Manchester's illustrious Ritz, regardless of its disparate gig listings, has rarely — if ever – seen the like: the tormented, howling beast of Electric Wizard, fronted by Jus Oborn and wife, ex-Sourvein guitarist Liz Buckingham, pouring out a performance of angry, bloody, ritualistic blackness. The theme, as featured on the recent Time to Die album, is the real life case of Ricky Kasso, AKA The Acid King who, strung out on hallucinogens, committed the Satanic-edged murder of Gary Lauwers in woods on Long Island in June 1984.
This heady scenario drapes over the recent album and over Wizard’s live set, which draws you into a world of numbing malevolence. The source of their sound might well be Sabbath’s Into the Void but, eight albums deep, Wizard have long since departed the obvious theatrics of Ozzie and Co. Live, they feel like the real deal.
This is certainly the case at The Ritz. Spliced with shards of the classic Dopethrone, we find new burners such as the harrowing Incest For The Damned, Time to Die, and the growling sex-death chants of SadioWitch. It’s Sabbath turned up to 12, crashing through the elegant venue like some kind of black death tsunami. Even hardened barmen cast nervous glances stagewards: not since The Swans caused them to run screaming from their stations has such an aural assault happened here.
The exotic backdrop, as expected, veered uncomfortably close to comedic porn, with whippings and angst aplenty. But for me, an innocent in this world, I prefer to ignore such lumpen imagery and concentrate on a rolling noise that swamps the senses, serving up a relentless, rolling buzz that douses a swelling audience stacked full of denim cut-offs and black leather mini skirts. The band’s famous lack of on-stage athleticism – i.e., standing still, gazing forlornly into The Ritz’s dark chasms — serves only to accentuate the hypnotic effect. In a live context it is enough just to submit to the relentless thrust.
The fat bulk of Electric Wizard has been ably supported. Shazzula Vulturia creates sex-fuelled soundscapes that marry Nico to Tangerine Dream, while Satan’s Satyr’s — we can argue about the apostrophe later — pumps away in a retro thrust that recalls embryonic Free spliced with shards of The Deviants.
All in all, unholy and bewitching.
All pictures by Sabrina Ramdoyal