Album Review: Black Label Society – Catacombs of the Black Vatican
Posted by Reggie
As any fan of a sludgy, southern, bluesy style of metal, the impending release of a Black Label Society album comes with a certain level of anticipation…and expectation. Catacombs of the Black Vatican is the latest in a long line of studio albums, EPs, live, and compilation albums. Despite being busy with Ozzy for many years, Zakk Wylde has managed to carve his own path to success with guitar in hand. It took me a while to appreciate the southern vibe from any band, but several years ago when Order of the Black was released, it opened the door to a genre I feel filled a void in my heavy metal heart. Since then, my collection of sludgy stuff increased exponentially thanks to that particular album. In kind of a twist of fate, my non-metal wife liked it too. Who would have thought the genre I was avoiding would be one she “kind of” liked.
Unlike Order of the Black, Catacombs of the Black Vatican did not burst into my ear drums with a Crazy Horse headbanging/pit-inducing ambiance. On the contrary, the new material is quite tame, moody, and mellow. With some exceptions I will get into later, the new songs are much less hair-raising than some of Black Label Society’s previous works. I have to admit it kind of took me by surprise as I anticipated being crushed by the introductory song. Instead…it was quite pleasant.
It isn’t until the fifth track, Heart of Darkness, where the album picks up to a bit more familiar cadence of pleasurable southern rock. However, Black Label Society is no stranger recording ballads of various styles; I don’t want to you think this album is a great departure from their core sound. It just seems to me that there are more mellow songs grouped together on this album than what I remember on some of their previous studio albums. Though I have not heard them all…just most of them.
Never fear, the familiar Zakk Wylde guitar solos are in full force. Everything you know about Black Label Society is, in fact, existent. But, if you were looking for crowd-moving songs to whip some hair and beards around to, they are much less predominant on this album. That shouldn’t stop you from enjoying what is to offer which is a solid collection of quality southern sludge. This video for My Dying Time is a prime example of the overall vibe, maybe even a bit on the heavier side. If you enjoy this particular song it’s safe to say you will enjoy the rest of the album…probably goes well with a cold beer too.