Black Label Society

With Support From Crobot and Black Tusk.
Rock City Nottingham 18th February 2015.

Tonight’s gig was the stuff of dreams and one that’s been in my diary for a while now. With such an incredible line up, which I’m dubbing an American Invasion, it was certainly one I wasn’t prepared to miss!

Getting to Nottingham, with all the road works about just lately, is an absolute nightmare. With early doors of 6pm, I managed to leave work 10mins early and drove like a bat out of hell to get to Rock City in time. Thankfully, despite my panic the first band didn’t take to the stage until 6.45pm, but I didn’t know that at the time. I arrived all a fluster, but I’d made it and in time to see the first of two great support acts.

Crobot are from the small town of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, which was home for these guys but of late they have been a touring band, so a van or tour bus is where they currently reside – I hope its comfortable? I first discovered “Something Supernatural” the bands debut album, after speaking with legendary bassist Rex Brown, who mentioned them in an interview as they were touring with Kill Devil Hill at the time. Last year alone, Crobot toured with Chevelle, Clutch, The Sword, Truckfighters, KYNG and more, in addition to playing festivals such as SXSW and Rock on the Range. This year, the band are already linked with the following tours, Limp Bizkit, Buckcherry, fellow Wind Up Records band Filter and obviously tonight’s main event, the legendary Black Label Society.

Brandon Yeagley - Crobot

Crobot describes their music as “Dirty. Groove. Rock.” Personally, they remind me of bands such as Buffalo Summer and Scorpion Child. Tonight’s set was incredible, a little dark on the lighting but the sound was immense! These guys are certainly a band you need to see live! After their set, I saw all four band members walking around the venue talking to people, posing for photos, signing CD’s and most importantly, vinyl copies of their latest album. Sadly I missed getting my album signed!

Another American band up next, with a shift in genres to heavy sludge metal, courtesy of Black Tusk, from Savannah, Georgia. Apparently, these guys all grew up together and lived on the same street, after continuously jamming they officially formed back in 2006. Now signed to Relapse Records, these guys have already released five studio albums, the latest being “Tend No Wounds” which is heavy as f*ck! I’m also digging their latest two track EP ‘Vulture’s Eye’, released last year. These guys are good friends with Baroness’ guitarist and vocalist John Dyer Baizley, who is also a painter and creates all of Black Tusk’s album artwork!

The band, themselves have coined the phrase “Swamp Metal” to describe their sound and is more a reference to the climate in which they have created their music, personally, I get lost with all these sub genres so lets just say, they are a heavy metal band, with fantastic energy, who produce great music.

Andrew Fidler - Black Tusk

My only criticism of tonight’s set, was the lack of variety between tracks, each track started to sound like the last by the end of the set. Being only a three piece, it must be hard to vary the sound I guess, but what they do, they do well. No one person is responsible for the vocals, which I though unique, all three had a go which you don’t see all that often, if ever!

Corey Barhorst - Black Tusk

That said, the bands final track of the night really changed things up, it’s intro was quite touching though, Andrew’s (vocals and guitar) brother died in a motorcycle accident, so they paid tribute to his memory and the crowd were invited to do the same, which they did, beautifully, RIP sir. Black Tusk then proceeded to blast out one of the best tracks in their set tonight. Awesome! Sadly, I couldn’t capture or find their set list on the interweb, so apologies.

So Black Label Society then, who hail from Los Angeles, California. From what I can gather, some, if not all his fans have labelled Mr Zakk Wylde as god! Personally I’d say he’s the gladiator of metal, but what do I know! Whilst stood in his presence, I did feel some what inferior though, I must say, well the guy is built like a brick shit house! I wouldn’t wanna cross him and for that reason, I’m going to try and make this review extra special, oh and I’m not a huge fan of Kanye West either!

In all seriousness I’m pretty much a new comer when it comes to this artist, yes, I hang my head in shame. I’ve known of tracks like “Crazy Horse” and “Concrete Jungle” for like forever, but it wasn’t until I was given a copy of the bands latest album “Catacombs of the Black Vatican” which was one of my top 10 albums of 2014 I might add, that I really got into Black Label society. Lets just say I’ve been relishing the opportunity to revisit all their previous albums, there’s nine in total, that’s not including the two live albums!

Zakk Wylde... Black Label Society

Black Label Society are a band first and foremost, formed when lead vocalist and guitarist Zakk fell out with Ozzy Osbourne back in 1996 (I see a pattern emerging here, what with Jake E Lee, see that review also). The full band consists of Zakk Wylde – Vocals/ Guitar, John DeServio – Bass, Jeff Fabb – Drums and Dario Lorina – Guitar. During my research I did discover that Robert Trujillo (now in Metallica) used to head up bass duties for BLS, it’s a small world a? Sadly, even with Zakk’s epic guitar solo’s, three tracks ain’t very long and I didn’t want to miss any photographic opportunities capturing this iconic figure of metal, so sorry to the rest of the band, as I didn’t get any shots of you guys!

Zakk Wylde - BLS

Before tonight’s EPIC set, the stage was shrouded in mystery as a massive Black Label Society curtain blocked our view, which is the first time I’ve seen this happen at this venue. As the stage was readied for the messiah’s presence, we waiting in anticipation – you could cut the tension with a knife! Tonight’s show was pretty much a sell out, therefore floor space was at a premium but we’re metal fans, we get on! As the band took to the stage, I could see from the side, as I waited to get into the pit, a stage hand, handed Zakk his guitar and gave him a congratulatory hug then left him to ready himself. As the first notes rung out, the curtain dropped and all was revealed! After the crew got rid of the curtain, us togs were allowed to enter, by now though, our numbers seemed to have multiplied three fold since the support acts, which really pisses me off! If you’re going to review a show, review the whole show, not just the headliners, anyway, I digress!

Zakk Wylde - Black Label Society

What separates BLS with other acts, in my opinion, is they know how to entertain a crowd. The lighting tonight was second to non, which is as rare as rocking horse shit. The sound made your ears bleed, which every metal head loves god bless you my child and the band were energetic with Zakk posing at every available opportunity. Couple that with an amazing set list, which spans nearly three decades, each and every person in the crowd singing back to the band, at the top of their voices, you can’t fail to have a fantastic time. Simply put, tonight’s set was a master class in live music and entertainment. If you don’t believe me, I suggest you check out BLS when they play Bloodstock festival in the summer, I predict that will be an insane show, also! Thanks for reading Peace!

Full Set List:

1.Whole Lotta Sabbath 2.The Beginning… At Last 3.Funeral Bell 4.Bleed for Me 5.Heart of Darkness 6.Suicide Messiah 7.My Dying Time 8.Damn the Flood 9.Guitar Solo 10.Godspeed Hell Bound 11.Angel of Mercy 12.In This River 13.The Blessed Hellride 14.Concrete Jungle 15.Stillborn

Review and Photography by Jay Hawkins (JJ Photography UK)