Black Label Society: Unblackened

Captain Caveman in mellow(er) mood

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Since the advent of MTV's Unplugged franchise in 1989, performing acoustic sets has become a badge of authenticity for ‘real’ musicians, an opportunity to test the old adage that the truest stadium anthems stand up just as well when performed around a campfire. Unblackened tweaks the format, with a live Black Label Society performance filmed at LA’s Club Nokia in March this year featuring an expanded six-piece lineup and tackling a hits-heavy set in a semi-acoustic format.

Ironically, given Zakk’s undeniable guitar hero status, the most affecting moments come when he sits at a piano for a nakedly emotional Sweet Jesus and In This River, dedicated, as ever, to Dimebag Darrell – but a ceiling-raising House Of Doom and soaring Sold My Soul are equally captivating, not least for Zakk’s astonishing guitar solo on the latter.

Among the bonus features here, a 55-minute mini-documentary on Zakk’s visit to HM Prison Stocken in the Midlands in July 2010 deserves special mention. The frontman’s man-of-the-people status is never more evident than in a thoughtful and articulate Q&A session with inmates, and his humility in performing solo takes on BLS standards is rather sweet.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.