Black Wizard has been honing its blend of classic, doom and thrash metal since the group of high school friends came together in 2009 in Vancouver. The quartet got its biggest break to date in 2016, when it was selected as the opening act for the Volbeat/Killswitch Engage tour. Riding that momentum into the next album cycle, Black Wizard released its best, most fully realized record, “Livin’ Oblivion” (read Live Metal’s review), earlier this year. Live Metal’s Greg Maki recently caught up with drummer Eugene Parkomenko, fresh off a month-long European tour with Anciients, to get the dirt on the new album and more.
LIVE METAL: “Livin’ Oblivion” is Black Wizard’s fourth album overall and second for Listenable Records. What goals did you have for this record?
EUGENE PARKOMENKO: Hey there! The goals have always been the same. Record a solid record and tour like maniacs for at least four to six months a year. Hope people like the record as much as we like playing it.
This album seems to have a thrashier feel than what you’ve done in the past. What is steering the band in that direction?
Our lead guitar player, Danny Stokes, taking on some more writing duties, and we’re loving it. He’s an old death/thrash metal dude, and his colours are shining!
How does a typical Black Wizard song come together? Does it start with a riff?
Always one riff. Then countless hours of us messing with writing things around it and arguing over arrangements. Vocals last. We like to get the general feel down first.
What are your favorite songs from the new album?
Favourite to play currently are “Feast or Famine” and “James Wolfe.” Lots groove and sounds just great dialed in on a good stage. “Two of These Nights” is up there, too—that old Priest vibe. I can’t say there’s any jams I don’t like on this one.
I did some googling and learned “James Wolfe” was a British Army officer who won an 18th century battle over the French in Quebec. Then I read your track-by-track commentary and saw “James Wolfe” is the middle name of one of your friends. So who is this guy, and why did you write a song about him?
Just kind of a funny story. He’s been a great friend and supporter of our band since the very beginning nine years ago. Always side stage with two beers and nothing but love. Always pumping our band wherever he is. Very cool sounding name, too! Didn’t know about the British Army officer, though. That’s super rad. I’ll definitely look into that.
Eliran Kantor, who has a long list of credits including Testament and Crowbar, did the album art. How was working with him, and what is the concept behind the “Livin’ Oblivion” cover?
He’s a goddamn genius. We’re very happy our label introduced us to him. We just gave him lyrics and a brief idea of the themes. He just killed it. Couldn’t be more happy.
The music business is changing constantly. CDs are dying, but vinyl is making a big comeback, and streaming seems to be the king now. What do you think is the best way for a listener to consume Black Wizard’s music? What is your preferred method for consuming other bands’ music?
When I’m at home, I prefer vinyl. Been somewhat of a vinyl nerd the last 15 years or so. That being said, we do most of our music listening in the van on the road, so Spotify is the way to go. You pretty much have anything at your fingertips to download on your phone in seconds when you get wifi. Pretty rad for $10 a month. Not ideal for us artists, but oh well, I guess. That’s the way she goes.
I first became aware of Black Wizard in 2016 when you toured with Volbeat and Killswitch Engage. What was it like being on a tour of that scale? Was it good for the band?
It was incredible. Playing in front of 5,000-plus people daily, unlimited Ryder and all-day buffet is totally alright with us. Not to mention getting all your gear loaded in and out for us—could definitely get used to it. All those guys in the bands and their crews were nothing but amazing and hospitable to us the whole time. I would say it was good for the band.
Black Wizard has toured a lot in Europe. What are the pros and cons of touring there as opposed to North America?
North America is fun, but generally, the pay is much less, there’s no accommodations, and most clubs are very stingy on hooking up travelling bands even with beers, etc.
Europe is a whole different ball game. Everyone is so hospitable and treats you like family. You don’t have to worry about a place to sleep or being hungry. You just focus on your work.
When will we see Black Wizard on tour in the United States again?
We’ve got a few things in the works right now. Summer/fall 2018, for sure.
You’ve said before that you always hated the name Black Wizard. Has that changed over time?
It’s not really a hate, just a bit of bitterness, I guess. I truly think that people do overlook our band just because of the name—lot of snobs out there.
What has been the high point of Black Wizard’s career so far?
That stadium tour we talked about, for sure, and just generally being able to travel the world quite frequently doing what we love with our best friends. We have met and befriended so many people we used to only look up to. It’s been quite a trip.
What long-term goals do you have for the band?
Tour like maniacs and release more records. Not much more you can ask for in this brutal industry.
Thanks for your time! Is there anything you’d like to add?
Just wanted to say thanks for taking the time and preparing awesome, well-researched questions. Most people don’t. Have a great one, and see y’all at the gig!
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