Black Label Society: Catacombs Of The Black Vatican

Zakk Wylde adds more strings to his bow

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You can always count on Uncle Zakk to crank the Marshalls to 11 but many fans would agree the last few BLS records didn’t quite hit home. Not compared to the pulverising strength of 1919 Eternal or The Blessed Hellride, which, along with 1994’s Pride And Glory side-project, captured Zakk’s finest moments outside Ozzy’s band. So will their ninth offering appeal to anyone outside the diehard chapters around the world?

Damn right it will. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was Alice In Chains blasting out from the opening sounds of Fields Of Unforgiveness, and that’s no bad thing at all.

There’s a maturity to the Zakk attack and his signature bloozy howls feel more focused than they have in years. Even those pinched harmonics have been used more sparingly instead of thrown in willy nilly (the BLS drinking game was wrecking lives before Neknomination).

With three soul-searching country ballads breaking up the bonfire of old leather and motorcycle grease, Catacombs… is a metal warrior returning to former glories.

Amit Sharma

Amit has been writing for titles like Total GuitarMusicRadar and Guitar World for over a decade and counts Richie Kotzen, Guthrie Govan and Jeff Beck among his primary influences. He's interviewed everyone from Ozzy Osbourne and Lemmy to Slash and Jimmy Page, and once even traded solos with a member of Slayer on a track released internationally. As a session guitarist, he's played alongside members of Judas Priest and Uriah Heep in London ensemble Metalworks, as well as handling lead guitars for legends like Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols, The Faces) and Stu Hamm (Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, G3).