The eleventh studio album from metal enterprise Black Label Society shakes all the bolts loose and ravages your brain with some of the best heavy music around.
I first heard Zakk Wylde when he was playing guitar for Ozzy Osbourne in the late 1980s. I couldn’t believe my ears. He was incredible. And he still is today. I have seen him perform many times since over the years, at Clutch’s Earth Rocker festival with Black Label Society to Rock on the Range in Zakk Sabbath to this year’s Blue Ridge Rock Festival heading BLS, and every time his precision and energy are overwhelming.
Black Label Society came together in the late 1990s, releasing their first album, Sonic Brew, at the close of the century. An astonishing number of albums followed: live recordings, compilations, EPs, and ten more long-players, including the latest, Doom Crew, Inc. The driving force behind it all is guitarist and vocalist (and pianist) Zakk Wylde. The work he has done is even more impressive when you realize he also played for Ozzy on and off during this time, released solo albums under his own name, played guitar for Generation Axe, and fronted his Black Sabbath cover band, Zack Sabbath, which released an album in 2020. It is hard to simply document all he has done. Zakk is amazing.
The new album has twelve tracks and runs just over an hour. The first song is “Set You Free,” and it has a determined mid-tempo riff to go along with Wylde’s distinctive vocals and welcome us all back into the fold. “Destroy & Conquer” picks up the pace a notch and keeps all the other elements firmly in place, including the roaring lead breaks. “You Made Me Want To Live” rounds out the first triplet. It is a song soaking with emotion and dark in its ambience, like a white cloak at a funeral.
As we have come to expect, there is variety and depth on this album. “Forever And A Day” is a heavy ballad, told in a way that only Black Label Society does. “End Of Days” is very serious in its lyrics and music. To wit: Blind your eyes / One’s chosen fate / Wander in the desert / You’ll find your end of days. When you watch the video the band made, the song sinks in with a different tint. That happens on Black Label Society music a lot. I hear it differently when I re-listen to it over and over. It is not that I heard it wrong the first time. It is more like I didn’t get it all on the first and second passes.
There are so many great songs on Doom Crew, Inc. “Gospel Of Lies” is delightfully doomy while “Gather All My Sins” is a tooth-rattling headbanger. Around every corner is a new wonder so there is no way to announce a favorite. Hear it all. I think Black Label Society is getting better with each new album. I do truly like each and every one of them, and the newest is at the top of the stack. Highly recommended.
Doom Crew, Inc. is out now through MNRK Heavy in many different forms. If you like the special editions and variants, snap them up while you can.
Zakk Sabbath gives us a welcome reminder of the pivotal album Black Sabbath, and an exploration of its timelessness.
The band is Zakk Wylde, Blasko, and Joey Castillo. I first saw Zakk Sabbath a couple years ago at the Rock on the Range festival in Columbus and I was completely blown away. I’d seen Zakk Wylde with Black Label Society, of course, and with Ozzy Osbourne, but I didn’t know what to expect from what looked like a tribute band from the billing. What I saw and heard was jaw dropping. An absolutely amazing performance. I tried to find some recordings, but at the time there wasn’t much. Now there is some video, and Zack Sabbath has “live bootlegs” up on their Bandcamp page (for free, by the way – there is actually a lot there so go check that out at the link below). No studio recordings, though. So when I heard Vertigo was coming out, I was on board immediately.
Every metal fan knows about that first Black Sabbath album, and most have heard it more than once. Some of us have listened to it so many times we know it by heart. So while listening to Zakk Sabbath commemorate the album, we are going to hear anything that is different from the original. And of course it is different. This is not meant to be a note by note recreation. It is celebration of the music and the seminal nature of the compositions on the album. There are extensions and bending and warbling variations throughout. The tempo matches the original very closely. Wylde’s vocals are extremely well suited for this music, and the musicianship is absolutely impeccable. At the same time, this is not a tribute album like, say, the Nativity In Black releases, so the new recordings do not reimagine the music. The songs included are the ones on the original US release, meaning that “Evil Woman” is not here and instead “Wicked World” is (on the standard CD).
If you are still wondering what this is all about, then grab a couple of those free live downloads from Bandcamp or check out a few videos of Zakk Sabbath on YouTube. It is clear that the band has great admiration and respect for this music. For me, Black Sabbath was one of the first bands I started listening to when I was a teenager and their music had a massive impact on me. It still does – not a week of my life has ever gone by without me listening to Black Sabbath. As a result, I won’t tolerate any fucking around with their music. With all that said, I really like Vertigo. Go get it now. Highest recommendation.
You can pick Vertigo up now from Magnetic Eye Records either at their website or through another retailer but there are no downloads. Physical versions only.
Live photo from the band’s Facebook site by @bilakos_thrash.