Black Label Society – Doom Crew Inc. (Album Review)

Black Label Society – Doom Crew Inc.
Released: November 26, 2021

Line Up:

Zakk Wylde | Guitar & Vocals
Dario Lorina | Guitar
John “J.D” DeServio | Bass
Jeff Fabb | Drums

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Backstage sign at a Henry Rollins show:

“LISTEN TO THE STAGE MANAGER AND GET ONSTAGE WHEN THEY TELL YOU TO.
NO ONE HAS THE TIME FOR YOUR ROCK STAR BULLSHIT. NONE OF THE TECHS BACKSTAGE CARE IF YOU’RE DAVID BOWIE OR THE MILKMAN. WHEN YOU ACT LIKE A JERK, THEY ARE COMPLETELY UNIMPRESSED WITH THE INFANTILE DISPLAY THAT YOU MIGHT THINK COMES WITH YOUR DUBIOUS STATUS. THEY WERE THERE HOURS BEFORE YOU BUILDING THE STAGE, AND THEY WILL BE THERE HOURS AFTER YOU LEAVE TEARING IT DOWN. THEY SHOULD GET YOUR SALARY AND YOU SHOULD GET THEIRS”

Longtime Ozzy Osbourne guitar god and sometimes studio collaborator Zakk Wylde has been releasing his own brand of hard rock and heavy metal under the moniker Black Label Society since before the turn of the century and not one bit of it has sucked. Every inch of this guitar driven monstrosity has pulled no punches when showcasing the brutal and beautiful noises that can be dragged kicking and screaming from a guitar, whilst also being some of the most staunch, heartfelt, militant and driven content to grace this big blue rock for decades.

The first time I heard Wylde make a reference to his road crew was on the Ozzfest 2002 live compilation, where at the end of their blistering delivery of the 1919 Eternal classic ‘Berserker’ he yells out, “On behalf of Robert Trujillo, Nick Catanese, Craig Nunenmacher, myself, and the fucking DOOM CREW INCORPORATED. To the Massachusetts Chapter of the Black Label Society. Stay fucking strong.”

Right there was everything I needed to know about what I was in for when listening to Black Label Society. It’s not just a band. It’s a tribe, a brother or sisterhood, a clan, and whatever city you’re in, you’re part of that city’s BLS Chapter. Over the years, BLS colours have been handed out by Wylde to the Mother Chapter which consists of band members, family and friends and legends in heavy metal including former BLS and current Metallica bassist Rob Trujillo, plus fellow guitar god and dear departed friend Dimebag Darrell (RIP) of Pantera.

But more important than any of that is their aptly named road crew, Doom Crew Incorporated, the namesake of this album. The BLS colours are earned and none earn it more than the hardest workers in the room. Now, after more than three decades of playing on some of the biggest stages in the world, Zakk Wylde along with his BLS cohorts have pumped out an album dedicated to his “first to bleed, last to leave”, ride or die road crew.

So on the back of the legends that this opus is dedicated to, I’m ready to have my head caved in with hearty riffs and heavy flogging metal. So I have to admit, I got a bit worried when album opener and first single ‘Set You Free’ is kicked off with a serene acoustic intro and an orchestral underlay. But things quickly build up and before I knew it, we’re ripping in to a raunchy mid-tempo riff with a hooky sing along chorus that’s hard not to like. A groovy start to kickstart proceedings. Plus the accompanying film clip is a ripper. Trading in their leathers for sublime wigs and 50’s style Buddy Holly suits, the clip is funny as hell and indicative of the state of mind the lads have had going into this album. Long story short, they’re a pack of fucking lunatics.

‘Destroy & Conquer’ sounds like a call to arms and the second it hits I’m instantly reminded of Black Sabbath‘s ‘Hole in the Sky’. The tempo is kicked up a notch and I’m banging my head like mullets are back in fashion for some reason. The hefty solos on the LP are beefed up with Dario Lorina being given more work, creating a dual attack solo approach which absolutely kicks arse. I fucking love this song and even when it weens off the pace a bit at the end, I’m still air-guitaring at my laptop like a dickhead. The wife is watching pretending like I’m not amazing to look at right now. ‘You Made Me Want To Live’ makes me want to skip to the next song. The solos are awesome though and the only saving grace to this tune. If they platy this live I’ll probs use it as an opportunity to fuck off to the bar. ‘Forever and a Day’ sounds like it was written by a high school jock that just got dumped by the prom queen. I’m off it. Not the sort of shit you play at the gym, or at the pub I’m at when I should be at said gym.

’End Of Days’ sounds like every hangover I’ve ever had but for some reason I like it and again, the solos. So good. But I’m left wondering if Jeff Labb is bored on drums because this is lock stock drumming and I know he’s got miles more in him than this. Fucking amazing film clip though (see below). Set in a world where fast food mascots fight to the death, but not before teaming up to take to a couple of trash-bag Post-Malone wannabe rappers out with an axe. 10/10 for the nut shot JD the Koala smoked Zakk the Bear with though.

Thank fuck for ‘Ruins’. After the last few songs I needed a lift. A smooth intro leads into some fucking killer guitar work and Wylde finally unleashes those pipes of his. A mixed bag of sounds on offer, this song will have you holding your lighter up high in some sections and manning a flame-thrower in others. This is the sonic assault I came here for. ‘Forsake’ keeps the energy going. Almost as if the lads had their fair share of Death Wish Coffee before they ripped into these guitar solos. Yes I’m banging about the solos but Jesus Suffering Magdalene, very few people on this planet come close to producing the noise these lads do when it comes to shredding guitars.

‘Love Reign Down’ comes on and I wish it didn’t. Zakk’s on piano and he can play it with his eyes closed, but I don’t care. Reminds me of that time I went to church and sat there trying not to burst into flames. My Mum will like this one, maybe. Can see it played at a wedding. Not mine though. ‘Gospel of Lies’ is the closest any song will get to sounding like ‘Black Sabbath’ by Black Sabbath off the album Black Sabbath. The song opens up with a slow heavy drawling intro that slides towards an ‘Into The Void’ style riff before closing out with something so close to ‘Hole In The Sky’ that you’d think that the bloke writing this song had been influenced by and played alongside one of the members of Black Sabbath for over 30 years. Cool song. I dig it. ‘Shelter Me’ is a bit of a stop/start, hot/cold number that will get the guitar nerd frothing. It has some genuinely impressive fretwork going on but the song isn’t going to replace ‘Stillborn’ on their live setlist any time soon.

‘Gather All My Sins’ though. I could see the crowd moving to this one for sure. It’s upbeat, loud and has a great energy to it. J.D and Jeff hold this bad boy together while Dario and Zakk get in a fucking unreal pissing contest, swapping solos and grinding the shit out of their axes. I could listen to this shit all day. Then ‘Farewell Ballad’ comes on and I’m done. Lines about birds with broken wings and more piano than I’m on the lookout for and it’s like, I dunno…did you ever listen to Metallica play ‘Sad But True’ live, but they slow it up just a bit and it just doesn’t sound right. Like maybe you took the brown acid at Woodstock. That’s what this song is for me. Not gunna get upset if they leave this off the setlist…

This album doesn’t run at a million miles an hour and even has a few intros that could very well lead into an Adele song, but despite all these factors, this album still manages to remain relatively heavy. Like all BLS albums, Doom Crew Inc has the same groove and swagger as Sabbath did in their day. A swagger that is at the very core of heavy metal and a sound that still stands its ground today. A moderate departure from the early days of the drunken viking battle anthems of twenty years ago, it has a few songs that kick monumental arse, only to drown in a few songs that just don’t.

For the BLS faithful, I don’t have to sell this to you. It is every bit the driven, powerful music you’ve been raising your horns to for decades, just a little gentler and maudlin at times. If you’re new to BLS, maybe grab The Blessed Hellride instead and go from there. But track down their live shows and suss out their new videos on Youtube. The way these new videos are lining up, they’re so goofy I wish they’d film one for every song on this album.

Black Label Society – Doom Crew Inc. tracklisting

  1. Set You Free
  2. Destroy & Conquer
  3. You Made Me Want to Live
  4. Forever and a Day
  5. End of Days
  6. Ruins
  7. Forsake
  8. Love Reign Down
  9. Gospel of Lies
  10. Shelter Me
  11. Gather All My Sins
  12. Farewell Ballad

Rating: 7/10
Doom Crew Inc. is out Friday, November 26 via Spinefarm. Pre-order here
Review by Duane James @duanejames666

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