Someone should really put Gus Van Sant in touch with Black Wizard. The Paranoid Park director would have a field day with the tales offered by the New Westminster foursome. Whether they’re roaming around in a beat-up yellow tour van or trying to play it cool when one of their moms shows up to a gig in a scandalous tube top, the young lads have no shortage of material for Van Sant to draw from. But then again, the Black Wizard angle might be a tad upbeat for the guy who made such cinematic downers as Elephant and Last Days. After all, the tag line “Local stoner rockers make good with self-titled debut” doesn’t seem twisted enough for one of his warped flicks.
“Basically, after screwing around for 10 years, we finally got it together and got down to it,” drummer Eugene Parkomenko tells the Straight, as lead vocalist-guitarist Adam Grant nods in agreement, during a recent conversation at a Main Street coffee spot.
The look of victory is unmistakable in their eyes. After a slew of musical projects that never amounted to much—a brief stint in high school as members of a Hives cover band is probably the most memorable endeavour on the list next to Parkomenko’s short run in Mission cock rockers Sprí«adEagle—the childhood pals finally have a solid record to their credit. And from the sounds of things, all it took was the unifying presence of a bad-ass moniker and a string of killer jam sessions at New West’s Bully’s Rehearsal Studios to kick the newly formed outfit, which also includes bassist Kyle Fee and vocalist-guitarist Johnny De Courcy, into gear. As for the round-the-clock action required getting Black Wizard up to snuff, well, according to Parkomenko, that part was about as much fun as spending Christmas Day with Charlie Sheen.
“The recording process was like four months of hell,” he exclaims. “We’ve got four really strong personalities so we almost killed each other.”
Hoping to salvage his own image, Grant is quick to pipe in that he’s actually “the passive one” of the bunch. The backpedalling doesn’t seem to bother his copilot, who barrels ahead with his exposé: “Johnny has a very, very strong personality and so do I,” Parkomenko continues. “Neither of us will ever back down so it will come down to almost fistfighting. It’s just brutal sometimes, but it also makes our band; it adds to the intensity.”
It’s pretty obvious that no one is losing any sleep over the savage blowups. If anything, the tight-knit crew seems to be energized by having some Black Wizard folklore to throw down. Someone should probably tell the boys they could ease up on the war stories, though. If it’s infamy they’re after, the epic tunes heard on the new disc are more than enough to secure the 20-somethings a little J. Mascis–type notoriety.
Paying tribute to the ragged sounds of metal forefathers Black Sabbath, Black Wizard storms the gates with a barrage of bombastic riffs and bone-piercing guitar solos. Winning local favour early on with album opener “Long Way Home”—a largely instrumental slugger that pummels eardrums before Grant’s striking wail cuts through the noise—the outfit doesn’t let up, whether it’s charging through the doom-tinged “Black Fog” or the rollicking stoner anthem “Waves”. The album recalls the glory of everybody from underrated English metal gods Rainbow to Sweden’s ’70s rock revisionists Graveyard.
There’s just one thing that doesn’t add up. How the hell did a bunch of dudes who had such a bloody hard time getting their shit together manage to pull off such a mighty showing their first time up to the plate?
According to Parkomenko, it was a matter of needing to man up and make something of themselves: “We had been fucking around for so long, so we needed to actually do something,” he says. “We’re really proud of this.”
It’s just a shame that Black Wizard won’t be able to celebrate their big day in style. The outfit had high hopes of rolling up to the record-release party at the Railway Club in its beloved band van, but it seems a maniacal crackhead had other plans for the “Wizard Wagon”. While it was only gone for a few days, the guys report that their vehicle is in serious disarray after being stolen from the street. That’s a bold statement considering Grant’s description of the vehicle before it was stolen: “The back windows are broken out so they’re fixed with some garbage bags and there aren’t any turning signals, so you have to stick your hand out.” God only knows the state of the mobile shit-bucket now if Black Wizard has deemed it unsalvageable.
On second thought, maybe there is something here to pique Van Sant’s interest after all.
Black Wizard plays the Railway Club on Friday (January 22).