Black Label Society

Catacombs Of The Black Vatican

Written by: AP on 08/10/2014 14:02:20

When questioned on the direction of their new album “Catacombs of the Black Vatican” prior to its release, Black Label Society founder Zakk Wylde offered, in jest, that it was ”all going to be completely the same as the last nine records, except just different song titles.” But every jape traditionally contains an ounce of truth - a notion for which this ninth full length provides ample backing. Laced with that distinctive Southern touch that has always been readily attributable to the repertoire of Wylde, “Catacombs…” may not be a carbon copy of its predecessor, 2010’s “Order of the Black”, but it delivers few arguments for why this record should preside over every other in their discography.

Long standing fans of the band will not feel let down by the mesmerising slow burn of opener “Fields of Unforgiveness”, which sustains itself on a slick droning groove, Wylde’s vastly developed, Ozzy-inspired singing, and eruptions of the sort of mouthwatering solo work all have come to expect from the man many call one of the best rock guitarists in existence. Neither by the Down-esque lead single “My Dying Time” immediately in its wake, the two of which form a powerful beginning to an album which, true to tradition, mixes bayou blues, arena metal and balladry into tunes that neither alienate nor truly impress anyone. “Catacombs of the Black Vatican” has its merits of course, be it the tasteful nonchalance of Wylde’s smoky singing in songs like the just mentioned “My Dying Time”, the steady outpour of arresting riffs from Wylde & his new compatriot Dario Lorina’s six strings, or the doom ridden power unleashed by tracks such as the riveting “Damn the Flood”.

But next to these epiphanies, exist ideas both bordering on pompous, such as the fragile ballads “Angel of Mercy” and “Scars”, and verging on utterly forgettable, as is the case with “Believe” and “I’ve Gone Away” in particular. Never is the approach corrupted by inputs novel or different, and as such, it is not variety you should most expect to hear during the album’s 45-minute running length. Often it is the extenuating character of Wylde’s virtuosic handle on the guitar that proves the lone point of interest in these songs, and consequently, as salient as a misty stoner/doom creation like the ‘Sabbath-chewing “Empty Promises” might be, there simply aren’t enough standout moments littered across the record to mark it as an extraordinary product.

Fortunately, Black Label Society has always struck me as the kind of band whose fans expect a certain sound and always are given it, in similar vein to legendary acts like AC/DC or Motörhead which distill their millions from an unwavering dedication to never changing. In this respect one must commend the band, completed for this album by Breaking Benjamin drummer Chad Szeliga and bassist John DeServio, for their ability to consistently deliver, even if the end product is not remarkable.


Download: Fields of Unforgiveness, My Dying Time, Damn the Flood, Empty Promises
For the fans of: Black Sabbath, Down, Pride & Glory
Listen: Facebook

Release date 07.04.2014
eOne Music / Mascot Records

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