I was ecstatic to hear about a new Black Label Society album coming onto the market. I’m a die-hard Zakk Wylde fan, everything from his work with Ozzy Osbourne to his more melodic tribute songs. I believe that Zakk is one of the more talented musicians out there and his skill is evident when watching Black Label Society perform. With a melodic, deep and powerful voice, Zakk carries his lyrics across the music with a sort of ownership that only the greatest vocalists can achieve and something I’ve been yearning to hear more of since their last album, 2011’s The Song Remains Not The Same.
Enter the album Catacombs of the Black Vatican with a classic reprise of the signature Black Label style. Synthesized guitar riffs that slowly build into the pounding metal that BLS is so well-known for. Add in the precise, heavy-hitting drums to the electrifying guitar riffs and combine that with the added skill of Zakk’s melodic voice and the Black Label sound is complete. “My Dying Time” was the first single off the album and it lives up to the high standard that BLS has previously set.
One of the things I’ve always had mixed feelings about concerning BLS is their more melodic (read softer) songs. Per usual, there are a few such tracks included on Catacombs of the Black Vatican. “Angel of Mercy” is the first such number, it’s a song of loss and sorrow, with the music perfectly matching the tone of the lyrics. Sure it’s a little bit on the sad side of things, but the next track brings things around.
“Heart of Darkness” carries a Mafia-esque feel to the sound, some “get up and cause chaos” type of music that their 2005 album was composed of. “Damn the Flood” is the type of song that I was looking forward to hearing on this album. Tracks like this one explode in like the Kool-Aid man with concussive force, increasing in strength one Zakk starts singing. This song is like a run away freight train with nothing in its path that can stop it (and I absolutely adore it.) Likewise, “I’ve Gone Away” come in with close to the same power, but it’s a more subdued brutality than the previous track.
Now the one song on Catacombs of the Black Vatican that hit me the deepest is “Shades of Grey.” This year marked the two-year anniversary of a close friend of mine taking their own life. As unexpected as it was, this song had me almost incapacitated with sadness. The entire track speaks of loss, not to dissimilar from his song “The River” which was a tribute to Dimebag Darrell. “Shades of Grey” is hands down one of the best songs I’ve ever heard regarding loss and I tip my hat to Zakk for writing such a beautiful song.
Catacombs of the Black Vatican covers many different lyrical topics over a wide variety of music that Black Label Society is known for. It’s a great listen, one that longtime fans of the band will appreciate, but also inviting enough for people curious about Zakk Wylde and BLS. Hopefully you enjoy this record as much as I have.