Black Label Society, live in Bristol
Venue: O2 Academy, Bristol
Zakk Wylde's men and Crobot tackle the South West
Crobot make a perfect opening act with their high energy show and excellent blend of old and new rock.
Singer Brandon Yeagley has a fantastic voice — similar to Myles Kennedy — and the rest of the band entertain by constantly moving and generally look like they’re enjoying it as much as everyone else. The Zeppelin-esque La Mano De Lucifer is a stand-out, and marks the band as ones to watch.
Anyone coming to see a BLS show already knows the score, as Zakk Wylde and his boys are definitely a Marmite band: best stay away if you don’t like the taste. Those that do venture in from the cold are ready to worship at the altar of Marshalls that “Father” Zakk presides over, and the sold-out O2 Academy is packed with metalheads swaying under the onslaught of riffs that blast from the stage. Arms aloft, the assembled masses show their approval with horns, claps and pointed fingers, encouraging ever-more posturing and over-the-top playing from the Main Man.
It’s not all guitar screeches and screams though, as the setlist takes from each album, making for a nicely balanced show. Godspeed Hell Bound gives drummer Jeff Fabb and bassist John DeServio the opportunity to make the floor shake with their barrage of bottom end. Contrasting this is one of the band’s finest ballads, Angel of Mercy, showcasing another side of Zakk, with a fine vocal performance and heartfelt solo. In This River (dedicated to Dimebag, whose face adorns a banner lowered over the amps) is next and features Zakk playing keyboards, freeing Dario Lorina to take centre stage and doing a very good job of the solo.
It’s the loud and proud metal songs that engage the crowd the most though, with Suicide Messiah getting them singing along and Bleed For Me being given a great response. Damn The Flood, from new album Catacombs of the Black Vatican, sounds even better live than in the studio, with its huge riff sounding excellent at this volume. This is immediately followed by an opportunity for the band to down a couple of pints while Zakk plays an extended solo, which, considering the guitarist isn’t exactly known for the variety of his playing, is surprisingly interesting. The night is rounded off by a fantastic version of Stillborn, still one of the band's best songs, and the roof is nearly raised by the appreciative crowd. Judging by the smiling faces filing out, everybody’s leaving satisfied.
Black Label Society's tour with Crobot continues. Tickets are on sale now.
Feb 15: Leeds, O2 Academy
Feb 17: Norwich, UEA NRLCR
Feb 18: Nottingham, Rock City
Feb 19: Manchester, Academy
All pics: Duncan Everson