BLACK LABEL SOCIETY

"The Song Remains Not the Same" (E1 Music; 2011)

Reviewed by Snidermann

Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society have demonstrated in the past that they can deliver an acoustic feel to a release on albums like "Hangover Music Vol. VI" and elsewhere. And the band does it again on "The Song Remains Not The Same."

"The Song Remains Not the Same" is full of some old Zakk, some new Zakk, and some music that was once someone else's music. I say that last part because now that Zakk has covered the Simon and Garfunkel 1970 classic "Bridge Over Troubled Water," it has become his. There is also a rousing rendition of the 1969 Blind Faith hit, "Can’t Find My Way Home." And, to finish the recording, Zakk did a killer cut of "The First Noel" on acoustic guitar -- now I will have to play that version of the song each and every Christmas from now on.

I had heard about this recording when it was in the planning stages but, when I witnessed it for the first time, I was truly amazed.

For more information, check out www.blacklabelsociety.net

"Order of the Black" (E1 Music; 2010)

Reviewed by Snidermann

"Order Of The Black" is a powerhouse metal performance that kicks heavy music up a few notches. Anybody familiar with Zakk Wylde’s work should not be surprised with the first statement of this review.

"Order of the Black" is dark and twisted, powerful and insightful. BLS delivers a high energy sonic assault that left me wanting more (again, no surprise there). Each cut is a finely tuned piece of art that just oozes the soul of the leader of the Black Label Society nation, Zakk Wylde.

Pick up any BLS recording and you will disover that Zakk Wylde is one of the best overall metal performers around today. "Order Of The Black" is high quality metal entertainment of the first order. In fact, the only thing better than a BLS recording is seeing the band live.

For more information, check out www.blacklabelsociety.net


"Shot to Hell" (Roadrunner; 2006)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

I can't tell you why but (and with all due respect to our fine reviewer Mike SOS) I never really hooked into Black Label Society's last studio CD, "Mafia." It wasn't for lack of trying. I think Zakk Wylde is one of the great hopes of heavy metal, and the band's incredible series of releases in so short a time proves that beyond a doubt. "Mafia" just never clicked for me. Maybe I need to give it another listen.

I'm on my third complete listen-through of the band's latest CD, "Shot to Hell," and I can already tell you that this is one of their best. Like "Hangover Music Volume VI," "Shot to Hell" isn't simply a collection of balls-out, heavy metal rockers but a potpourri of great music, all of it rock solid, that once again displays Wylde's incredible talents not only in his genre of choice but in many other forms of music as well.

Don't get me wrong: the heavy metal rockers are here. The CD begins with three: "Concrete Jungle," "Black Mass Reverend," and "Blacked Out World," all of which are heavy in the vein we've all come to expect from BLS. Then along comes "The Last Goodbye," which starts out with an Elton John-like piano and softer vocals from Zakk (think of Ozzy doing "Mama, I'm Coming Home"). Things heat up again with "Give Yourself to Me" before keyboards again dominate "Nothing's the Same." "Hell is High" kicks it up to metal speed again while those damn pianos are back on "New Religion." Don't worry: about halfway through this track, the guitars kick in and kick butt. Track nine is another "ballad" - "Sick of It All," but the sinister guitar opening of "Faith is Blind" put the pedal to the metal once again. The album's final tracks run the gamut from the sauntering rocker "Blood is Thicker Than Water" to the pounding "Devil's Dime" to the last track, the poignant "Lead Me to Your Door."

The probably overdone paragraph above basically tells you this: "Shot to Hell" is divided up almost evenly between typical BLS metal tunes and the slower, more "ballad"-like tunes the band is sometimes known for. What sets "Shot to Hell" apart from previous Black Label Society CDs, however, is the confidence that the band, especially Zakk, displays here. The thirteen tracks on this CD, especially the slower ones, are extremely well-written and performed with real emotion and passion. You don't even care that you're not banging your head to them because they effortlessly capture your attention and hold it throughout. 

Lyrically, "Shot to Hell" is a step ahead of previous BLS releases as well. I remember reading a quote by Zakk that even he wasn't sure what some of his songs were about. I bet that's not the case with a single song here. "Shot to Hell" feels heartfelt and real.  The death of Zakk's friend, Dimebag Darrell, may have much to do with that. The CD is much more sensitive than previous BLS releases and, as such, it's bound to be ridiculed and despised by fans who just want Zakk to kick ass. And that's too bad, because "Shot to Hell" is one of the best CDs this band has released yet. And, considering their catalog, that says a lot.

Black Label Society: Zakk Wylde - vocals, guitars, bass, piano; Nick Catanese - guitars; John DeServio - bass; Craig Nunemacher - drums. 

For more information, check out www.blacklabelsociety.net

"The European Invasion: Doom Troopin'" DVD (Eagle Rock Entertainment; 2006)

Reviewed by Ray Van Horn Jr.

It's fascinating to watch how far Zakk Wylde has come since joining Ozzy Osbourne on the "No Rest for the Wicked album." Wylde may have fulfilled in life what Randy Rhodes didn't have a chance to, and while some fans may consider it blasphemy to consider Randy and Zakk in the same light, the comparisons are both needless and necessary when you see what Zakk Wylde has accomplished, not only for "the old man" (as Wylde lovingly refers to him in the backstage footage of "The European Invasion: Doom Troopin'") but more so on his own in Black Label Society, a band that defies the odds of a renegade guitarist going solo. Did anyone expect BLS to enjoy such runaway success? Of course, BLS kicks serious ass, not just because of Wylde's impressive fretwork, but because of the band's tight crunchiness and occasional balladry, along with a hell-raising demeanor that has caught on with fans worldwide. In fact, you might say the Society has become a global cult.

On "The European Invasion: Doom Troopin'" Black Label Society is caught live in Paris and London and it's evident that Zakk Wylde and his enclave know how to deliver a memorable stage performance, so much that as Wylde is caught backstage in a loud rant over having to cut his set short at a different gig in Europe, you can tell how deadly serious he takes his show. Going so far as to weight train before a tour, the scruffy biker savant façade of Zakk Wylde these days makes you completely forget that skinny whiz kid who dazzled audiences and even Ozzy Osbourne himself back in the late eighties.

As Wylde plays notes between songs with one hand while drinking a beer with the other, and even peels off a full solo behind his head, the set of a Black Label Society gig is one you pay strict attention to. As BLS pounds through songs like "Suicide Messiah," "Genocide Junkies," Spoke in the Wheel," "Fire it Up" and "Stoned and Drunk," various interludes give brief respite, particularly with Wylde's long and inspiring solo acoustic jam when he sneaks in the most listenable version of Ozzy's "Mama I'm Coming Home" I personally have ever heard.

While Zakk is still suffering the loss of his close friend Dimebag Darrell (which you will see both manifest and subtle tributes throughout the DVD) it is the very moving video for "In This River" that paints the picture vividly, if not the footage where Wylde reflects while accepting an award from Metal Hammer that recounts a time when Dime brought Zakk some old Randy Rhodes photos and the two killed off some liquor on the tour bus as old friends will do. I'm sure Dime has had many opportunities to jam next to his good buddy from the afterlife these days; the way Zakk plays these days with extra fervor (including some deadly accurate Eddie Van Halen selections), it's not difficult to imagine...

For more information, check out www.blacklabelsociety.net

Kings of Damnation: 1998 - 2004" (Spitfire; 2005)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Like any "greatest hits" compilation, there are those who will argue with the tracklisting of "Kings of Damnation." It's patently impossible to compile everyone's favorite songs onto a single CD. In fact, the only way to cover all the bases is to buy the band's entire catalog.

That being said, "Kings of Damnation" does a pretty good job of gathering some of Black Label Society's best stuff from the Spitfire years (the band is now on Artemis Records and, obviously, there is nothing here from their "Mafia" CD because of that). There isn't a single song on the collection that is anything less than great, including the two new songs, "Doomsday Inc." and "SDMF." 

Those new to the band will find "Kings of Damnation" a killer place to begin. I can't imagine any hard rock / heavy metal fan picking up this CD and not wanting to hear more Black Label Society. Those who are already fans can find most of the songs herein already in their collection and I'm not sure that the two new songs are worth the price of the full CD. (Can you download them separately on iTunes or Napster, I wonder?).

There is one very serious strike against this compilation, however, and that's the comparison to its international brother. "Kings of Damnation," the import contains not one disc but two, and that second disc includes a collection of Zakk's trademark cover songs and several promotional videos in the enhanced section. Would have been nice if we Americans were offered that, too.

For more information, check out www.blacklabelsociety.net

"Kings of Damnation: 1998 - 2004" (Spitfire; 2005)

Reviewed by Snidermann

There are some things in heavy metal that you simply cannot get enough of: any Motorhead release (or re-release), a new live Iron Maiden CD, or any new Black Label Society music. 

"Kings of Damnation" isn't new BLS material but rather a best of collection. Still, a lot of the music here is new to me and any Zakk Wylde collection is cool in my book. Zakk is one of the most prolific and talented songwriters in today's music scene and I mean in any genre. Just pick up any BLS release and you'll see what Zakk and his cohorts are capable of. And Zakk does it all: plays a mean guitar, writes killer lyrics and sings like a banshee. 

Zakk isn't one to rest on his past accomplishments and he is constantly reinventing himself but "Kings of Damnation" showcases part of his musical journey and that alone makes this CD a must have.

For more information, check out www.blacklabelsociety.net.

"Mafia" (Artemis Records; 2005)

Reviewed by Mike SOS

The veritable Zakk Wylde returns with yet another solid display of biker boogie on the latest Black Label Society adventure, the 14-track "Mafia."

Bursting with riffs that solidify Wylde's status as guitar hero, tracks like "Suicide Messiah" and "Been a Long Time" allow the virtuoso guitarist's roughneck vocals and dazzling dirty fretwork the chance to grab you by the throat, while the tender "In This River" (dedicated to Zakk's fallen friend Dimebag Darrell) showcases the southern rock roots of BLS. 

Never disappointing and always on point, "Mafia" once again finds BLS going the Motorhead and AC/DC route, giving the people exactly what they want -- some honest, no frills hard rock done with soulful conviction. 

For more information, check out www.blacklabelsociety.net

"Hangover Music Vol. VI" (Spitfire; 2004)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"Hangover Music, Vol. VI" isn't an acoustic CD like the previously reviewed "Live & Acoustic EP" but it does hearken back to Zakk's 1996 "Book of Shadows" CD. In other words, it's not the balls-out heavy metal that we've come to know and love from the band's previous CDs, but rather it's a rock record that sometimes leans toward heavy metal, sometimes toward classic rock, sometimes toward country/western. Surprisingly, unlike "Book of Shadows," "Hangover" has a decidedly, later-era Beatles-like feel to it. 

Some fans will undoubtedly find "Hangover Music" a little slow for their taste. That's understandable. For those used to the brilliant metal fury that Zakk and company displayed in albums like "The Blessed Hellride" or "Stronger Than Death," "Hangover Music" ain't gonna cut it. 

For those who are in awe of Zakk's style and unique songwriting ability, "Hangover Music" will be an entertaining listen. It may not generate as much CD Player time as the heavier albums, but it's a strong - if very different - side of Zakk Wylde. The guitars are still amazing and Zakk's voice gets better and better with each new release (just listen to track #13, a cover of Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale."

Maybe the best way to think of this CD is that it's the kind of music you want to listen to the day after a full-on Black Label Society show. Hence, the CD's title.

Performing on "Hangover Music Vol. 6" are: Zakk Wylde - vocals, guitars, bass, piano; Craig Nunemacher - drums; John Tempesta - drums; James Lomenzo - bass; John Deservio - bass; Mike Inez - bass.

For more information, check out http://www.zakkwyle.com or http://www.SDMFWorldwide.com

"Live & Acoustic EP" (Spitfire; 2002)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Apparently, with new acoustic releases from major metal players like Godsmack and Black Label Society being released within days of each other, the "unplugged" phenomenon is far from over. Fortunately, BLS's "Live & Acoustic," like Godsmack's "The Other Side," is superior to most of the other unplugged excursions out there. It is what their success will bring in the future that frightens me - I do not need to hear "Judas Priest - Unplugged."

"Live & Acoustic" is exceptional for several reasons, the most obvious of which is that Wylde is a superior guitarist. Hearing the furious notes that the man is able to drive out in such a short time is nothing less than stunning. On an electric guitar, it's one thing, on acoustic it's entirely something else. And yet, you never get the idea that Wylde is showboating. The notes are there because they belong in the songs. 

The EP begins with an "Instrumental Intro" that gives Zakk a chance to really show his stuff. Following are acoustic versions of "The Blessed Hellride" (which was pretty acoustic in its studio form), "Spoke in the Wheel," "We Live No More" and "Stillborn." "Stillborn" is particularly interesting here, especially since it's so heavy in its original form on "The Blessed Hellride." Zakk and company have re-tooled the song so that, again, it sounds incredible unplugged.

As I've said before, I'm not a big fan of the "unplugged" thing. When you write a song for electric guitar, play the song with electric guitar. The same goes for acoustic. Still, "Acoustic & Live" will probably see more spin time in my CD player than other acoustic CDs due more than anything to Zakk's incredible playing talent. 

Recorded in 2002 during the "Slightly Amped Tour" at the Westwire Studios in Allentown, PA, the "Live & Acoustic" EP is a great slice of Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society history. At the moment, it is only available through download at itunes.com but - at $4.95 for over 30 minutes of music - it's worth every penny.

For more information, check out http://www.zakkwylde.com

"Boozed, Broozed & Broken-Boned" DVD (Spitfire/Eagle Vision; 2003)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

For my money, Zakk Wylde and his Black Label Society are one of the strongest examples that not only is heavy metal alive and well, it may very well be immortal. 

This live DVD, featuring a complete live performance from Harpo's in Detroit (Rock City), is an example of Zakk and the Boys at their finest - when they're live on stage. Not only does the band have incredible stage presence but watching Zakk as he flash-fire shreds makes his already incredible sound seem so much bigger. And, unlike other releases, the entire Detroit show is here, with the cameras showing a lot of close-up, onstage action as well as from-the-audience perspective. It's also interesting to see Robert Trujillo beating the hell out of his bass before he officially joined up with Metallica.

The bonus features are pretty cool, too. First, you get the "Stillborn" video, from Zakk's latest CD, "The Blessed Hellride." Also included is an interview with Zakk, a guitar lesson with Zakk, a brief acoustic performance from Westwire Studios, two songs performed live at Tokyo performance, Zakk performing the national anthem at a Los Angeles hockey game, homevideo footage (Zakk and his young daughter performing a duet) and a section called "Stupid Shit" which is just that (mostly footage of Zakk and others in bizarre Halloween costumes).

If there's one element to this DVD that isn't perfect it's that the audience noise has been filtered out or, more likely, circumvented almost entirely. A live performance isn't complete unless you can hear the audience - they're as much as part of the show as the band - and sometimes the lack of a crowd screaming in the background is a little distracting.

Fans of the Black Label Society will want to have this DVD in their collection.

For more information, check out http://www.zakkwylde.com

"The Blessed Hellride" (Spitfire Records; 2003)

Reviewed by Snidermann

+

I am going to make a bold and heartfelt statement: I think Zakk Wylde may be the most important figure in hard rock / heavy metal today. Not only is his influence felt everywhere in the genre, but the man continues to produce the most explosive, original and devastating CDs, pretty much by himself. For example, on "The Blessed Hellride," all songs are written by Zakk and he supplies vocals, guitar, bass, and piano. In addition, Zakk serves as Executive Producer of the CD. 

If you aren't sure who Zakk is, you should be. Check out the reviews below for a little more information and visit his website at http://www.zakkwylde.com for details. 

Of course, I had heard Zakk play with Ozzy, but it wasn't until last year's "1919 Eternal" that I really heard his solo stuff for the first time. Then, recently, I saw Zakk's Black Label Society live and what an incredible performance it was! As great as his live CD, "Alcohol Fueled Brewtality" is, nothing can compare to seeing Zakk in the flesh.

Now, with the latest Black Label Society release, "The Blessed Hell Ride," Zakk has ascended to the next level. I won't say his work with Ozzy will be forgotten (I don't think that's possible) but "The Blessed Hellride" cements Zakk as one of the greats. 

"The Blessed Hellride" is more of that patented Zakk Wylde musical explosion, with deep, nearly poetic, lyrics and songs that are as unique as they are powerful. How can any CD whose first track is "Stoned and Drunk" be bad?

"The Blessed Hellride" is the best CD I've heard since Rob Zombie's "Hellbilly Deluxe" in 1998. Zakk is totally in sync with the metal scene today - in fact, he's one of its true leaders - and "The Blessed Hellride" is one of those CDs that gets better with each spin. "The Blessed Hell Ride" is just that and I know I'll take that that ride again and again and again.

Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society simply fucking rule the metal scene today. See him live and/or listen to any of his CDs and you'll feel the same way.

Hey, Zakk: How about a RoughEdge chapter of the Black Label Society?! We're ready when you are!

Performing on "The Blessed Hellride" are: Zakk Wylde - vocals, guitars, bass, and piano; Craig Nunenmacher - drums; Ozzy Osbourne - background vocals on "Stillborn."

For more information, check out http://www.zakkwylde.com

"1919 Eternal" (Spitfire Records; 2002)

Reviewed by Snidermann

Of course, every Rough Edge reader knows the name Zakk Wylde. Famous for his work with Ozzy, Zakk also performed on the "Rock Star" soundtrack and fronts his own band - Black Label Society. 

"1919 Eternal" is a dark and poignant presentation that is truly excellent guitar wall-to-wall and well-produced to boot. As you might expect, Zakk shreds killer guitar throughout and I was thoroughly impressed at his lyrical ability. Again, as expected, Zakk's vocals are a bit murky but the fine music hereon seems to blend in well so that is easily overcome. 

"1919 Eternal" is a collection of minor key masterpieces that are compelling and easy to listen to. If there were any skeptics who ever called into doubt the overall talent of Zakk Wylde and company, this CD should prove them wrong. Not only are the full-blown songs incredible but an instrumental called "Speedball" (with "speed" being the key word) totally blew me away - and it's played on an acoustic guitar! In addition, Zakk provides a bitchin' and tear-inducing rendition of "America The Beautiful" as his response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

This shit simply rocks. Frankly, I need to spin it a few more times and I think I will, right the fuck now!!

Performing on "1919 Eternal" are: Zakk Wylde - guitars, bass, vocals; Craig Nunemacher - drums; Robert Trujillo - bass; Christian Werr - drums.

For more information, check out www.ZakkWylde.com and www.blacklabelsociety.net.   

"Alcohol Fueled Brewtality Live Plus 5" (Spitfire Records; 2001)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Zakk Wylde is a true rock'n'roll monster. Not only does he play guitar like a demon from hell, he writes completely ass-kicking songs, wails like a banshee on lead vocals, and knows that a live rock show should be (to quote Axe): "a knock-down, drag-out rock'n'roll party in the streets."

"Alcohol Fueled Brewtality Live Plus 5," as its title insinuates, is a collection of live performances recorded during last year's "Penchant for Violence" tour. And this CD is a great combination of what makes Zakk and the Society so great. Songs that are written from the bottom up (in other words, as heavy as they get), musicians that know when to wail and when to just hit it hard (Zakk, of course, really knows how to wail) and a band-to-audience camaraderie that is almost as powerful escaping from the tinny speakers of your boom box as it was during the live performance.

Zakk, of course, is a guitar wizard, having cut his teeth with the Great Wizard himself, Ozzy Osbourne. Zakk and Ozzy have written many songs together and that mutual influence is apparent in almost nearly every tune on this live recording. Oh, the songs are different enough to be recognized as BWS rather than Ozzy, but the heavy rock aspect is there in spades. Zakk also ain't half bad on the vocals, cranking out the lyrics with a voice like that of a hungry monster whose food is rock'n'roll lyrics. 

The explosive live performance is enough to recommend this CD, but you get a bonus: A second CD with five bonus tracks, the first of which is a rough-edged razor version of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold." The other songs include a tamer version of Black Sabbath's "Snowblind," "Like a Bird," "Blood in the Wall" and "The Beginning ... At Last" (which also appears on the live disc). More terrific stuff. It's like getting a BWS CD and a half!

Black Label Society is one of the freshest hard rock / heavy metal bands working out there. Check out this double-CD set and see if you don't agree. We think you will.

For more information, please visit http://www.spitfirerecords.com or http://www.zakkwylde.com

"Stronger Than Death" (Spitfire Records; 2000)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Zakk Wylde and company take listeners on a powerful and unique voyage with "Stronger Than Death," a CD that takes the legendary fretwork of Wylde and amplifies it with that pure, Wylde vision.

"Stronger Than Death" is a steamroller of a recording, with Zakk's guitars setting up a wall of heavy sound, enhanced and layered with Zakk's boozy vocals. This CD doesn't make you bang your head - it reaches out and bangs your head for you.

Surprisingly, the lyrical content is both deep and apparently personal. Zakk has always been one to tell it like it is and the lyrics on "Stronger Than Death" are no exception. Liberally sprinkled with profanity, the songs on this CD pull no punches, complaining about people who have done him wrong, tough breaks in life and much more. I certainly wouldn't want to be the person who some of these songs were written about - "Phony Smiles & Fake Hellos" especially.

Bottom line - Zakk Wylde's steamroller persona and power are captured in digital plastic on "Stronger Than Death." The music is fresh, unique and - make no doubt about it - will seriously kick your ass. 

For more information, check out http://www.zakkwylde.com.
  

"Sonic Brew" (Spitfire Records; 1999)zakkwylde.jpg (11245 bytes)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde put together this fantastic collection of 14 woofer-thumping sonic blasts that are probably heavier (or at least as heavy) as anything Ozzy or Black Sabbath have ever done. Wylde himself describes "Sonic Brew" as "Alcohol fueled brewtality for the next millennium." Since we don't have a clue what that means, we'll describe it for you: It sounds a lot like old Black Sabbath with updated guitar sounds and 1990s style songwriting.

From its opening track (the "Apocalypse Now"-like "Bored to Tears") through a stunning military parade of guitar-crunching tunes (the best of which are "Hey, You (Batch of Lies)," "Low Down," "Lost My Better Half" and "World of Trouble") to the stunning acoustic jam "t.a.z." to the bluesy "Spoke In The Wheel,"  "Sonic Brew" just doesn't quit. This is a CD that doesn't have to be played loud to be loud (but don't cheat yourself - play it loud anyway). Wylde and his "drinking partner and drummer" Phil Ondich have put together a heavy metal record that remains true to its roots but takes a step toward the future as well. In a way, this album kind of reminds of us Clutch, which - of course - is a good thing.

Wylde's outstanding guitar work is a highlight throughout the CD, both with his driving rhythm and bass work and his brilliantly raging lead. If you liked Wylde's guitar on Ozzy's "No Rest for the Wicked," "Just Say Ozzy," "No More Tears" or "Ozzmosis," you'll really like the stuff on this CD.

Although not even one song on the album even comes close to sucking, there is one tune, "Peddlers of Death," that comes a little too close to the classic Black Sabbath sound - its driving guitar riff sounds a little too much like Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf." Still a great tune, however.

From what we gather, Zakk Wylde plays all guitars on this CD and drinking partner Phil Ondich supplies the drums.

For more information, visit http://www.spitfirerecords.com

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

Back to CD Reviews Home

Back to RoughEdge.com Home

Copyright © 2011 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 02 Oct 2017 09:17:42 -0400.