It’s 7:20, I’ve had a nice glass of wine, and a proper bowl of high grade sativa marijuana. I am filled with existential dread. The world is burning. Madness is brought forth in the aspect of riffs. The nastiness of a Boss FZ-2 tears my ears apart. A gremlin voice comes forth from the speakers like a miniaturized nightmare. “Get off my case, motherfucker!”
The song is “Return Trip,” the first song off of Electric Wizard’s Come My Fanatics… It is the second time I’ve listened to this song tonight. It’s created a hypnosis akin to a speed comedown, one where you gnash your teeth and bob your head seemingly in rhythm. The bassline that starts the song is the beating of my heart. The shitty mic and mix job of the drums is the pitter patter of anxiety around the corner. Jus’s heart wrenched, painful wails are the sounds of angst that never goes away. Put simply, this song defines what Doom is for me.
A lot of people will tell you that Dopethrone is the seminal achievement in the Electric Wizard universe and I don’t have a solid argument against it. Not a logical one at least. Dopethrone is arguably the hallmark record of modern Doom (that ephemeral harpy that is that term — is Black Sabbath Doom or Classic Rock? Are there waves like with Black Metal?) and I own two copies on vinyl myself.
But there’s something about Dopethrone that doesn’t captivate me in the same way that the raw, beautiful, angry Come My Fanatics… does. It is Doom at its most Stooges, at its most CBGB, at its most skatepark, at its most smoking weed under the bleachers, at its trenchcoat mafia phase of high school. It is not brilliant in the same way that Dopethrone — a much more polished and refined statement — is, but it is just as if not more brilliant in certain key facets.
Point 1: Come My Fanatics… Is Raw
First, the rawness of Come My Fanatics… may well be a turn-off to you. This is the point that you can fuck right off. This is Electric Wizard at their most Raw Power, skillfully channeling copious drug use, crippling addictions to b-movies, and youthful energy into an album of pure aggression and anger.
There is nothing nice about this album. It is not for your aunt back home and it is not for discussion at Thanksgiving. This is an album made by angry losers for other angry losers and if you can consider yourself so honored as to be a part of our club, this is the album for you.
Where has Doom ever sounded so in your face, so full of gravity and hormones? Where has it ever used primitive tools to make primitive sounds with so much energy and vitality? Where has it ever decided not just to talk about the black hole, but to jump headfirst down the gaping maw of time?
Point 2: Come My Fanatics… Has Superior Riffs
Second, and perhaps most important, is that these riffs are superlative. I’ve already addressed “Return Trip” and while I could wax poetic without end about the majesty of the riffs in that song, I won’t bore you with a masturbatory exposition about the power of an FZ-2 and a barre chord.
Instead, I will tell you that “Wizard in Black,” “Doom Mantia,” and “Solarian 13” contain some of the most powerful riffs in Doom. You’re not listening to Electric Wizard for sludgy single note riffs along the pentatonic scale.
This is hash and whiskey music, filled with ballsy chords that bludgeon you in the face without mercy. There is an evil to these riffs and chord progressions that defies categorization, bringing our ears as close to “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” as they can go without a time machine to December 1973.
Point 3: These Lyrics Are Evocative
Third, these are some of the most evocative, intense lyrics in the somewhat uneven history of Doom poetics. Electric Wizard, in their catalog, is as guilty of banality as any band, especially following the turn of the century. Often they have diluted their songs with lyrics that veer more towards shock and awe than pure, raw emotion.
Come My Fanatics… is the opposite of this, enchanting us with a vision of a dying world — bloated, evil, and destined for destruction. As Jus wails in “Return Trip,” “The sun burns in the stranger’s eyes/ Just one tear before he dies/ Black mass can’t ease the pain/ There’s nothing here, there’s nothing sane.” While the song may be more known for its cry of “I hope your fuckin’ world fuckin’ burns away/ I’d kill you all if I had my way,” there’s so much more to this song than its signature paean of dread.
“Wizard in Black” veers into the same territory of extreme darkness with its second verse “The eyes of god look upon what he’s done/ The eyes of man look on and beyond/ I am a god, I am the one/ Into the chaos see my time has begun.”
These are the poetics of destruction, of black masses gone wrong, of black cats and daggers in the dark. From Come My Fanatics… we see not only a reflection of the influence of Black Sabbath, but also a new grunge-influenced tint of apathy and attitude.
An Imperfect Perfection
Much as my heart inclines me to say that this record is perfect, it’s far from it. The recording of the drums is tinny and distant and requires a modicum of patience — I love bombastic drums and this is as far from bombastic as you can get. Even worse, “Ivixor B/Phase Inducer” is a waste of a song, a bloated exploration of sonic landscapes that can only be compared (and here Jus may blush) to Sabbath’s “FX,” another song that distracts from an otherwise nearly impeccable album.
Finally — and here is where I would disagree — some listeners may find the angst and rawness to be a statement of immaturity. At this point, while I would acknowledge your argument, I would yet again tell you that you’re not listening to this album correctly. The rawness and angst are explorations of youth and a band growing song by song — immaturity is the farthest applicable label for this album.
Despite its flaws, Come My Fanatics… warrants the label of a masterpiece. Sure, it doesn’t have the polished touch of Dopethrone or the anthemic songs of Witchcult Today. There’s a throwaway song in there and the recording of the drums is borderline offensive to my ears. But this is a statement of an album, one that rewards the listener with each repeated listen and dive into its eight songs. What happens when you channel the evil of Black Sabbath through the blown out speakers of The Stooges? A visceral experience that challenges and enthralls the listener. From the supreme Doom of “Return Trip” to the punkish explosion of “Demon Lung” and the raw riffage of “Return to the Sun of Nothingness,” this is a challenger for the throne that is Dopethrone.
Disagree if you’d like — you have that right as this is art and it’s meant to be subjective. But consider for a moment whether we should be looking at Come My Fanatics… as the great modern Doom album. It’s worth the shot.