APRIL 19th, 2014

Review By: Richard Steven Hensey

Since the beginning Black Label Society has fostered an image of hard-rocking and heavy drinking rebels, and that has carried on into the songwriting on many occasions and has become an integral part of the band. BLS grew bigger and has even been playing some of the same festivals as Ozzy over the years.

2014 sees the release of Black Label Society's latest album, Catacombs of the black Vatican, and what you definitely won't hear is a monotonous doom metal sound. Instead, it's practically the same as any other BLS album, (the continuous pinch harmonics) but certainly delivers the goods to those who expect them. The album has solid, groovy and slow-burning rocker songs as (“Fields of Unforgiveness”, “My dying Time” and “I've gone away”) and one or two speedy, heavy anthems which do nothing but show off Wylde's heaviest guitar tone there is to offer (“Damn the flood” and “Empty Promises”). There is also mellow, relaxed acoustic-led songs (“Angel of Mercy”, “Scars” and the first half of closer “Shades of Gray”)

While ‘Catacombs of the Black Vatican’ has that distinctive BLS sound, it’s not a complete carbon copy of their past work. Wylde and company combine good time arena rockers with bluesy mid-tempo tracks and a few ballads. What really stands out on BLS's latest record however isn't the guitar work, but how songs the are structured and written.

So, the verdict? COTBV is certainly better than a few of BLS' records and for die hard fans there's no hidden musical secrets here, and musically it is indeed predictable. Black Label Society still have it in them to produce consistently great music, and it achieves that almost immediately with this new release. Fans of the band will be delighted to wear the colours as they tour the US supporting the new album