Thursday 15 June 2023


Coventry, UK has given us Lady Godiva, Daimler cars and British ska outfit The Specials the city has also given us, in Cathedral, one of Britain's best doom bands not named Black Sabbath. Cathedral aside Coventry is a city not renowned for its doom scene but that might change with the arrival of Massasauga, Conrad Lummus (guitars/vocals) and Adam Stewart (drums), a duo with a penchant for thunderous rhythms and fuzzed out refrains who describe what they do as "conjuring riffs from beyond the grave, blasting drums from another dimension" then add to that legend by telling us that they also write "lyrics that put a spell on you".  The duo have been quite prolific since their coming together in 2020 and have been steadily releasing demo's, singles and EP's via their Bandcamp page and Spotify ever since, including impressive covers of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" and Edwyn Collins "A Girl Like You". Today though we are here to discuss their latest EP "The Only Good Wizard is a Dead Wizard", a conceptual piece that in the bands words "tells a story of mass hysteria, ritual sacrifice and ancient magic" and might just be the bands best release to date.

Doom is often regarded as being a dense, dark and mildly depressive music, hence its name, and given that Massasauga's latest opus is loosely based around the witch trials of the seventeenth century you would expect the music contained therein to be of a similar nature. To make such an assumption would be a mistake because despite its dark conceptual theme, heavy riffs and horror meets occult lyrical content "The Only Good Wizard is a Dead Wizard" is with the odd exception, a surprisingly upbeat and in places playful, collection of songs each of which plays its part in telling a story. Opening track "Witching Hour" is a great example of this playfulness its chugging proto-doomic groove has a "Master of Reality" era Sabbath feel and its lyrical content is suitably dark and doomic but then somewhere around the halfway mark that Sabbathesque chug seems to shift into something more along the lines of something Sweet or Bowie might have attempted in the heady days of 70's British glam and it is this, combined with Lummus' oddly 90's flavoured vocals, that take what could have been a generic stroll down paths we have all walked a thousand times before into something wholly refreshing and special. Title song "The Only Good Wizard is a Dead Wizard" is next and if you ever wondered what Scottish post punk outfit Franz Ferdinand might sound like if they threw their lot in with the doom crowd then this song will provide the answer, doom it seems can also be fun. For next track, "Interlude (No Peace in the Village)" Massasauga take their listeners by the hand and lead them into lysergic waters with a serene and quite beautiful instrumental that sees swirling guitar solos and liquid arpeggios majestically weaving in and out of one another over a backdrop of suitably intricate percussion. One of Desert Psychlist's favourite songs EVER is The Heavy Eyes "These Men Are Wolves" and Massasauga's "Don't Be Scared of the Dark" has much that same feel good, compelled to sing-a-long to vibe, in an alternative universe where stoner and doom are the preferred listening choice of the mass populace this would be a sure fire #1 hit. It is rare for Desert Psychlist not to mention the word "gnarly" when reviewing an album in the stoner or doom canon but by including "Dungeon Crawler" (which features Sam Shiers of Ambrius guesting on vocals) on this album Massasauga have given us the perfect excuse to include that word in this review as well as both the words "ass" and "kicking".
#Desert Psychlist assumes that "The Sorcerer's Theme (Bonus Track)" will not appear on any (hopefully) forthcoming vinyl release but seeing as it appears on both the bands Bandcamp page and Spotify account we thought we had better include it here, the song is a mournful keyboard heavy instrumental mood piece that shows a whole different side to the band, a side the duo may or not explore in further depth on future releases, whether they will or not is something only time can tell.  

Massasauga's "The Only Good Wizard is a Dead Wizard" is a hard one to categorise, it is definitely doom-ic but is it doom? It has all the right elements of doom like crunching riffs, thundering percussion and occult themed lyrical content but then it also has those uncharacteristic 90's flavoured vocals and those occasional forays into 70's glam rock, indie-flavoured post punk and experimental psych. The best thing to do when listening to this slightly confusing but utterly brilliant EP is to enjoy it for what it is and that is a highly thrilling ride from start to finish worthy of repeated listens.
Check it out ... 

© 2023 Frazer Jones

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