Electric Wizard - Dopethrone (2000), 7/10

For fans of heavy sludge and doom metal Dopethrone will satisfy. The sound is heavy and suffocating, yet when paired with excellent songwriting it creates an even more exciting product. The record accomplishes what other stoner metal should but often fails, in creating memorable songs while remaining true to the harsh, heavy, and unrelenting drudging. The opener is deeply gratifying for its heaviness, but the melody is equally infectious. The build of atmospheric noise across the album is noteworthy, climaxing to a series of satisfying finishes. “Funeralopolis” feels intimate and vulnerable before venturing into more heavy psychedelia. The use of effects works quite well and adds to the album’s ethos rather than serving as a crutch or a distraction from the meat of the songs. Because the album is so musically simple, riffs and melodies must be especially strong to carry the weight of sound. Some are practically perfect while others are unfortunately lacking, at least in individual moments. The three-part “Weird Tales” serves as an example of a weak melody meandering in lost territory before developing into a stronger, more psychedelic direction of sound in its second half redeeming the track entirely before the even more frustratingly standard “Barbarian”. Fortunately, the pinnacle of the album in “I, the Witchfinder” reclaims the authority of atmospheric violence established in the first two tracks wonderfully and aggressively, even tangentially flirting with more psychedelic hypnosis. The essentially repetitious filler in “We Hate You” feels wholly unnecessary as a prelude to the closing title track that again has to work hard to regain lost momentum. It does accomplish this feat but fails to reach the heights touched on previously, serving as a solid closer to a consistently affecting metal album. Dopethrone is at its best when it indulges in its ridiculous heaviness and excessive fuzziness, something done well consistently enough to make it an outstanding album worth visiting, even displaying a surprisingly wide appeal.