April 1, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 69°F


Review: Rockers display intense vocals with refreshing musical range

"Catacombs of the Black Vatican"

Black Label Society

With more than 16 years of experience in the music industry, Black Label Society has certainly managed to maintain its image as a classic, heavy metal band. With hardcore, head-banging guitar riffs and lead singer Zakk Wylde’s grungy vocals, the band has not strayed far from its signature sound over the years. Yet, with the release of its ninth studio album, “The Catacombs of the Black Vatican,” Black Label Society presents fans with a diverse range of music, alternating between its traditional, heavy rock ballads and softer melodic tunes.

The album’s opening track, “Fields of Unforgiveness,” begins with a taste of the familiar, bringing in the dense rhythms familiar to the gritty, heavy metal sound of “Alice in Chains.” Tying it up with an intricate guitar solo and a steady drum tempo, the song captivates the essence of the traditional Black Label Society sound.

As the album progresses, however, the band introduces a new mix of instrumental arrangements. Tracks such as “Believe” and “The Nomad” seem to be inspired by a more classic rock influence, adding in softer acoustic guitar melodies and cowbell noises that mix well with the band’s customarily thick electric guitar riffs.

The real appeal of the album lies within its softer and lighter tracks. Wylde is able to show off a different vocal range with “Angel of Mercy,” showcasing his smooth vibrato and falsetto that may remind listeners of his vocal talent. Additionally, the tune shifts into an airy melodic sound, bringing in violins and a piano to create a softer feel. Similarly, the track “Scars” replaces the amplified sounds of electric instruments with an acoustic guitar and a slower tempo that may remind the audience of an almost country-like sound.

“The Catacombs of the Black Vatican” is not an album that leaves Black Label Society’s well-known, heavyweight guitar riffs and upbeat rock tempos behind. Rather, it shows off a different side to the band, a refreshing reminder of its capability to produce a variety of rock sounds. While the album itself didn’t include any significant surprises, the varying degree of sounds is a perfect example of how the band’s diverse musical ability has been, and will continue to be appealing to such a wide range of fans.