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Black Label Society | Alcohol Fueled Brewtality Live | review | rock | Lollipop

Black Label Society

Alcohol Fueled Brewtality Live!! + 5 (Spitfire)
by Brian Varney

Black Label Society, led by former Ozzy shredder/Pride and Glory guy Zakk Wylde, are garnering equal parts respect and scorn in the heavy music underground. Those who love the band congratulate their old-school metal sound and their refusal to go either the rap metal or death metal routes. Those who dislike often use words like "cheesy" and "mullet" to describe these beer-soaked maniacs.

Me, I'm in the middle. I heard the Sonic Brew CD and I thought it had good points, but I also had problems with parts of it, especially Zakk's utter lack of talent as a vocalist. I'm not saying a man's gotta be a technically great singer (fuck, I love James Hetfield's voice on the early Metallica stuff), but Zakk simply cannot sing. At all. He tries to growl and sound menacing but he ends up sounding like he's gargling. When he tries the low-key approach on the slower numbers, he just sounds like a million other Eddie Vedder/Layne Staley clones. I'm also not a fan of his more excessive guitar moments, where he betrays his '80s metal roots with a multitude of squeals, peals, and various sounds you'd get from a whammy bar (even though he doesn't use one).

But I don't want to sound as if the band has nothing to offer. There's no denying that Zakk can write a song. His obvious deep and abiding love of Lynyrd Skynyrd serves him well, as can be seen from the acoustic disc's (yes, I said "acoustic disc," more on that later) "Like a Bird," one of the finer new songs I've heard in a while. But, again, there's that vocal thing.

To compound all of this, I'm not much of a fan of live albums. I like seeing bands live, but trying to capture that experience on disc is a pretty futile pursuit. There are mistakes and variances which aren't a problem when you can see the band performing; remove yourself from that charged atmosphere, though, and the glitches glare. This album is no exception. The performances are good, but there's just no substitute for being there. If you're into Black Label Society, I'd check out the studio albums or see them live (they're on Ozzfest this summer, so check 'em out if you can stomach the rap metal deluge that festival offers).

But there is that acoustic disc I mentioned. Although slightly misnomered since there are electric guitars all over it, the bonus five-song EP takes a decidedly more mellow approach, including covers of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" and Black Sabbath's "Snowblind" along with three very strong originals. I personally prefer the EP to the live album, and I wouldn't mind hearing a whole album of Zakk originals in this vein. I still wish he'd get a new singer, though.
(101 Bay Ave. Hicksville, NY 11801)


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