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Full Throttle Rock

Album Review: Black Label Society - Unblackened

Posted on January 9, 2014 at 9:30 PM

Black Label Society - Unblackened

Written by Dave Smiles

As a fan of hard rock and metal you no doubt like the heavy stuff, the shredding guitars and the double bass drums hammering away, but what makes rock and all its many subgenres so interesting and fun is the contrast we can have within bands, within albums and even within some songs. Sure there are many bands who just keep to the thousand miles an hour song tempos, but even some of the heaviest bands will have sections, if not whole songs, that take a few steps back to add some more musical dynamics the speed just can’t accommodate.

Many bands have done acoustic shows, showcasing their musicianship and songwriting talents by stripping down their songs to the bare essentials. What separates Black Label Societies’ approach on Unblackened is that it’s not just acoustic renditions of their heavier songs, it’s more of an overhaul reworking of the tracks. Classics like Stillborn, In This River and Blessed Hellride gain a whole new life as do many of the other songs performed. The concert also digs deep into the BLS catalogue, and Zakk Wylde’s solo work, to revive some forgotten gems like Losin Your Mind and one of my favorites’ Sold My Soul. There are also some solo pieces from Wylde, renditions of Takillya and Speedball.

The performances on this album are what you’d expect from such a tight unit like BLS, focused and soulful playing with no fear of mellowing out, and some blistering guitar work from Zakk; who does keep the solos fairly familiar on an electric guitar.

Something that Zakk doesn’t get enough credit for his vocals, a kind of Southern soulfulness crossed with Ozzy. His singing on Sold My Soul and House of Doom is as impacting as his guitar playing.

A new addition to the Black Label family is keyboardist Derek Sherinian, who has played with acts such as Alice Cooper, Dream Theater and Billy Idol, as well as producing more than a half dozen solo albums. No doubt some fans will have concerns with the addition of keys to the BLS sound, but as far as keyboard players go, Sherrinian is here to rock.

In addition to the 17 live tracks, the double disc album comes with six studio tracks including a cover of Bill Withers’ classic track Ain’t No Sunshine. And some rerecorded versions of BLS songs.

This is not only an album for the various Black Label chapters across the globe, but for music fans who appreciate great song writing and honest performances from musicians striving for excellence.


Categories: Album Reviews

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