F U L L . R E V I E W S
Black Label Society - Mafia - 2005 - Artemis Records
That's the tag that is currently being tossed around in reference to Zakk Wylde's band, Black Label Society, and their alcohol-and-machismo fueled sound. Webster's Dictionary defines a 'berserker' as: one who's actions are recklessly defiant. 'Reckless' certainly fits the BLS sound, as well as some of Wylde's off-stage antics, if reports are to be believed.
Wylde's merry band of madmen was born in 1999, after Wylde spent more than a decade as guitarist for Ozzy Osborne. 'Sonic Brew' was a massive metal undertaking and other than a few meanderings into the more melodic side of heavy rock, Wylde has kept true to BLS' initial blueprint. 'Mafia' is BLS' 8th album, released on Artemis Records. The album tends to sneak up on you, beginning with the tune 'Fire it Up.' Rather than storming the gates like the Berserkers of Scandanavian lore, this number rumbles with a bluesy lope and before you know it,your whole body is bouncing and grooving along.
By the third track, 'Suicide Messiah,' the gloves are off and the warm-up is over. It's time for BLS the way the fans have come to know it best! This is one of the crushing, solid, brain-scrambling monsters that blow out speakers, give listeners whiplash, and makes Zakk Wylde the larger-than-life Guitar God he is! 'In This River' is a melancholy rocker, apparently written for Wylde's slain friend, 'Dimebag' Darrell Abbot. There's not much that can be said to accurately portray the emotion conveyed by this song, so it's best to just leave it at that and let you hear it and feel it for yourself.
Further into the album are more impressive tracks, such as 'Too Tough to Die' and 'Electric Hellfire.' The BLS 'mystique,' which is the equivalent of a jackhammer through the skull, is aptly covered by these tunes. These days, the executive chapter of the Black Label Society is made up of [other than President and CEO Wylde] James LoMenzo on bass, Craig Nunenmacher on drums, and Nick Catanese on guitars. Guests include Barry Conley and Eddie Map.
This is a raw, barbaric show of metal mayhem, with an edge of technical perfection that only an artist of Zakk Wylde's stature could make work.
--Susan Wright 05.18.05
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