Black Label Society goes on a Wylde ride in Vancouver



Boy, those metal maniacs sure can market the goods. At its sold-out Commodore show last Monday (March 15), Los Angeles–based Black Label Society had a merch table set up that was pushing everything from licence-plate holders ($15) to drumsticks ($25 a pair), from tote-bag sets ($50) to “Brewtality” hockey jerseys ($75).

But the only items that seemed to be moving well were the mostly black T-shirts. Featuring skulls and silk-screened biker patches, and worn by many in the 90-percent-male audience, they made the point that BLS is not a band to fuck with. One older T-shirt I noticed in the crowd referenced a track from the group’s 2002 CD, 1919 Eternal, proclaiming: “Berserkers are born, they are not made!” Heck, everybody knows that.

As soon as the house lights dimmed, the sultry strains of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” drifted over the PA, a subtle way for BLS main man (and long-time Ozzy Osbourne guitarist) Zakk Wylde to assure the audience that, like his legendary boss, he’s one crazy motherfucker! After a dignified rendition of “O Canada” got all the patriots onboard, air-raid sirens and flashing red lights signalled the imminent arrival of the night’s Marshall-driven noisemakers. When the spotlights hit the stage, Wylde looked poised to kick major butt in a black bowler, black studded wristbands, and a black sleeveless T, revealing biceps big enough to mangle six shoegazers at once.

His quartet—which includes guitarist Nick “Evil Twin” Cantanese, bassist John “JD” DeServio, and drummer Craig “Louisiana Lightning” Nunenmacher—kicked things off with “Black Mass Reverends”, a brutal track off its 2006 album Shot to Hell, the one with the nuns playing pool on the cover.

Other hell-raising titles with religious overtones (“Faith Is Blind”, “Suicide Messiah”) followed, with most of these sounding heavily indebted to the sludgier works of Ozzy’s former band, the crucifix-crazed Black Sabbath. One of the faster-paced songs that BLS churned out also took liberties with Tony Iommi’s rampaging riff from “Children of the Grave”.

As if to prove that he’s more than just a spitting, cursing, raunch ’n’ roll renegade, Wylde took a seat behind the piano for the power ballad “Damage Is Done” then showed even more sensitivity by following with “In This River”, a heartfelt tribute to former Pantera and Damageplan guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott.

“In this river all shall fade to black,” crooned Wylde solemnly while images of Abbott were displayed on two banners, “in this river, child, ain’t no coming back.” (Dimebag fans should note that a new Black Label Society greatest-hits package, Skullage, will be released in April; it includes footage of Wylde reminiscing about his fallen comrade, who was shot to death by a mentally ill ex–U.S. Marine on-stage in Columbus, Ohio, in 2004).

After 10 songs or so, it was time for Wylde’s obligatory extended guitar freak-out, which he performed with his trademark black-and-white “Bullseye” Flying V. There’s a video circulating on YouTube that depicts a teenaged Wylde soloing with his high-school rock band Zyris in the mid-’80s, and he was already a shit-hot picker and budding showman then, playing with his teeth and all.

There may have been a few moments at the Commodore when the bearded bad-ass’s insanely fast licks veered off in the direction of Wanksville, but I wouldn’t want to say that to his face. Having my spleen removed with a Flying V is not my idea of a good time.

Leave a Reply