DB HOF NO. 31
The making of Electric Wizard’s “Dopethrone”
label: Rise Above
With a few coughs at the beginning of “Sweet Leaf,” Tony Iommi officially hailed cannabis as the drug of choice for the kind of people who dug Black Sabbath. Practically everyone in rock was advocating lighting up, but Sabbath were particularly suited to the effects of weed, with their massive riffs of doom, trance-like repetition and steady undercurrent of paranoia. Some people tried to recreate their THC-altered perceptions of Sabbath’s riffs, giving birth to generations of bands attempting to be heavier or slower than any band before them, and a whole genre that’s known as “stoner rock,” whether anyone likes it or not. Some others were even more dedicated, making the quest to get high and get heavy an end unto itself. In 1999, Sleep’s 51-minute epic Jerusalem (also released as Dopesmoker) implored listeners to “Drop out of life with bong in hand. Follow the smoke to the riff-filled land.” A year later, Electric Wizard demonstrated what it sounds like when you do just that on their third LP Dopethrone.
The Wizard—guitarist and vocalist Jus Oborn, bassist Tim Bagshaw and drummer Mark Greening—epitomized doom metal as a lifestyle. They worshipped the burnout pantheon of Sabbath, H.P. Lovecraft, Conan the Barbarian, ’70s trash movies and getting as high as possible as often as possible. Even Sleep’s Dopesmoker was an epic spiritual journey; on Dopethrone, Electric Wizard just wanted to sit around and get fucked up. Some songs stretch out to 15 or 20 minutes of riff hypnosis and cosmic Lovecraftian doom. There’s a malevolence and despair to Dopethrone that puts it more in line with death or black metal than Sabbath’s hippie-love-brother sentiment. And as Oborn admits, with quite a bit of understatement, “It is excessive.” Decibel spoke to Oborn, currently the only original member in Electric Wizard, with emailed responses from former members Bagshaw and Greening, both currently in Ramesses, to find out how their long-term memory’s doing.
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