Black Label Society
Black Label Society
“You can always count on Uncle Zakk to crank the Marshalls to 11.” – Metal Hammer
Everything about Black Label Society begins with the riff.
A dedicated disciple of Zeppelin, Sabbath, and Deep Purple, Zakk Wylde looks to the massive guitar hooks in classics like “Whole Lotta Love,” “Into the Void,” and “Smoke On the Water” as guiding lights. “If we’re talking about football, everything starts with the offensive line. You build a team from there,” says the larger-than-life frontman. “The main ingredient in any Black Label soup is the riff.”
Black Label Society builds their music on this simple truth, truth as self-evident on Back in Black as on the dozen songs comprising Doom Crew Inc., the eleventh album from the dependable stalwarts.
Doom Crew Inc. is both a tribute to the band’s “first to bleed, last to leave” road crew and a salute to the legion whose support, stretching back to 1998, rivals that of the KISS Army. The Black Label Society biker-style battle vest “kutte” is as ubiquitous at hard rock and metal shows as a black t-shirt.
Zakk “owns” pinch harmonics every bit as much as Chuck Berry dreamt up the duck walk. A charismatic heavy metal marauder recognized worldwide as a living legend, Wylde rose to prominence when Ozzy Osbourne chose him as his loyal axe-man, based on a cassette he mailed in as a teen. Guitar World put him on their cover more than a dozen times in recognition of his work on multi platinum albums by the icon he calls “the Boss” and the two decades of music made by BLS.
His instantly recognizable bullseye Les Paul rests in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; his bellbottoms hang in the Grammy Museum. He imprinted his mitts on Hollywood’s Rock Walk of Fame, won a Grammy with Ozzy, and co-wrote much of the multi platinum albums Ozzmosis and No More Tears.
But nothing offers the pure expression of Zakk Wylde’s animalistic “id” like Black Label Society. The stomping, heavy, bluesy, recklessly unhinged hard-rock-metal quartet are part invading horde and part traveling carnival, summoning caffeine-fueled cacophony on records and the stage. BLS songs are odes to celebration and mourning, the soundtracks to jubilant evenings and bewildering days.
Doom Crew Inc. is the fourth BLS album created at the Black Vatican, the studio built at the Wylde residence in 2010. “Ever since Order of the Black, we make all of the Black Label donuts up here,” he says proudly. “We make them, put them in the oven, and then box them up and ship them out.”
Black Label Society power slammed the Billboard Top 5 Albums chart three times in a row, most recently with Grimmest Hits (2018), which debuted at No. 1 atop the Hard Rock and Independent Albums charts. The BLS discography is like an instruction manual for finely crafted American hard rock music. Doom Crew Inc. should be required listening for all blues-based rock n’ roll musicians.
The nearly 30 songs amassed then whittled down to 12 for the album began to take shape at the onset of the 2020 pandemic. “I’d sit in the garage with my amp and just write riffs,” Zakk recalls. Longtime bassist John “J.D.” DeServio, drummer Jeff Fabb, and guitarist Dario Lorina convened at the Vatican, resulting in future BLS classics including “Set You Free,” “Ruins,” “Forsaken,” and “Shelter Me.”
“We incorporated Father Dario even more into the solos, doubling with me and being more involved in that regard. It really, truly is a two-guitar album, more so than ever. A twin guitar band, whether it’s the Allman Brothers or Judas Priest, with harmony lines, unison lines, and trading off solos. It stemmed from the live shows, where we’d both go into the crowd and extend songs like ‘Fire It Up.’”
Alongside his renowned wit and charm, Zakk takes his study of rock’s greats very seriously. There’s a beauty in caveman-like simplicity, in the break-bottles-and-break-necks gusto of a loud power chord. Zeppelin’s “The Ocean” is playable on two strings. “Smoke on the Water”? “Iron Man”? One string. “Stillborn,” the BLS anthem from The Blessed Hellride (2003)? Another one-string banger.
It’s a lesson Wylde first learned when he copped a copy of We Sold Our Soul for Rock N’ Roll. It’s a truth hardwired in the songs he writes and the classics he plays with Ozzy or his Sabbath tribute band.
“The beauty of doing the Zakk Sabbath thing is how glaringly obvious the art of simplicity is, because every night, playing those shows, it’s just great riffs, great melodies, and great lyrics,” he says. “It’s like the basic ingredients of a cheeseburger. When done well, you don’t need the extras.”
“Less is more with everything,” he says. “Except the guitar solos.