I’m not a particularly superstitious type, but sometimes I feel that the first album review of the year can set the tone for the next twelve months, and my first to be sent to the editor, if not necessarily the first published, comes care of Canadian four piece Black Wizard, and their latest album ‘New Waste’. So, with this potentially trend setting task, how do they fare? Well, read on, if I’ve not already put you off with this awkward preamble.
Opener ‘Revival’ sets a good precedent with some sweeping power chords before the clean rocky vocals kick in to the accompaniment of galloping twin guitar riffs whose harmonising brings to mind classic Thin Lizzy, whilst the chugging bass and complex drum lines bring a more contemporary feel to the sound, hints of Mastodon’s more Prog orientated pieces weaving their way into structure of the song. ‘Harsh Time’ follows with more of the same, but lacking an extended intro just sprints straight into heroic riffs and a guitar solo that demands a boot be firmly placed on the stage monitor as notes are fired out at the audience. In contrast ‘Laughing and Lost’ travels back in time to the era of seventies blues rock, melancholy guitars and forlorn vocals being joined by a positively mournful Hammond keyboard as the backbone of the track. I’m no vinyl elitist, but this song instantly took me back over thirty years, and I couldn’t help but add the pops and crackles that the turntable used to add to the old hard rock LPs I discovered so long ago and set me on the musical path I still tread. I don’t doubt from the sound of the track Black Wizard must have a bit of Free and Whitesnake (before Mr Coverdale discovered hairspray and MTV anyway!) in their musical collection.
‘Vivian Girls’ adds a space rock element to the mix, especially with its trippy outro that combines acoustic Spanish guitar with squealing effects, whilst ‘Eliminator’ comes back to earth with a hard rock thud, simple swaggering riffs dominating the track, whilst ‘Unnecessary Evil’ opens with the drummer pounding out their own Bonham tribute before the song develops into a stoner crawl that was surely written by the light of a lava lamp. Closing the album are ‘The Priest’ and ‘Final Ripper’, not as you might imagine tributes to Brummie metal gods Judas Priest, but songs that share the same DNA of those particular legends, being numbers designed to get heads banging and leather gloved fists punching the air to the beat.
Whilst they are a band that is new to me, it is clear from their sound that Black Wizard are a band that has put in the hard hours to mean that their disparate influences all come together as a unified whole, rather than sounding of a forced and false eclecticism that mars the feel of so many other bands who attempt the same task. All in all, with ‘New Waste’ they have delivered a solid and thoroughly enjoyable record, one that will satisfy both the dyed in the wool metal traditionalists and those who are looking for something new. Not a bad start to my year at all.