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Black Label Society

Black Label Society


If you worshipped Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi and Randy Rhodes it would be a dream come true to be a guitarist in Ozzy's backing band. And it was for Zakk Wylde who joined Ozzy in '87 when he was only 19. Working on "No Rest For the Wicked", the multi-platinum "No More Tears" and "Ozzmosis," the New Jersey born Wylde also co-wrote several tracks.

The problem with working with one's idol is that by the time you hook up with them they have inevitably slowed down. The tours are less frequent, new albums a rarity and the idol has developed a side project or two (an MTV "reality series," rehab or rolling around on an ATV, to name but a few) that occupy a considerable chunk of time. So there is ample room to strike out on your own.

After working on projects with Guns N' Roses, Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd, Wylde recorded his solo debut "Pride & Joy" followed by "Book Of Shadows in '96. These efforts led to the formation of Black Label Society, a loose collection of musicians fronted by Wylde.

Black Label Society hit in '99 with "Sonic Brew." '00 saw the release of "Stronger Than Death." "1919 Eternal" was next." During this period Wylde pulled an interesting double duty during Ozzfest. He would open the show with Black Label Society, then close it in Ozzy's band. Nice way to pay the rent.





"The Blessed Hellride," out in '03, featured "Stillborn," with Ozzy contributing vocals and the video directed by Rob Zombie, one of Wydle's close personal friends. The album turned into a major seller.

Recorded in Hollywood, "Hangover Music Vol. VI," released on Spitfire Records, had Wylde writing all the original material, singing lead vocals, playing guitar, bass and piano. But the April '04 release was not a one-man show. Drummers John Tempseta (White Zombie/Rob Zombie) and Craig Nunenmacher were onboard along with three bassists; James LoMenzo (who worked on the "Pride & Glory" LP and with David Lee Roth), John "JD" DeServio (Black Label Society) and Mike Inez (formerly of Alice In Chains).

Adding to his busy schedule Wylde contributed to Damageplan's debut album and played piano on Ozzy and daughter Kelly's UK chart-topping version of Black Sabbath's "Changes."

Recorded in Hollywood, "Hangover Music Vol. VI," released on Spitfire Records, had Wylde writing all the original material, singing lead vocals, playing guitar, bass and piano. But the April '04 release was not a one-man show. Drummers John Tempseta (White Zombie/Rob Zombie) and Craig Nunenmacher were onboard along with three bassists; James LoMenzo (who worked on the "Pride & Glory" LP and with David Lee Roth), John "JD" DeServio (Black Label Society) and Mike Inez (formerly of Alice In Chains).

With titles like "Suicide Messiah," "Death March," "Too Tough To Die" and "Dirt On The Grave" it's not hard to figure out where Wylde and Black Label Society were coming from on '05 release "Mafia." This is a dark, riff laden effort. Perfect.

Seen, at least by critics, as "more of the same," "Shot To Hell" landed in '06. The compilation "Skullage" was out three years later. Around that time, there was some question as to whether Wylde was still in Ozzy's band. Ozzy claimed that Wylde's schedule precluded him from going on Ozzy's tour.

With the Ozzy issue still hanging, Black Label Society hit the road on their '09 Pedal To The Metal tour. But Wylde was hospitalized in Eugene, OR, suffering from blood clots in both lungs and one leg. The illness forced Black Label Society to cancel the remaining dates on the trek. "[I] can't sing because pushing can cause an embolism," wrote Wylde on his Twitter page. Tour partners Mudvayne and Static-X pressed on.

After rumors, speculation, public statements and counter-statements, Ozzy officially announced that he and Wylde had parted company - but still remained on good terms. "I haven't fallen out with Zakk," Osbourne told Artisan News Service. "Our relationship goes way beyond music." Ozzy concluded by saying, "He's got his own thing now, he's got his own band, he's got his own career. . . he don't need me anymore."

Black Label Society issued their eighth album in '10, "Order Of The Black." And as usual there was a line-up change. Drummer Will Hunt from Evanescence replaced Craig "Louisiana Lightning" Nunenmacher who left the band the previous February.

Wylde was a major Led Zeppelin fan so it was hardly surprising the band's unplugged effort was titled "The Song Remains Not The Same," an obvious play on Zeppelin's live album and movie, The Song Remains The Same. There were acoustic versions of songs from "Order Of The Black" plus covers of Black Sabbath ("Junior's Eyes"), Blind Faith ("Can't Find My Way Home") and even Simon & Garfunkel ("Bridge Over Troubled Water").

Off the road and out of the studio, Wylde was the honoree at Guitar World's Rock and Roll Roast in '12. Corey Taylor (Slipknot/Stone Sour), Duff McKagan (Guns N' Roses/Velvet Revolver/Loaded) and Scott Ian (Anthrax) attended. "We've all known each other for a while, we all love each other," Taylor told Rolling Stone magazine. "So let's just rip the crap out of each other." Wylde responded saying, "How can they roast me? I'm a good Catholic boy." Sharon Osbourne was the roastmaster though Ozzy was absent - off recording with Black Sabbath.

In December, '13, Black Label Society announced that Catanese had left in what was described as an amicable split. A band statement read that they "wish [Nick] the very best in his future musical endeavors" and that a replacement guitarist would be announced soon. True to their word, less than a month later, Lizzy Borden guitarist Dario Lorina was named as Catanese's replacement.

"Catacombs Of The Black Vatican," Black Label Society's ninth studio album, was also the first to feature former Breaking Benjamin drummer Chad Szeliga after fill-in Mike Froedge left. Froedge had replaced Hunt, who in turn had replaced Nunenmacher.

Twenty years after the release of "Book Of Shadows," Wydle released his solo follow-up, the aptly titled "Book Of Shadows II."


Black Label Society Discography

Albums:

1999 Sonic Brew
2000 Stronger Than Death
2002 1919 Eternal
2003 The Blessed Hellride
2004 Hangover Music Vol. VI
2005 Mafia
2006 Shot To Hell
2010 Order Of The Black
2011 The Song Remains Not The Same
2014 Catacombs Of The Black Vatican

Live Album:

2001 Alcohol Fueled Brewtality Live!! +5

You can't argue with Zakk Wylde's work ethic or his reputation as one of Metal's premier forces. As Ozzy's guitarist, a guest on numerous projects, solo performer and guiding force of Black Label Society, Wylde has a full plate. On his own, Wylde was among the first to toss Southern Rock elements into Metal and make it work. But it's his masterful thrash and burn style that built his legend. He possesses the standard issue leather lungs required for Hardcore Metal along with the doom and destruction guitar. While he prides himself on trying a different tact with each album all songs clearly come from the same source. "The Blessed Hellride" stands as Black Label Society's premier effort.

Does the world need another unplugged set? The short answer is 'no'. At least "The Song Remains Not The Same" delivers a credible take of Steve Winwood's (Blind Faith) "Can't Find My Way Home."

What makes bands like Black Label Society important is that they are an increasingly rare species, and second, they can produce songs that sound like a race to oblivion. With titles like "My Dying Time," "Heart Of Darkness" and "Fields Of Unforgiveness" you'd think "Catacombs Of The Black Vatican" would be halfway there. But instead of pedal to the metal, BLS seems to be plodding into the void. Fortunately, "Damn The Flood" delivers on the promise.



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