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Electric Wizard and Midnight @ The Fillmore, Philadelphia (Live Review + Photos)

Electric Wizard
Electric Wizard. Photo credit: Tashina Byrd

Less than a month after swinging through town with Obituary, Midnight was the sole support for classic stoner doom outfit Electric Wizard. Anyone who thought the band might have changed their approach in front of a vastly different crowd likely didn’t think things through. Midnight plays the same no matter who is headlining. The Cleveland group panders to no one and caters to anyone who appreciates a mixture of Venom’s low-fi bludgeoning and the Mentors’ low-budget theatrics.

“You think I’m intelligent,” bassist/vocalist Jamie “Athenar” Walters rhetorically asked. “I’m from Cleveland.” This was likely not a stolen slogan from the city’s tourism board.

The boys thrashed and burned for 45 unrelenting minutes of sloppy solos, simple rhythms, and an unbridled celebration of everything Midnight feel qualifies as metal. Whether they converted or scared any doom metallers probably didn’t matter as long as there was beer backstage.

Then, it felt like maybe the cavernous Fillmore main stage was a bit ambitious for Electric Wizard. The last time they came through in 2015 they played the Union Transfer which is about half the size, plus High on Fire played the night before and Tool the night before that, which is a lot of expensive heavy lethargy for consecutive weekdays. This show wasn’t sold out, but the room looked respectable which was a testament to Philly fans supporting the scene as well as a band that comes by infrequently enough that they’re not to be missed when they do.

That, and Electric Wizard is quite good.

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1970s Satan-ploitation films aired behind the band, the grainy footage filtered through a haze of psychedelic swirls and pot smoke from sneaky hessians. It really tied the room together, these freaky images, the contact buzz, the smell of stale beer in the venue’s dark corners, and a band that is the audio embodiment of all of that plus some harder recreationals that were smartly left in the car.

It’s a stereotype that the classic doom bands are too stoned to move and Electric Wizard do nothing to contradict convention. Liz Buckingham lurched on her side of the stage to the rhythm of her sludgy riffs; Haz Wheaton flanked the other side, his pick furiously flailing against his bass; Jus Oborn balanced them out in the middle. Simon Poole didn’t venture far but that’s par for the course for drummers. They banged their heads constantly, ensuring nobody ever quite saw their faces, but did so in place without wandering more than a few feet in either direction.

This was also a perfect (albeit likely unintentionally so) metaphor for music which lacks dynamism by design. It’s just goddamn heavy.

Electric Wizard defines doom and redefines nothing and is quite happy doing so. The variety between the dirty grime of “Black Masses,” the nihilistic blues of “Return Trip,” and the menacing Sabbathian spires and pyres of “Incense for the Damned” and “Satanic Rites of Drugula” are incremental and infinitesimal, yet also incredibly profound. “Funeralopolis,” with folk-styled picking that gets obliterated by the meatiest of riffs played this evening (which is no mean feat), closed the set.

Then Electric Wizard shuffled off the stage. No encore. They made their point pretty clear and what more was there to say?

Now that this tour has rolled through Philly, it has been revealed that Midnight — along with Gatecreeper and Necrot who also just played Philly with Exhumed — have been added to the upcoming Philly edition of Decibel Fest (with Mayhem, Converge, Napalm Death, Pig Destroyer, Abbath, Satan, and more).

The Electric Wizard / Midnight tour ends Friday (11/22) in MA.

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