JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

January 2, 2016
Gas Monkey Live!
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Justin Press
Photos by Michael Insuaste

Black Label Society

New Jersey Bezerker Delights His Rogue Minions With A Hella Amount Of Solos And Some Songs Somewhere In Between

Sometimes you miss the flares. Viking cum guitar malice instigator Zakk Wylde and his Nordic horde the Black Label Society marched thru Gas Monkey Live like Ragnar and his men barnstorming thru Northern Ireland dismissing any notions that the former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist was turning it down anytime soon. With Marshall stacks eclipsing 10 foot in height and 4 columns of dry ice cannons, the "Doom Crew" brought the land of ice and snow with them. And solos, he brought solos by the long ship load.

Continuing the touring cycle for their latest Catacombs Of the Black Vatican, Wylde and his cohorts mainly stuck to their tried and true welded to the floor heavy hitters such as "Suicide Messiah" and "Funeral Bell," though they did hit three slabs of titanic riff-age with newer tomes "Heart Of Darkness," "Damn The Flood" and the best of the newer works "My Dying Time" which over time will stack well in their "must be played" deck. Obviously the years of playing with Osbourne and his profound love for all things Black Sabbath work themselves heavily into the material with Wylde's voice a mix of Oz's and the late Alice In Chains' Layne Staley, a heavy shroud resides over every track.

Accentuated by the massive lighting rig and excessive amplification and bombast, Black Label puts on an arena show for a club setting. It almost mirrors Steel Dragon, almost. With Wylde, the guitar solo is front and center and he's not apologetic about his desire to drown you in them, one after another, as the songs almost seem nothing more than vehicles for him to show his mastery. No doubt, one the best players of the last (20) years, his leather bound and denim shredding is massively impressive even to those who weren't around during the "solo spot" rock of 70's and 80's touring. However pyrotechnic the full-scale runs appear, there is a semblance of tunefulness to them, not in a Thin Lizzy manner, but certainly within the realms of Sabbath or even Iron Maiden, there is an endgame to their existence.

A good majority of Black Label Society's actual tunes are knuckle dragger's but surprisingly like his former project Pride And Glory and Book Of Shadows, Wylde does have this incredibly somber side of him, which is just fantastic, more Allman Bros than Metallica. "Angel Of Mercy" would fit on any Southern Rock album from the Seventies with his natural gruff baritone mixing well with lush playing. Of course, no stop thru Dallas would complete without his ode to the fallen Dimebag Darrell with "In This River," and extremely touching piece that would lull many to slumber if not for the source material for which gave it birth. The best moment of the evening may have been his rendition of 2003's "The Blessed Hellride" another southern acoustic rocker that both grooves and soothes. It's that last shot of whiskey before heading to the door, something to take you on home.

Show closer "Stillborn" (sorry no Ozzy) was a fitting end to an extremely volumous evening that ironically succeeded when the "mellower" moments take over the proceedings. And just to remind the attendee that Wylde loves to solo, he delivered three different segments within the realm of a four-minute track. I'm not sure what that is in guitar math, but it's a pretty high percentage, the figures would agree. Black Label Society has the songs there to make them more than just a metal band with an exceptional guitarist, his idol Randy Rhodes knew this, soloing makes you as a player but the songs make the band.

Sometimes you miss the flares.