On May 4th 1999, the album Sonic Brew was released and it would change the course of metal forever, giving birth to Black Label Society. The album was originally released in Japan only, due to a last minute remixing for the U.S. release. To most fans surprise, it was the slower acoustic ballad “Another Spoke In The Wheel” that would be the first track written by the band and subsequently for the album.
That might have been the first, but with heavy hitting tracks like “Bored To Tears”, “Low Down” and “Hey You” are what would have metal fans foaming at the mouth for more. Zakk even brought back the classic “No More Tears” for a darker and heavier makeover. Here we are 20 years later celebrating not only a monumental album, but the incredible career of one of the most revered and followed bands in all of metal.
As everyone stands in high anticipation decked out in their BLS gear, Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” starts to play through the monitors causing the crowd to cheer as if the band themselves were playing it. But it was with a twist as it was with Ozzy Osbourne’s voice singing “War Pigs” which makes the place go nuts. Just as the song ends, the intro for “Genocide Junkies” begins to play as the massive curtains hiding the stage begins to pull back. And through the darkness on stage, the Pope of the Black Vatican himself Zakk Wylde is perched up on his platform, kilt and all, waiting to unleash hell.
With an innocent four count on the high hat, the stage lights turn to red and Black Label Society start the musical onslaught that would send the building into a frenzy for the next two hours. Following it right up was the heavy chugging “Funeral Bell” off 2003’s Blessed Hellride, making everyone in attendance head bang in unison with devil horns flying high in the air.
The rest of the fist half of the set would include hit after blistering hit including “Suicide Messiah”, “Trampled Down Below” which showed Dario channeling his inner Jimmy Page with a violin bow solo and “Heart Of Darkness” giving bass player J.D. DeServio a chance to showcase what he can do on that five string.
After the heaviness of the first portion of the show, the middle would be where things slowed down a bit. Zakk walks away from the mic as he heads over the the piano sitting on the left side of the stage. After he takes his place behind the keys, he engages with the local Orlando chapter with “CAN. YOU. DIG IT?!”. While the cheers are still in the air he begins to play “Peddlers Of Death” as Dario plays guitar over top. Next, Zakk introduces “Another Spoke In The Wheel” which has been routinely played this way live and is now re-recorded as a bonus acoustic track in this style on the re-issue of Sonic Brew.
Ever since the passing of Dimebag Darrell in 2004, Black Label Society have had “In The River” in the setlist to pay respect to their fallen friend and guitar hero. Zakk Wylde has even said “As long as we play shows, that song will been in the set.”. It has always been customary to roll out a large banner of Dimebag over the amp cabs on the right side of the stage. And now that Darrell’s brother in life and music, Vinnie Paul passed in June of last year, his own banner now takes real-estate stage left. Black Label gives the crowd a chance to see them share the stage night after night as they jam in their honor.
With the exception of the three song serenading on the piano, the entire show was heavy, fast paced and in your face. So, how do you possibly set the bar even higher? Well, there was only one person in House of Blues who could answer that question, and that would be the blonde haired, kilt wearing madman known as Zakk Wylde.
As the band convenes to unleash “Fire It Up”, O2 tanks are set off and black beach balls are sent bouncing around the building. Ok, not a bad start. Everything is business as usual and then just after the solo ends, Zakk takes off backstage, only to emerge by the bar area and marched himself to the middle of the floor still shredding and not missing a beat.
After he leaves fans in the area completely in aw, he migrates back to the bar area where I think he is going to head back to the stage… negative. Instead, Zakk heads to the upstairs balcony where he goes dead center and hangs over, still playing faster then most humans can read. Because most guitar icons get lonely when they perform superhuman feats like this, fellow fiddle player Dario Lorina joins him and it is now a guitar shootout.
This goes back and forth for over four mins, which doesn’t seem like a lot but when you’re watching, it seems like they’ve been shredding for a week. After they both solo their way back to the stage, somehow they still have the strength to play two more songs to close out the 17 song outing. From start to finish, this is one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time and anyone who comes out to show their allegiance to the all mighty Black Label Society on this tour, will be as equally blown away!