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Album Review: Black Label Society – Catacombs of the Black Vatican

blacklabelcatacombscover.102307As 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.

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Matt’s Top 25 Favorite Cover Songs: #13: A Whiter Shade of Pale covered by Black Label Society/Zakk Wylde

pianoI bet by now you’re starting to notice a trend in my covers list.  I tend to prefer covers of older classic, mainly non-metal songs, brought up to the modern age.  Can’t say exactly why, but I just really dig it.  Anywho, today’s entry seems a bit off kilter because it’s not exactly a ‘metalized’ cover of a song even though it is covered by a very prominent voice in the metal realm.

If you had parents who grew up in the 60s or are grew up in that time period yourself, you probably heard Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” countless times.  It was a big hit then, and even today it is one of the most played and requested tunes on classic rock radio.  It’s a very sad song, but damn if it isn’t beautiful.  If you’ve followed Black Label Society you’ve noticed by now that every so often they release an off the path album filled with more chill and mellow music instead of their groove laden, guitar theatrics album.  On those records, branded as the Hangover Music series, it’s Zakk Wylde who takes even more of the forefront and shows off a different vocal style (and IMO, better) and utilizes his stellar piano skills.  On Hangover Music vol. II he finds himself delivering one of his best performances ever as he tackles Procol Harum’s classic tune.

The soul he shows in both his vocals and piano playing is simply staggering.  The emotion he pour into the song feels like nothing he’s done before and his rendition of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” totally outdoes the original in every aspect IMO.  Having the piano at the forefront adds so much to the song and his rough and rugged vocals transform the song’s theme into something I can much easier connect with.  So, check it out, let us know what you though, and have a great day!  Peace Love and Metal.

Black Label Society/Zakk Wylde Version:

Original Procol Harum Version:

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Concert Review: Gods of Metal (Day 4) (Ozzy & Freinds, Opeth, Black Label Society, Lamb of God) Milan, Italy June 24, 2012

From the second I heard that one of my all-time favorite bands and fathers of heavy metal, Black Sabbath, were going to reunite for a tour I jumped on grabbing tickets as soon as possible.  No other bands were yet announced, but man, an opportunity to see Black Sabbath in what could be their final tour, hells yeah, you can’t put a price on that.  Unfortunately due to Tony Iommi’s battle with leukemia which arose after tour dates were set in the Black Sabbath show that was scheduled was canceled.  Luckily Mr. Tony Iommi was able to muster up enough strength to pull of a single homecoming show in his hometown of Birmingham, England and got to get the satisfaction of having the band come full circle and land back at home.  To Mr. Iommi, I say get well soon and I can’t wait till you can get the Sabbath ball rolling again.

But what about all the other shows that Black Sabbath promised to play?  Well, what’s the next best thing to Black Sabbath?  How about the face of the band, Mr. John Michel Osbourne, err, Ozzy!  Well, I bought tickets to see Black Sabbath, I’ve already seen Ozzy God knows how many times now and Black Sabbath only twice.  They tossed in Slash, Zack Wylde, and Geezer Butler, so I guess I can say I was sold on not trying for a refund on my ticket.  Having Opeth on the bill too, helped a pinch 😉  But before I get too ahead of myself, how about a little info on what else went down that day, it was a festival after all.

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Theme Thursday-The Softer Side of Metal

Sometimes a metal band gets a little bored with writing brutal in your face riffs and songs and to keep themselves fresh they venture into alien territories.  A lot of times those territories show a much more mellow side of a metal artist or band and also allow the artists to explore different parts of themselves and when they return to the metal side of the realm, they are back refreshed and in full force to get back into your face and pound out some more metal.  For a musician, I feel that doing something like this is absolutely necessary, whether it be a song on an album, a side or solo project, or an album with the band, when you keep doing the same thing over and over again, one tends to become disenchanted with what it is they are doing and break is needed to keep the creative juices flowing.

Here is a list of some of the stuff that has been released by metal artists and bands that deviate from the bone crushing force of metal and venture into the softer more mellow side of metal.  Hope you enjoy, and as always, if you see an artist or band not featured here that you know has a softer side, let me know in the comments.  Peace Love and Metal!!

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Book Review – I Am Ozzy

I greatly appreciate any time my wife comes home with metal related things unexpectedly.  Her buying me I Am Ozzy was one of those moments.  I was probably more of fan when I was younger, but I was always a fan and still am.  I like the classics more than the newer stuff, but the newer stuff isn’t bad.  Since I read Mustaine I have been more interested in reading autobiographies lately.  There are about five more Artist books on my Amazon wish list.  My wife, the avid reader, clued in on my desire to learn more about the artists and was more than happy to buy me the written word.

First, the ghost writer did a great job making the book sound as if it was Ozzy talking.  Having said that, there is a considerable amount of British slang.  Living in England at the moment helped get through all of that stuff.  If I had never lived in England I might have been a little lost and have resorted to the internet for a few answers.  Getting pissed in England means to get drunk.  There was a lot of “getting pissed” in the book.  Kudos to the writer for keeping the book Ozzy.

The first half of the book revolves around Black Sabbath, which for the most part, is before my time.  I mean I was born during the era of the Sabbath, but it’s still before I realized what impact music can have on a person.  I learned a lot about Ozzy’s home life to include family members and the relations therein.  Many of the infamous incidents were explained a little more in-depth such as the bat and dove biting and pissing on the Alamo…and I don’t mean getting drunk on the Alamo.   Ozzy talked a lot about his drug habits for which I was surprised.  I didn’t realize he was still popping pills even during The Osbourne’s TV show.  I thought most of that gibberish he was speaking was as a result of drugs, but he was still getting high.  I remember taking one vicodin after a knee surgery and feeling like a zombie.  I didn’t take any more and never plan to.  Ozzy was popping 25 day among other things.

The biography then moved on to Ozzy’s solo days, but not as in-depth as I would have liked to read.  Ozzy didn’t talk much about the revolving band members much…Jake E. Lee, Zakk Wylde, Robert Trujillo, and Mike Bordin.  I would have liked to know more about his relationship with them and their contribution to Ozzy’s music.

I never knew Randy Rhoads’ plane crashed into Ozzy’s bus while Ozzy and Sharon were in it.  I knew about the crash, but not the details.  There was much to learn in I Am Ozzy and I enjoyed reading about it.  There was a lot of talk about the reality show and Ozzy’s kids drug problems as well.  I was hoping to read more about Ozzfest, but mostly it was about how it started.  I would have liked to read about the experience of putting all that together and how Ozzy got along with the bands he invited on the tour.  I also would have liked to read about the little tiff between Ozzy and Iron Maiden when Sharon pulled the plug on Maiden during an Ozzfest tour.

I Am Ozzy was a great read.  It was nice to learn a lot.  I recommend this bio if you are even the slightest Ozzy fan.  I think it will give you some insight.  Personally, I am enjoying reading about metal icons.  I hope more metal artists bet themselves published.  Next on my reading list is Jon Bon Jovi.   Yeah, I didn’t forget where I came from…

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If you are like me, you married a woman who does not like metal.  At least that is what I thought until fairly recently.  One thing I didn’t realize is that my wife had certain criteria for metal, very narrow criteria.  I have been spending the better part of 9 years trying to crack that code.

Listening to metal wasn’t part of my checklist in a wife.  I knew I would never marry a country girl because the promotion of mediocrity is not my cup of tea.  The only good thing about country music is a sappy slow song that might get you laid and that’s about it.  I didn’t really care if the woman of my dreams listened to metal because in some part, I like metal for me.  I just hoped that the woman I married would at least appreciate the musicianship of the metal artist and support my metal habit at Christmas and on my birthday.  Also, an understanding of my need for shows was a bit of a prerequisite.  So how does my wife fair with all this?

Well, she is a fan of Sting, Billy Joel, Sheryl, Crow, Matchbox Twenty, and Bon Jovi.  They are all artists that have earned a great deal of respect throughout their careers and I do have respect for them.  I do like Bon Jovi because 80’s hair metal is where I got my start in Metal/rock.  Def Leppard’s Pyromania is my first “favorite” album; I was 10 years old.  It all went uphill from there.  My wife declared early on that Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax were not her cup of tea and I respected that.  Personally, I don’t care what we listen to in the car because when I listen to Metal I like to actually “hear” it and when you are having conversation in the car, music just becomes background noise.   So now and then she plays Cindy Lauper in the car and it really doesn’t bother me.  I am not like a metal snob or anything. 

My wife recognized early on what a metal show meant to me. I think the first show I went to when met her was Machine Head in Orangevale, CA.  I talked about it for days as I do after most shows I see.  Eventually, I took her to see Judas Priest with Anthrax in San Fransisco.  She didn’t have much to say about Anthrax, but she knew Priest’s music and had good things to say about the show and the camaraderie between metal fans.  I also took her to see Dream Theater, the one band I thought she would appreciate most, but not so much.  She recognizes their musicianship, no doubt about that, but the songs were too long she says.  So the 13:00 opus was not her thing either.

After coming up on 9 years of marriage, I find out my wife does not like screaming, growling, grunting, or shouting.  So that greatly narrows down the field of metal candidates.  She does like some of the classic stuff like Ozzy, Priest, and some Metallica.  I am thankful for that.  But yesterday I start playing Black Label Society whilst doing dishes and do you know what she said?  “Hey, who is this I like it.”   I stood dumbfounded; I nearly pissed myself (for the British, that means urinate on myself in America).  After all this time BLS is the one she would declare she liked and liked enough to want to see them in concert.  WTF…in a good way.   I never got into BLS at all.  I am not sure why, but just never did.  I am going to see BLS in two weeks in Cambridge so I thought I would familiarize myself with their music so I know what I am hearing when its live.  Turns out I do like it…only Order of the Black so far.  It’s not bad after all, I don’t know why I never gave them a chance. 

For the record, we have been married since 2002 and it is now 2011 and I have struck gold in the form of Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society.  So I ask what it is about this band she likes and she says that he actually sings, is talented, understandable, and the music isn’t too fast.  That’s the ticket.  Jackpot!

Now she is painting her nails black; she is so cool!

SOTD- 7 January 2011

Another Friday, another song of the day.

Today’s Song of the Day is “Crazy Horse” by Black Label Society, from their album Order of the Black

Of course I would pull a song from my 2010 album of the year for a song of the day.  This is a great song that starts off the album.  Zakk Wylde can do no wrong. 

Sorry for the brief post today.  Have a great weekend, everyone.

Album Review: Black Label Society-Order of the Black

I have to admit, I have had this album for a while, but I hadn’t really given it a solid listen for review purposes.  I am a big fan of BLS and Zakk Wylde, and I figured this album would be good for a couple of songs that pop up in a random playlist.  What I hadn’t counted on was how much I would enjoy this album when I listened from beginning to end.

This album ticks all the boxes for a great album.  The album has a varied mix of song types and tempos, from heavy metal headbanging to ballad-type rock anthems.  The album is a decent length (49.03) and the average song length is around four minutes.  This is by far my favorite Black Label Society album.  What sealed the deal for me is that I would listen to the album from beginning to end and want to hear it again.  For me, that is pretty rare.  I could hardly believe it, but I like EVERY song on this album.  Every time I listen to it, I like it more and more.

I am giving Black Label Society’s “Order of the Black” 5 out of 5 devil horns. 

 This album has become one of my top three albums of the year, and this album has cemented BLS as one of my all-time favorites.              

Happy Halloween.