Electric Wizard / Blood Ceremony / Satan's Satyrs Lee's Palace, Toronto ON, April 5
Published Apr 06, 2015The Toronto tour stop of Dorset, UK-based doom-metal pioneers Electric Wizard has been mired in controversy — the show, announced last December, sold out with remarkable speed in less than a month, and many devoted fans found themselves ticketless and furious. Regardless of the possible reasons (the fact that the show was booked at the relatively intimate venue of Lee's Palace, tickets getting snatched up by scalpers, etc.) it's a shitty deal, to be sure.
One wonders, though, if the band's management themselves were prepared for the legions of fans chomping at the bit following the release of the band's excellent tenth studio album, Time To Die, last year. Shows have been selling out all over the continent, and the fact that there was literally no merchandise to be found (a hilariously empty table at the back of the venue carried only a hastily printed merch email list) suggests that the band themselves didn't anticipate the massive interest in this rare venture across the pond. As a result, the show felt like a historic moment, to be cherished and savoured — a chance to see the tireless Jus Oborn and company tear the roof off on Easter Sunday, the holiest day in the Christian calendar, in an utterly godless display of infernal riffage and sludge.
Virginia-based openers Satan's Satyrs (featuring Electric Wizard's new bassist Clayton Burgess) set the evening's tone with their filthy-as-hell take on classic metal; they looked like Hawkwind and sounded like Blue Cheer with an acid-laced patina of swampy doom. The second act, Blood Ceremony, was a bit more of a curious choice; the Toronto-based band evoked Electric Wizard's ethos in spirit rather than sound, coupling an eldritch sensibility with baroque musicianship. (I loved the way frontwoman Alia O'Brien wielded her flute at the audience like a warlock's sceptre.)
Once Electric Wizard strode onstage, all other forms of reality were eclipsed: images of blood sacrifices, Satanic priests and boobs filled the projection screen as the band vigorously launched into "Witchcult Today," from their eponymous 2007 album. It's a rare moment when a band's riffs are so unified and elephantine that they effectively suck the air out of the room. Plumes of weed smoke rose to the ceiling like incense as the crowd lurched forward in one communal nod of assent; Burgess' bass juddered, guitarist Liz Buckingham tossed her head, a wooden inverted cross hanging from her neck, and the band's drummer smashed away, eyes staring straight ahead. Oborn — his face clenched with effort and ecstasy — choked and howled into the microphone. As he settled into the song's wailing guitar solo, a beatific grin cracked his face, and all was right in the world.
The rest of the night — from the howls of recognition when the band launched into the unmistakable opening chords of "Dopethrone" to a rendition of "Time to Die" that felt like a giant fist reaching into the bowels of the earth — was bathed in a hypnotic glow, further enhanced by a kaleidoscopic projection that draped Oborn like a greatcoat glittering with neon jewels. The show closed with a loving version of Dopethrone's magnificent "Funeralopolis," a song that begins with a beautifully fuzzy riff and ends with a cacophonous and speedy (for Electric Wizard) breakdown.
There was no encore. As the crowd stepped blinking out into cold air free of drugs and static, the world felt tremendously light — a by-product of 90 minutes of joyous supplication to one of the heaviest and thoroughly evil bands alive. God bless Electric Wizard. And oh yeah — Hail Satan.