Monday, November 01, 2010

The Black Label 'Berzerkus' Strikes Atlanta

Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society unleashed some serious heavy metal fury onto the Atlanta Chapter who gathered at the Masquerade Club's outdoor music park
on October 23rd. This was my first BLS concert, and it certainly won't be my last, because this band's live performance rivals almost any other I have seen in my 23 years of being a rocker.

From the moment Black Label Society opened their set with Sonic Brew's "The Beginning... At Last," they offered up a no-frills, ass-kicking, rock and roll experience. Almost one year ago to the date of this show, I saw Kiss (one of my all-time favorite bands) for the second time. And if you ask me, Black Label put on just as good (or even better) of a show--but with none of the gimmicks or flash, and ten times the heart and soul.

As much as I enjoy Black Label's older material, one of my favorite things about the show was getting to hear tracks from the new album Order of the Black. I've been hooked on this album ever since it came out in August, and it was especially great to hear the hard-hitting "Crazy Horse" as the second song of the set. Other songs performed from Order included "Overlord," "Parade of the Dead," and "Godspeed Hellbound." Each of these new tracks sounded well-rehearsed, tight, and polished--but they didn't lack any attitude or raw energy.

Although this was mainly a night for hard rock and headbanging, the band toned it down for their performance of the ballad "In This River." This beautiful tribute to the late Pantera guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott featured a montage of photos on a projection screen, which added to the already emotional moment. Zakk played piano for this song, which was an exhibition of his true musicianship and artistry.

In the middle of the set came Zakk Wylde's spectacular guitar solo. I'm no guitar expert, so I can't get too technical here. However, I know what I like to hear. Zakk's solo was complex, rich, and totally captivating. He started playing in the middle of the stage near his killer skull microphone, but he then made his way to the sides of the stage to play for the different parts of the audience. It was so surreal when he made his way to the right (his left) side of the stage where I was standing. I couldn't believe I was only four rows away from a living guitar god. I was in awe watching his hands and listening to the sounds that were coming from his guitar.

Zakk is not the only showman of Black Label Society. I spent a great deal of the show watching guitarist Nick "Evil Twin" Catanese. Not only is he talented enough to keep up with the legendary Zakk Wylde, he is great at engaging the crowd. I stood at the side of the stage where he was playing, and he made a lot of eye contact and enthusiastic gestures to the adoring fans.

Bassist John "JD" DeServio came to my side of the stage a number of times, and I really enjoyed watching him move around the stage and swing his long dark hair, all while being deeply immersed in his strong bass riffs. The heavy rhythms of all of the songs were completed by Will Hunt's bold and aggressive drumming.

Two of my favorite Black Label albums are The Blessed Hellride and Mafia, so it was incredible to me that selections from those made up the bulk of the setlist. The energetic classics "Fire it Up," "Suicide Messiah," and "Funeral Bell" elicited major responses from the crowd. "The Blessed Hellride" was HUGE with the crowd singing the chorus. I was also pleasantly surprised that my favorite song from BLS's 1998 debut Sonic Brew
"The Rose Petalled Garden" made its way into the mix.

This show had many memorable moments, so it is difficult to pick just one major highlight. Personally, the encore selection of "Stillborn" was especially important to me. This song means a lot, as it was my first Black Label song. I became a fan the moment I heard it, and I still get chills each time I listen. Finally hearing it performed live intensified those feelings.

I left this gig as an even bigger Black Label Society fan, which I didn't even know would be possible. It definitely was everything I had hoped for in a concert--and more. Any hard rock fan seeking a flawless musical performance by sincere and genuine artists should make it a point to see a Black Label Society show.

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