Review by Greg Maki
Black Wizard’s “Livin’ Oblivion’ is a diverse metal record, with sounds ranging from Thin Lizzy-style twin guitar leads, early Metallica thrash-metal riffing, and a little doom and gloom along the way. Yet somehow it all comes together in a cohesive whole, the Vancouver quartet melding those myriad influences into a distinct sound of its own.
The stars here are guitarists Adam Grant (who also handles vocals) and Danny Stokes, whose Tony-Iommi-meets-James-Hetfield riffs power each song, whether it’s a fast-paced rager (“Two of These Nights,” “Feast or Famine,” “Portraits,” “Poisoned Again”), a menacing, mid-tempo number (“James Wolfe,” the title track, “Cascadia,” “Heavy Love”) or the epic, album-closing, classic-rock-leaning “Eternal Illusion” (an early contender for song of the year for me). Their harmonizing leads and solos swoop in to brighten each track, providing a stark contrast to the band’s doomier tendencies and creating openings for bassist Evan Joel to shine while drummer Eugene Parkomenko holds it all together. Producing and engineering, Michael Kraushaar gives the recording a big, loud sound with enough clarity to make out all the individual instruments—not an easy feat considering all that’s going on in each song.
This is the fourth album overall for Black Wizard and its second for Listenable Records. I can compare it only to its 2016 release, “New Waste,” and I feel like “Livin’ Oblivion” is a step up for the band, better showcasing its wide-ranging influences and allowing more personality to peek through. Best of all, Black Wizard refuses to be pigeonholed into any one subgenre, which is how it always used to be and how it should be today.
(Listenable Records, March 16, 2018)