Zakk Wylde and his Black Label brethren released early this year what is without a doubt one of the year’s most thought provoking albums. Musically speaking, the album is classic Black Label Society from start to finish. Lyrically, it proves to be a work that will most definitely have listeners paying close attention. Those that have already picked up the album’s deluxe edition will understand why. Throughout most of the course of the album, listeners are presented with songs centered on some rather deep themes. By the time the album reaches its end in ‘The Nomad’ however, those themes have turned to a more positive light. And it all starts with the album’s opener, ‘Fields of Unforgiveness.’ With its mix of heavy guitars and equally heavy lyrics, it makes for quite the opener to the record. Things eventually take a sharp turn with the equally hard rocking yet rather angry song ‘Damn The Flood’, which seems to see Wylde writing about all the people out there that would try to spit lies as easily as a snake spitting its venom. By the album’s ultimate end though, the outcome is more positive, with Wylde singing about moving on with life wherever it may lead. Whether all of these songs came from a personal place or simply as a concept idea, they combine with the album’s musical side to make what is one of the most powerful records that Wylde and his band mates have written to date.
Catacombs of the Black Vatican opens on a powerful note in the form of ‘Fields of Unforgiveness.’ This first impression from the band is what leads one to wonder if this album is indeed a concept album of sorts or if it came from personal experience. Wylde sings in this piece, “So you think that it’s over/So you think that it’s done/The fields of unforgiveness never die/They’ve just begun/You thought you’d elude life’s sorrow/emptiness and grief/The oceans of life’s contempt/Drown the liars and the thieves.” That one line concerning liars and thieves is the center point of this song. It almost comes across as addressing someone that has done something really bad. The person in question thinks that he (?) has gotten away with said deed. But as the chorus notes, it’s never over. “The fields of unforgiveness never die.” Such a searing indictment set against an equally hard rocking musical backing makes this song one heck of a first impression from the members of Black Label Society on its latest record.
As hard hitting as ‘Fields of Unforgiveness’ proves to be with its mix of Wylde’s trademark shredding and equally searing lyrics, it isn’t the album’s only heavy piece. Just as heavy and hard hitting is ‘Damn The Flood.’ With its equally driving sludge rock sound and its indictment of the proverbial snakes out there, this song stands out as one of the album’s most powerful moments. Wylde sings against the song’s solid, southern sludge sound, “This flood of snakes/The breeding lies/Existence of unjust/Spewing falsehoods as they crawl/Assassins of one’s trust…Poisoned blood manipulates/The bending of one’s will/Assassins of your sacred words/For trust it shall be killed.” These verses could be applied to so many situations. It could be applied to this nation’s political leaders. It could apply to an everyday basis in terms of those that call themselves friends, only to kill others’ trust once those backs are turned. As pessimistic as the song sounds, it’s actually positive as listeners will note in the song’s chorus. Wylde sings in the song’s chorus of dealing with those people and their evil ways. Yet again, it proves in the end to be one of the album’s best moments with that combination of musical and lyrical heaviness. It shows once more Wylde’s long ago argument that a song can be heavy without being heavy.
Through all of the lyrical and musical heaviness that makes up Catacombs of the Black Vatican, those that have the album’s deluxe edition will note that these is a message that through all of the negativity in the world, one can persevere through it all. He sings in ‘The Nomad’ of facing one’s past but moving on at the same time. As audiences will hear, he sings, “I’ve left the past behind/So much more to see/Like a feather to the wind/Wherever it may lead/Wherever it may lead/Where I’ll never know/For I can’t be tied down/I can hear it call.” He is singing about accepting the past and knowing it’s there, but not letting it weigh down an individual on one’s journey in life. Wylde and company exhibit such talent musically in this song. It isn’t the driving, hard rocker that the previously noted songs prove to be. It is more controlled. That more controlled nature makes this song a fitting end to an album that boasts just as much heaviness in its finale as in its beginning. That solid heaviness from start to finish both musically and lyrically prove why Catacombs of the Black Vatican is one of this year’s top two new hard rock and metal albums of 2014.
Catacombs of the Black Vatican is available now in stores and online. It can be downloaded via iTunes here. It can also be purchased at any BLS live show including tonight’s show at the Vogue Theatre in Indianapolis, IN. The band’s current tour schedule and all of the latest news from the band are available online at http://www.facebook.com/blacklabelsociety and http://www.blacklabelsociety.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.