or-so lessons, although you certainly wouldn’t be anywhere near as cool and stonefaced as Liz Buckingham grinding them out on stage rocking an upturned silver Tony Iommi crucifix.
And it certainly isn’t the type of “corner the market” branding and social media hype beasting that they will tell you is necessary in order to merely exist in this climate. This is a proudly backwards gazing anti-tech band whose leader Jus Oborn openly calls for violence against tech conglomerates in interviews. Their Twitter hasn’t been updated since sometime in 2017, their Instagram even more of a wasteland. Electric Wizard are about as off-the-grid as it’s possible to be for a band successful enough to get booked at Brooklyn Steel at the dawn of the ’20s.
The insular world of The Wizard; It’s all so scuzzy, so hyper-specific on certain cultural touchstones, entire 14-minute droning dirges dedicated to single scenes from super-obscure slasher flicks, strewn with gothic lit references, churned out with zero noticeable emotion to crowd that has fully and completely bought into every single aspect of their aesthetic. It’s a mere nine song setlist that nobody complains about. Nine songs, after all, are all that should be needed.
Watching The Wizard rip through song-after-song of drug-damage-distorted biker psych rock as plumes of smoke rise from a crowd absolutely laser-focused on the band, their image, their setup…an entire mythology unfolding before their pinpoint pupils, it will slowly but definitively dawn on you what has beckoned these people from their lairs on this cold Tuesday night. People still believe in the power of enigmas, in delicious escapism achieved through a slow-roll buildup of myths and legends built over many decades of grassroots struggle. Oborn has been making noise in one form or another since 1988, after all. People still long for the surreal and those dark, chaotic currents flowing just beneath this blasted and sanitized terrain. And no amount of “So Rock Is Dead Or Whatever” think pieces espousing the wonders of prudish indie puritanism could ever kill this calling.
2,000 people proved this tonight.
See You In Hell
Hear The Sirens Scream
Incense For The Damned
Satanic Rites Of Drugula
The Chosen Few