BLACK LABEL SOCIETY
Fremantle Metropolis, WA
November 25th, 2015
Supports Silent Knight
Beards, brethren and riffage….goddamn that riffage!
Zakk Wylde rolled into town on Wednesday night for the band’s first headline tour on our shores since 2006 and they didn’t disappoint. To make it real clear to the readers of this review in case you don’t get down the whole of these ramblings – buy a ticket, Zakk and the boys are phenomenal! From the sound to the setlist to the crew, this was one of the gigs of 2015. But, we’ll enter the BLS Fremantle Chapter shortly, first up was Perth’s Silent Knight.
Having three guitarists, a drummer and a vocalist all with long manes of hair trying to headbang and play on what was left of a stage by Black Label Society’s props and amplifiers was always going to be a mission. Whilst funny to those looking on, I’ll be honest there was a lot of sniggering, the power metal lads from Perth ploughed through a tight half hour set. Technical difficulties plagued the band early but thankfully that side of things reset and amongst the duelling guitars and that Maiden-esque vocal of Jesse Onur Oz who coincidentally I found later, actually fronts an Iron Maiden cover band, Silent Knight were on point. The crowd was emphatically warmed up and the tracks from latest album Conquer and Command sound crushing. On a bigger stage with more room to breathe, let alone move, Silent Knight would destroy.
Onwards. Enter Black Label Society. Now nine albums into a bulging discography and with a legion of fans that seem to be growing on the back of the colossus album, Catacombs of the Black Vatican, now was as good a time as any to welcome Zakk Wylde and his crew to the Fremantle chapter. Tempting the audience with a mix mash of Led Zep’s, ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and Black Sabbath‘s ‘War Pigs’ fuelling the prodigious amps, Zakk Wylde, guitarist Dario Lorina, bassist John DeServio and drummer Jeff Fabb entered the stage.
‘The Beginning…at Last’ crushed from the outset, that patent Zakk Wylde riffage bellowing from the speakers and the moshpit erupted, heads flaying, mass of hair melding together as one as the Zakk bled his fingers dry from track one. His first solo played under and over his head, in fact anyway but the traditional style, wow…can this guy play guitar. The force of ‘Funeral Bell’ amped things up another level, if at all possible, with drummer, Jeff Fabb smashing his sticks with fury on a drum platform that was moving a good 5-8 inches with his momentum each crash of his cymbals.
‘Bleed for Me’ and ‘Heart of Darkness’ continued the mayhem, the latter the first track aired from Catacombs. Bass player, John DeServio plucked away like a mad man to side of stage with the knee bends not too dissimilar to Robert Trujillo of Metallica, all the time maintaining a sly smile, content in his place in the BLS machine and clealy enjoying the stage life. ‘Suicide Messiah’ saw the first of many impromptu mid pit dives from audience. It seemed this crowd had a few circus entertainers amongst the brethren and the powerful chords of ‘Messiah’ was a perfect fit, especially when the nominated road crew member is yelling “It’s just your suicide messiah’ into a megaphone into the microphone in the chorus. Heavy metal never sounded so good.
There would be little time for introductions or saying ‘hello’ to the crowd and other than a brief ‘welcome’, Zakk was of little words, simply, it wasn’t required. Zakk’s music speaks for itself and more to the point his guitar speaks for him, though he did introduce the band in a comic piece later in the set, describing each member in a WWE welcoming vocal. What a legend.
Speaking of legendary, following an incredible rendition of the single, ‘My Dying Time’, Zakk slipped into guitar solo time. I’ve seen some great solos over the years, the Slash solo from Melbourne’s sidewave in February was simply stunning and anyone that witnessed Satchel’s (yes Satchel!) solo from Steel Panther at Perth Metro’s a few years back would of also been amazed but Zakk Wylde submitted his entry for best solo of 2015 at this show. Ten minutes of utter rage, no time for any tranquil entries in this solo, his hands are made of steel; the wah pedal pounded wither ferocity. Zakk in full beast mode. Is there anything more tribal to behold? I’m not sure I’ve witnessed a more ferocious guitar solo….ever.
The solo drove straight into ‘Damn the Flood’, Fabb blasting his way into Zakk’s solo in choreographed bliss. After ‘Godspeed Hellbound’, the place needed some respite, enter the side of Zakk Wylde that is often hidden by his appearance. Amongst the beard, the mane, the eyes and the outlaw gang clothing, there is an inner beauty, often transposed into some incredible ballads that Black Label Society has produced. ‘Angel of Mercy’ one example from Catacombs, as guitarist Dario Lorina managed piano duties and Zakk crooned with the tranquillity the song deserved. ‘In This River’ was next, a Dimebag tribute, with Zakk now on piano, lighters emerging from the audience in a poignant moment.
Back to the bludgeoning. ‘Blessed Hellride’ and ‘Concrete Jungle’ had the adrenalin pumped once more, before the concluding ‘Stillborn’, a Black Label Society favourite with all those Sabbath-like riffs. In a world of heavy music that is often over analysed, over obssesed by the new, the technical, the screaming, it’s nice you can rely on bands like Black Label Society to deliver the perfect rock/metal show. Heavy, succinct, brutal beginnings, killer guitar solos, rock ballads then back to force before a happy ending.
Fremantle Chapter done. Onto the rest of Australia. Be back soon Zakk and crew!
The Beginning…At Last
Bleed For Me
Heart of Darkness
My Dying Time
Damn the Flood
Angel of Mercy
In This River