Black Label Society – Catacombs of the Black Vatican (eOne)Tuesday, 25th March 2014
When ‘ole Zakk says the new BLS is “Completely the same as the last nine records, except just different songtitles,” it’s like, what is the record company supposed to think? “Gee, thanks Zakk for giving us a selling point! Now, how do we spin this?” In reality, there’s no proper way to “spin” a new Black Label Society album – it really is the same thing as it ever was, which is essentially Wylde’s croak-a-roar, some pinch harmonics, and outstretched southern Sabbath riffs. That being said, Catacombs of the Black Vatican has some value.
Joined by new guitarist Dario Lorina, the sonic stew of these 11 beard bro-downs retains the general facets that has made Wylde identifiable, and while some teeter too much on the banal side (lose the ballads, please), the song-first, melody-ready “Fields of Unforgiveness” and excellent “Believe” stand firm for attention, particularly the latter, which make the cut for a single…if this were the early 90s. The chunky groove of “Heart of Darkness” clicks; the swamp boogie Pride and Glory stomp of “Damn the Flood” hovers around Deliverance-era Corrosion of Conformity, while the stoned-out (or beer’d-up) “Empty Promises” boasts one of Wylde’s better vocal moments on the album.
To reiterate: Nothing new to see here, and you might as well just slap a different cover on the thing and roll along. But, Wylde has enduring appeal, whether it’s because of those well-aged No Rest for the Wicked licks, or even the earlier BLS albums, which have held up over the years. Catacombs of the Black Vatican may not up the man’s profile, yet there’s really no need for such a thing. Wylde is indomitable.