The hair-flipping, harmonic-pinching, kilt-wearing leader of Black Label Society, Zakk Wylde, touched down at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, NJ, on November 10th. They are currently halfway through their 48-date trek for their Doom Trooping Over North America Tour and tonight’s show promises to rock the Wellmont Theater off its foundation!
As the BLS curtain in front of the stage dropped, and the band appeared on stage, the roar from the New Jersey Chapter was deafening. Zakk appeared on his riser, rocking back and forth before approaching his microphone stand adorned with skulls and a giant crucifix. He began to belt out “Bleed for Me.” Clad in their signature BLS biker vests Zakk, Dario Lorina [guitar], “J.D.” DeServio [bass], and Jeff Fabb [drums]proceeded to crush the New Jersey Chapter, and so begins a BLS show! Ravenous worshipers rocked back and forth, chanting Zakk‘s name in unison, and pumping their fists. This moment has been long overdue!
As “Bleed for Me” came to a close with Zakk‘s blazing solo, BLS then delivered the perfect one-two punch with “Demise of Sanity” and then “Overload.” The songs were played with a sense of ferocity like a locomotive speeding down the track. The stage was nothing short of being equally equipped for the massive sonic attack with four stacks of Wylde Audio cabinets placed three high on each side of the drum kit, while a huge video screen projected images of the band’s album covers as they played its respective song.
Buckle your seat belt, secure your safety harness, and kiss your ass goodbye as the performance was off to epic portions of metal savagery. BLS put on a soul-crushing display of American-made metal. Every song in their 90-minute set was played with a sense of power and fury from beginning to end. Mid-set, Zakk hopped behind the piano to slow things down to perform “Spoke in the Wheel” and “In This River,” which was dedicated to Dimebag and Vinnie Paul. Songs like “Fire It Up,” which was written almost 15 years ago was played with the unbridled passion and energy of when it was written. BLS played thirteen songs, including “Blessed Hellride,” “Heart of Darkness,” and “Destruction Overdrive.”
Zakk is a savage player with a powerful and aggressive style of playing and singing. He is a quintessential metal guitarist who can bash out riff after riff with sheer brute force yet still able to pinch out a delicate harmonic. His undeniable and identifiable playing style is the perfect pairing to his songwriting and gut-wrenching vocals. Combine that with some tasteful leads, and now the songs are enhanced beyond expectation. Dario was the partner in crime as they shredded together, shared solos, and provided some lead harmony runs that would rival Iron Maiden and Judas Priest in particular when the two joined forces for their extended guitar solos at the end of the show with their guitars on their shoulders and behind their heads!
Keeping up with the duo’s guitar playing was drummer Jeff Fabb. Every hit on the drums was a full wind-up swing like he was pounding nails with a sledgehammer and played flawlessly in the pocket to J.D. J.D. and Jeff laid down a solid driving beat like a runaway train giving the guitar duo plenty of space to fill the gaps and soar.
What has always impressed me about BLS is their uncanny ability to develop songs that offer a wide variety of styles, whether on the guitar or piano as only true innovators can master that art, then ties the collection together with a ribbon, so they all sound like a cohesive unit whether written two decades ago or brand new like “Set Me Free” from their upcoming “Doom Crew Inc.” album set to release on Black Friday, November 29th. Tonight, they assembled the perfect combination of songs in the set-list that mirrored just that. To witness all these elements come together on-stage setting was pure nirvana.
BLS are musical masters as they can take pure emotion and angst and turn it into a defiant irreverence celebration. New Jersey was the epicenter of the carnage as the band took the audience over the musical precipice with their innovative playing and book-ended with two outstanding songs, “Suicide Messiah” and “Stillborn.” Tonight, I laughed, I cried, it was better than Cats!
BLACK LABEL SOCIETY Setlist:
Whole Lotta Sabbath (Played over PA) / Bleed for Me / Demise of Sanity / Overlord / Heart of Darkness / A Love Unreal / The Blessed Hellride / Spoke in the Wheel / In This River / Trampled Down Below / Destruction Overdrive / Set You Free / Fire It Up / Guitar Solo (with “Smoke on the Water” jam) / Suicide Messiah (with “Black Sabbath” outro) / Stillborn