Gathering all the doom and gloom themes going around out there, one can almost overlook the idea that heavy metal is (at least some of the time) supposed to be fun. Thankfully, that notion of cathartic, dark fun feels like one of the overriding influences on Livin’ Oblivion by Vancouver BC’s, Black Wizard, a riff-happy four piece that restores some fist pumping order to the increasingly glowering and chaotic genre.
Over the course of these nine tracks, Black Wizard reveals a lot of 80’s metal influences. On the albums opener, “Two Of These Nights” the band blows out with their best Judas Priest-like speed riffs, a sound that they call back to a few times later, especially on the long instrumental intro to, “James Wolfe” a swarthy, menacing mid-tempo number. The vocals are mostly clean, shout-to-the-heavens, a more hard rock style that carries over on “Feast Or Famine” a speedier and much grittier track covering topics of peril and survival. A few of the songs harken to Metallica, “Portraits” being one of the thrashiest on the album, featuring the distorted, angry vocals that James Hetfield made famous. While not my favorite, it is the best track here for playing at maximum volume.
I’m reluctant to take a stab at a consistent theme for Livin’ Oblivion, which touches on a lot of familiar metal tropes, making room to breath is one of its welcome qualities. The band doesn’t deviate or experiment too much, refusing the temptation to cross over too many genres at once. But that’s not the say the album isn’t ambitious; its reveling in the genre’s roots feels as bold as any twist or turn. My favorite song on the entire album ends up being the mood piece, “Cascadia” the title of which evokes images of the misty, dark woods around the band’s great northern home and it shows the band can get dirty by offering guitars that carry a gloomy sheen. But it’s subtle.
After repeat listens, it feels like Black Wizard sat down to write and record an album that their fans would want to listen to over and over again. This may be the most fun metal album since Kvelertak’s Nattesferd challenged listeners not to take themselves too seriously. Perhaps it ends up sounding like faint praise, but a few times after receiving the promo I put Livin’ Oblivion on for pure enjoyment, instead of review purposes.