Black Label Society “Order of the Black” – LP Review

  Review: Lana Harris

Zakk Wylde is known as one of the metal world’s best guitar players, particularly
when talking shredding abilities. He was Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist for two decades, and didn’t let decadence overcome discipline – as well as working and touring with Ozzy, he completed an album a year from 1999-2006 with his side project, Black Label Society (BLS). BLS have their guitars firmly wedged in heavy metal/ hard rock – think Alice in Chains, a bit of Ozzy’s influence apparent in the vocals. But now Wylde’s no longer with Ozzy, and Order of the Black is the first album release by BLS in four years.

Taking the time out seems to have done Black Label Society a lot of good – the album is blow-your-speakers-out fantastic. A wah and soloing infused ‘Crazy Horse’ has BLS banging out a blistering introduction to Order of the Black, and the pace continues on ‘Overlord’ and ‘Praise of the Dead’. ‘Black Sunday’ again shows off Wylde’s guitar skills, opening with amazing shredding before pounding your ears relentlessly. ‘Southern Dissolution’ and ‘Godspeed Hellbound’ blast out energy, harnessing pounding chords in driving metal and showing BLS at its fattest, hammer to the skull best.

What lets this album down slightly is the slow, ballad style numbers which have been placed regularly between the heavier tracks. While they have their own charms, if you like that style of song (and Wylde does have some talents in this area, ‘Time Waits for no-one’ has a great solo in it, and ‘January’ invokes from the heart elements best known in the blues tradition), the placement of fast-fast-slow song repeated across the album makes for a bumpy ride, the slower tracks destroying the otherwise relentless forward momentum of an album that draws your hand towards the louder, louder, louder button on the stereo.

The diversity achievable by Black Label Society isn’t just present in the slower tracks: there’s tiny patches of classical and flamenco guitar woven into the mix. These provide insight into the true depth of talent BLS are drawing from and are amusing. But the real power of Order of the Black isn’t the great guitar playing and diversity. It’s the attitude – the strength and determination that blasts from the chunky riffs populating the hard and heavy tracks on the album. On these songs, Black Label Society are truly masters of the black.

Review: Lana Harris

Black Label Society – Order of the Black LP

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