With the release of Livin’ Oblivion, Black Wizard has gone from an acceptable footnote in the stoner doom scene to a band truly worth paying attention to. The Vancouver group was never a bad band before, but their fourth album offers a more varied style in combination with stronger musicianship. There hasn’t been a dramatic overhaul on here by any means, but there have certainly been enough tweaks that result in exciting musical progress.
It’s safe to say that Black Wizard wasn’t kidding when they said there’d be more thrash influence on their fourth full-length album. Their particularly grungy take on Orange Goblin-esque stoner metal has always had a raw edge, but they’ve never sounded as aggressive as they do on songs like “Portraits” and lead single “Feast or Famine.” The riffs are faster, the drums hit harder, and the vocal delivery is much harsher than their previous outings.
Of course, there is further variety beyond just listening to a couple more Metallica records than usual. The band’s long running doom influences get to run rampant on a couple tracks as “James Wolfe” is a slow, ominous number while “Cascadia” ventures into a spacier soundscape. There’s also a decidedly more epic side as the title track and “Heavy Lore” offer steady marching tempos with triumphant guitar harmonies.
An explosive production job also goes a long way in helping this album come to life. Things feel balanced as the instruments are all loud and clear while the enhanced grit doesn’t detract from the melody or vice versa. Previous albums sounded serviceable but could also be rather flat at times, a fate that could’ve potentially brought this album down despite its varied songs and strong musicianship.
Overall, Livin’ Oblivion sees Black Wizard living up to their potential as a band. The new influences are integrated well and it is fun to see a solid thrash doom fusion at work, but the more engaging songwriting and lively production is what really helped this come out so strong. Those unacquainted with the Wizard’s work are strongly advised to start here; I could see this being an interesting gateway for thrashers seeking out a way to doom metal’s riff-filled land.
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