Entering Pittsburgh’s Stage AE, “Zakk Wylde may be the last true Guitar God on this planet,” was overheard within the enthusiastic crowd. Wylde may have made his fame from being Ozzy‘s on and off guitar player, but he has forged a loyal group of followers and fans with Black Label Society. And why wouldn’t he? The man consistently tours either with BLS, Ozzy, Zakk Sabbath, or solo. He plays the guitar like it’s another appendage and he has the strut and attitude of the old regime of metal gods. The fact that he is built like a brick shithouse and looks like sasquatch stole a biker’s outfit only adds to his persona which includes being one of the most serious guitar players to not take himself seriously.
Pittsburgh is lucky enough to be on BLS’s tour list for quite some time and their performance (Feb 6, 2018) proves why the crowd keeps coming back. Opening with Genocide Junkies from 1919 Eternal, the band just kept ripping it up from there as they dove into Funeral Bell and Suffering Overdue. Wylde continued to let his guitar do the speaking as John (JD) DeServio (bass), Jeff Fabb (drums), and Dario Lorina (guitar) pummeled their individual instruments with abandon. Watching Zakk get up on his riser, skull and cross adorned mike stand and all, and whip his hair in a frenzy as he plays more notes than your fingers can air guitar to in mere seconds is a rush each and every time one might see him live. The fact that he consistently has put together a very tight band to work with him adds to the appeal of BLS, for the members are a traveling family of sorts.
BLS are touring their latest release, Grimmest Hits. Grimmest Hits, the highly anticipated follow up to Billboard Top 5 charting titles Catacombs of the Black Vatican (2014) and Order of the Black (2010). It reached #1 on the Billboard Hard Music, #1 Independent, and #2 Rock Charts. The LP was also the #1 selling album at Best Buy for the week of its release, beating out Grammy nominated, Fall Out Boy by a considerable margin. Upon its release last in January, Grimmest Hits landed at #1 spot on iTunes Top Rock Albums Chart and #7 on the Overall Top Albums Chart. Full setlist here.
One of the favorite parts of any BLS show is the inevitable solo by Wylde as he plays behind his head and every which way in between passing through the crowd and even into the balcony. Add to this BLS hits such as Suicide Messiah (inspired by Scott Weiland’s life), the Dimebag Darrel tribute In This River (with piano solo), as well as the classic Stillborn (that features Ozzy doing backing vocals on the record). As always BLS brought the goods and distributed them freely and viciously, keeping us wanting more.
A special treat to the show was the edition of Corrosion of Conformity. COC has been on a tear recently as they have reunited with Pepper Keenan on guitar and lead vocal. Pepper has become a fave due to his role in Down with ex-Pantera frontman Phillip Anselmo. But, before he graced that band, he became known in the COC crowd when he first joined the band as a guitarist and was asked to do the vocals on 1991’s Blind song “Vote With a Bullet” which started their first mainstream attention.
The true four among fans of COC are considered Pepper, Mike Dean (bass), Woody Weatherman (guitar), and Reed Mullin (drums). Unfortunately, Reed was out for part of the tour (he stuck out the first month), including Pittsburgh, as he nurses a knee injury that required surgery (filling in has been John Green, Mullin’s drum tech). Mostly intact and with a formidable stand-in drummer, COC absolutely destroyed Pittsburgh. The combination of stoner metal-punk that was unleashed is comparable to repeatedly getting punched in the face and getting intoxicated from it instead of feeling pain. Keenan’s vocals were perfectly steel reinforced with just enough of that signature Pepper gravel to make them stand out. His guitar playing is diverse and masterful as well, with a touch thrash, country rock, and true NOLA sludge blended together. Add to this Woody’s crunchy and perfectly timed rhythm guitar in the vein of Malcolm Young, as well as Mike Dean’s solid low end, and the conglomeration leaves one with a distinct sound that can carry many variables to keep it interesting and evolving.
COC’s set was tight and powerful, not relying on spectacle but prowess and panache. Their new effort, No Cross No Crown, is no less punitive to the ears as it hearkens to a “Black Sabbath-esque” formula containing slowed down sludge scenery. It was released January 12th via Nuclear Blast Entertainment, toppled Billboard charts upon its first week of release earning #67 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart, #12 on the Billboard Top Current Albums Chart, and #3 on the Top Hard Music Albums Chart making it the highest charting album of the band’s career. Captured in North Carolina with longtime producer John Custer, No Cross No Crown marks the first studio recording with vocalist/guitarist Pepper Keenan in over a decade and has reaped critical accolades from fans and critics alike both stateside and abroad. Please check out our interview with Mike Dean on YouTube.
If you missed it, check out the band’s recently-released new video for “The Luddite” HERE as well as their animated clip for “Wolf Named Crow” HERE. No Cross No Crown is available on CD, digital, vinyl, and cassette formats. Various order bundles are available at nuclearblast.com/coc-nocrossnocrown.
Portland rockers Red Fang opened the evening touring with their latest, Only Ghosts, out now on CD/LP/Digital via Relapse Records (Physical packages and digital orders are available via Relapse.com HEREand Bandcamp HERE). Red Fang has been around since @2005. Often put under the moniker stoner rock, the band has become a staple go-to for band fans like Mastodon and Dillinger Escape Plan. Interestingly enough the band has announced a special wine collaboration with Teutonic Wine Company, a small urban winery in their hometown that makes wines in the style of the Middle Mosel Valley in Germany and France’s Alsace region. The wine, aptly called “Red Fang Red” is a blend of varieties that have never been done before: Pinot Noir, Tannat and Gewürztraminer. To celebrate, Teutonic and the band teamed up for a wine release party like no other on January 13th at the Teutonic headquarters in Portland. Attendees got get to enjoy a DJ set from drummer John Sherman, a wine tasting with the band, munch on house-made corn dogs and much more. By all means, Red Fang is a must-see for any KYUSS-style loving rocker.