*This feature was originally published on Vulpecula magazine, which has since closed.
Black Label Society
The Royal Albert Hall, London, 5th April 2018
Bikers and babes and denim and leather. Banners and badges and t-shirts and cuts.
The Beasts, The Behemoths, The Badass and The Brave, all ready to rip, all raring to go. This is the UK Chapter of the Black Label Society – a congregation of the wicked heavy metal family assembled from settlements far and wide.
The lights go down, the darkness rises up…
Feedback, noise, twisted intensity – a monster lurks behind the curtain…
The cacophony expands, explodes…
The curtain falls! Hell unleashed!
BLS open up: Genocide Junkies barrels in ripping and booming out. The upfront trio of Zakk Wylde, John DeServio, Dario Lorina: heads down, riffs thumping. Jeff Fabb thundering on drums behind.
The band barnstorms quickly: Funeral Bell, Suffering Overdue, Bleed for Me, Heart of Darkness: a supersonic set list split, smashed and shattered. Riffs and solos and shrieks and growls cut and slash through the air.
Flames burst out from behind the band, psychedelic lights of purple and green contort and evolve.
Suicide Messiah rolls in, chugs along. A dude with a megaphone wanders the stage verbally launching Suicide Messiahs into the crowd…
Drunks are stumbling around spilling their beers, another guy with a broken leg raises his crutches in the shape of devil horns. There’s mini-pits and parties breaking out. Head banging everywhere.
The song hurtles to a climax. The band halt, hang for the crowd:
It’s just your Suicide Messiah!
Cheers, applause and devil horns … booze and beer cups go flying!
BLS thump out some new numbers: Trampled Down Below, All That Once Shined, Room of Nightmares, before the stage is taken up by a black, BLS badged piano, and a slower arrangement of songs: Bridge to Cross, Spoke in the Wheel, In This River.
Bridge broods malevolently, melodically. Spoke in the Wheel has groups of friends beer-hugging and singing along in the stalls. In This River displays a projected tribute to the late Dimebag Darrell.
Lights down, guitars and sludgy riffs back up. BLS team the old with new: The Blessed Hellride, A Love Unreal, before Fire It Up kicks off something straight out of ancient Greek mythology…
As the song reaches into its solos, Zakk Wylde steps down into the front row of the crowd and into the mass of the chapter. The seas part, sonic-flames seer from the guitar. Strings bend, mutate, re-configure as the sound streaks around the hall.
Zakk wades further and further; a snaking odyssey leading about 25 people holding up his guitar cable keeping his tether to the stage connected. A mass of humans gather round. The man is buried somewhere underneath: guitar rising high above his head, electricity pumping out, fingers working with fury…
Black Label Society
‘Strength, Determination, Merciless, Forever’