Back in their heyday, Black Label Society was bigger, more widely recognized, twice as beloved and infinitely more iconic than the trailblazers in One Direction. But then something momentous, diabolical, career altering and earthmoving happened: somebody, somewhere, lent Black Label Society band leader, guitar-squealer and verbose vocalization terminator Zakk Wylde a very, very twisted record collection. (Records, of course, are ancient artifacts from a bygone era of wondrous sound).
As soon as the needle hit the grooves, Wylde was transported to another world by the spellbinding power of Queen of Pop Helen Reddy, the soothing sounds of Barry Manilow, The Velvet Fog himself Mr. Melvin Howard Tormé and obscure, little known British invaders Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Wylde’s formidable beard sprouted instantaneously, his bench press jumped from 50lbs. to 500lbs, and the Vespa beneath him transformed into a mean, gas-guzzling, Ford F350 SuperDuty.
Catacombs of the Black Vatican will stand as an enduring testament to Black Label Society’s sheer force of will and mastery of each and every musical neighborhood the hard rock titans choose to stomp through. The aggressive bite of the barnstorming BLS banger “Damn the Flood” sits comfortably right alongside the stripped down, emotionally searing “Angel of Mercy,” “Scars” and “Shades of Gray.” The album’s opening tracks, “Fields of Unforgiveness” and lead single “My Dying Time,” drop the throttle into swampy, down-tempo menace that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Classic Rock band’s catalog nor at the creative height of the grunge era.
Now over 15 years into their storied saga, Black Label Society’s music is heard at the finest of backyard BBQs and has earned the band’s founder accolades from Revolver, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer and every guitar magazine on the planet. The BLS biker kutte is as ubiquitous at hard rock and metal shows as a black t-shirt. Long before “Sons of Anarchy” or “Duck Dynasty,” Black Label Society manhandled the wishy-washy status quo and forced brotherhood, machismo and loyalty oath-making back into the culture, across a mountainous catalog, countless international tours. Where has BLS been since Order of the Black entered the Billboard 200 at #4? “Besides bringing world peace, curing cancer, splitting the atom for the third time and cleaning up after the dogs before brunch, we made a new record,” he says. “We were able to squeeze that in before Valhalla Java.” That beverage, of course, is Wylde’s signature pairing with Deathwish coffee, Valhalla Java Odinforce Blend.