BLS, Judas Priest Tied For The Top Spot On The Year’s Top New Hard Rock, Metal Albums List

Courtesy:  eOne

Courtesy: eOne

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.

Satriani Releases New Career-Spanning Box Set

Courtesy:  Epic Records

Courtesy: Epic Records

Joe Satriani released today a brand new box set.

Joe Satriani: The Complete Studio Recordings is a 15-disc box set containing each of Satriani’s records to date. It can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HZ2M5KE/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00HZ2M5KE&linkCode=as2&tag=legacy_recordings-20. It is also available as a collectible limited edition USB drive that can be purchased via Satriani’s official website, http://www.satriani.com. The USB drive is available in a 24-bit/96kHz “High Resolution Audio.” The HRA USB drive audio is as close as fans will ever come to the early ½” analog masters and later high sample rate digital masters. That’s because the HRA has higher bandwidth, wider dynamic range, greater detail, and more depth than a conventional CD.

Satriani will be on The Arsenio Hall Show tonight as part of his promotional tour. He will sit in with Hall’s house band. And tomorrow, April 23rd, he will be the featured guest on Rockline with host Bob Coburn, promoting both his new box set and his new book, Strange Beautiful Music. Audiences can find when and on which station they can catch Satch’s interview at http://www.rocklineradio.com/affiliates.php. Fans can also check out his appearance on the season finale of VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show. Fans can check out that episode online now at http://www.vh1.com/video/that-metal-show/full-episodes/joe-satriani/1725085/playlist.jhtml.

Along with his on-air presence, Joe is featured in the “Life” section of today’s edition of USA Today. Fans can check out the article online at http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2014/04/21/joe-satriani-box-set-autobiography/7476617/. He is also featured on the cover of Guitar World magazine alongside fellow guitar god and Black Label Society front man Zakk Wylde. Fans can check that out at http://www.guitarworld.com/may-2014-guitar-world-zakk-wylde-joe-satriani-how-build-pedal-board-john-frusciante-death-angel-tabs-lessons-and-more.

The complete album listing for Satch’s new box set is noted below:

Joe Satriani: The Complete Studio Recordings includes:

1986  Not of This Earth

1987  Surfing with the Alien

1989  Flying in a Blue Dream

1992  The Extremist

1993  Time Machine

1995  Joe Satriani

1998  Crystal Planet

2000  Engines of Creation

2002  Strange Beautiful Music

2004  Is There Love in Space?

2006  Super Colossal

2008  Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock

2010  Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards

2013  Unstoppable Momentum

2014 Additional Creations and Bonus Tracks

More information on Satriani’s new box set, book, tour news and more is available online at http://www.satriani.com and http://www.facebook.com/joesatriani. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Black Utopia Re-Issue Another Hit For Sherinian

Courtesy:  Armoury Records/Eagle RockEntertainment

Courtesy: Armoury Records/Eagle RockEntertainment

Derek Sherinian’s second solo album Black Utopia is an interesting work from this world renowned keyboardist.  There is so much to say about this record and not enough space or time to go into everything.  So instead of rambling, we’ll hit on the main points of what makes this album just as enjoyable for Sherinian’s fans the second time around as it was in its original release.   The first aspect of this album that makes it so enjoyable is its sequencing.  That is to say the order of the songs.  The second factor that listeners will appreciate (especially those that might be hearing the album for the first time) is the A-list guest stars that agreed to be a part of this album.  The third factor in the success of the album’s re-issue is the reworked liner notes.  All three of these factors together make Black Utopia an album that any Derek Sherinian fan will appreciate just as much in its new re-issue as they did in its initial release some ten years ago.

The success of Black Utopia is thanks in large part to its sequencing.  The album’s sequencing greatly exhibits the understanding of and appreciation for music possessed by both Derek Sherinian and co-producer Simon Phillips.  The pair treat Black Utopia as if they were creating a set list for a live show.  The energy of the songs rises and falls just enough throughout the course of the album’s nine tracks to keep listeners fully engaged.  That energy rises and falls just enough within the context of the songs themselves to make the energy in the transitions between songs even more impactful.  It shows on a deeper level, the pair’s understanding of and appreciation for their craft.  The resultant effect is one the makes this album one of those rare albums that listeners will want to take in from start to finish without skipping even one song. It’s just the starting point of the album’s success, too. And that’s saying something.

Black Utopia’s success is thanks in large part to its sequencing.  The sequencing of the songs would be moot without the music crafted by Sherinian and the guest musicians that make appearances on this album.  That is the second factor in this album’s creation that makes it a success.  Sherinian invited some of the biggest names in the business to join him on this record.  And it’s a good thing they accepted his invitation.  Among those major names are the likes of Simon Phillips (The Who, Judas Priest, Gary Moore, etc.), Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society), Al Di Meola (Return To Forever, Chick Corea), Yngwie Malmsteen, Billy Sheehan (Steve Vai, David Lee Roth, Mr. Big) and others.  Their talents are well shared throughout the record.  The whole group teams up on the album’s opener for what is without a doubt one of the album’s absolute best works.  Malmsteen puts on a virtual clinic with his shredding, while Sherinian himself manages somehow to mix in a touch of jazz/fusion at one point, adding even more flare and substance to the song.  And the combination of Zakk Wylde, Simon Phillips, Tony Franklin and Jerry Goodman on ‘Nightmare Cinema’ is incredible.  Sherinian’s etherial keyboard part set against Phillips’ drumming early on perfectly illustrates the song’s title.  It establishes quite the eerie vibe.  The eventual addition of Wylde on guitar adds even more depth to the song as it progresses.  It is simply something that must be heard in order to be fully appreciated.  The same can be noted of the album’s remaining tracks.  Sherinian  and his fellow musicians come together on each song to show just why their addition to Black Utopia is such an important part of the album’s overall success.

The who’s  who of musicians recruited to record Black Utopia alongside Derek Sherinian is just as important to the success of the album as its sequencing.  Without the talent of the musicians in question, the sequencing would not be all that important to discuss.  Thankfully that wasn’t the case here.  And because it wasn’t the case, it leaves only one remaining factor to note of this re-issue.  The factor in question is the updated liner notes included with the album.  This time out, Black Utopia includes an article crafted by journalist Joe Lalaina, of Guitar World magazine.  Lalaina outlines the album in his own words.  Sherinian’s own thoughts on Black Utopia are also included as a follow-up to Lalaina.  Listeners will take special interest in Sherinian’s comment about working with Brian Tichy (Something Unto Nothing, Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol).  He notes that it was his friendship and working relationship with Tichy that led the pair to work together on this album.  There’s also mention of his excitement of working with both Yngwie Malmsteen and Al Di Meola.  One of his comments in particular regarding this can’t be repeated here.  But it will most definitely have listeners laughing.  It’s the finishing touch to an album that any hard rock fan should hear at least once now that it has been re-issued by Armoury Records.  More information on this and other albums from Derek Sherinian is available online at http://www.dereksherinian.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.

Armoury Records Gives Sherinian’s Latest Solo Effort A Proper Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Armoury Records/Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Armoury Records/Eagle Rock Entertainment

Every year, consumers see any number of albums re-issued from a variety of artists, groups, and bands. The reasons for those re-issues are as varied as the re-issues themselves. It goes without saying that among that annual mass of music, some of it is worth the purchase, while some of it is not as worthwhile. Keyboardist Derek Sherinian saw all of his solo releases re-issued this week. Those albums are among the re-issues that are worth purchasing. This is especially the case for those that are long-time fans of his music. Sherinian proved throughout each of his solo releases that he was just as good on his own as he was with any of the bands and artists with whom he had already worked over the course of his career. One of the best examples of that talent is his 2009 release, Molecular Heinosity.

Molecular Heinosityis the fifth and most recent of Sherinian’s solo releases. As with his previous four solo releases, this record is largely an instrumental release. The sole song on this album that includes any lyrics is one of two pieces he recorded with long-time friend and Black Label Society front man Zakk Wylde. The song in question is ‘So Far Gone.’ Audiences will also be interested to note that Brian Tichy joins Sherinian on this track. Tichy has also played drums for the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol, and Zakk WYlde on Wylde’s 199 release Pride& Glory. Most recently, Tichy played with the hard rock supergroup Something Unto Nothing. So it goes without saying that there is a certain level of familiarity between the trio. And it shows in this song, too. The trio–along with fellow musicians Tina Guo (cello) and Tony Franklin (fretless bass)–come together to make this one of the album’s best pieces. Wylde proves once again on this song why he is one of the most revered guitarists in the music business. And Tichy’s timekeeping is rock solid despite the various time signature changes throughout the song. Sherinian’s work on the keys is not to be ignored, either. Whether by himself, partnered with Tina Guo’s performance on cello or even the semi-call and response with Wylde in the song’s bridge, Sherinian shows time and again in this song why he is such a sought after musician even after so many decades in the business. This isn’t the only point at which he exhibits such talent on this record. Another of the album’s high points comes in the album’s second track, titled ‘Ascension.’

‘Ascension’ is one of this album’s high points especially in that it boasts something of a similarity to the music he wrote with his former band mates in Dream Theater. To be even more precise, it sounds stylistically like the music that he wrote with his now ex-band mates for the band’s 1997 album Falling Into Infinity.  What is most interesting of all in this song is just how much is going on within the context of the song’s near three-minute run time.  That’s right.  This song comes in at less than three minutes in length.  To be more exact, it clocks in at two minutes and fifteen seconds.  That’s pretty short.  Yet, the way that it gradually builds, from start to finish makes it so interesting.  Making it even more interesting is what would appear to be Sherinian mimicking a guitar part with his keyboard in this song.  If that is indeed the case, he is to be even more highly commended.  That’s because that part could easily pass as a guitar.  And it shows even more his understanding of and appreciation for his instrument.  The song’s musical effect overall shows his knowledge of music and his talent just as much.  All of that together makes this song all the more enjoyable.

The songs that comprise Molecular Heinosity each have their own musical identity.  Collectively, they make the entire album one that any fan of Sherinian will enjoy.  Now that it has been re-issued courtesy of Armoury Records, the music is just part of the album’s success.  Just as important to this re-issue is the new companion booklet.  Most people don’t pay too much attention to the liner notes that come with albums in their physical form.  But as audiences will see in the album’s new liner notes, there’s plenty to take in.  This album for instance gives listeners a bio of sorts on Sherinian and his career.  It goes all the way back to his days playing with Alice Cooper and Billy Idol as well as a little surprise background on his departure from Dream Theater.  This critic was surprised to learn that he didn’t leave Dream Theater, but was in fact let go from the band.    Along with the semi-career bio, Armoury Records also included background notes from Sherinian on a handful of songs.  That background info gives extra insight into said songs.  It’s too bad that more bands, artists, and musicians don’t do this.  It’s one more reason that the physical object will never be fully replaced by the digital.  Little things like background notes on songs as art of the liner notes serve to enhance one’s listening experience.  And this album is no exception to that rule.  The bonus liner notes and bio included in this new re-issue are wonderful compliments to the album’s music.  Together, they make the whole product again, one that any fan of Derek Sherinian will want to add to their library especially if they do not already own this record.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from Derek Sherinian’s official website at http://www.dereksherinian.com/merchandise.htm.  More information on this and other releases from Derek Sherinian is available online at http://www.dereksherinian.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.

Black Label Society Tapped To Headline Revolver Golden Gods Tour

Courtesy: eOne

Courtesy: eOne

Veteran hard rock band Black Label Society has been tapped to headline this year’s annual Revolver Golden Gods Tour presented by Epiphone.  The announcement comes only weeks after the announcement that the band—fronted by legendary guitarist/vocalist Zakk Wylde—will release its latest album Catacombs of the Black Vatican April 8th.

This year’s Revolver Golden Gods tour presented by Epiphone spans thirty-two cities.  It kicks off Wednesday, April 16th in Seattle, Washington and winds down Saturday, June 7th at the home of Black Label Society, Los Angeles California.  The complete Revolver Golden Gods Tour presented by Epiphone schedule is listed below.

Wed/Apr-16  Seattle, WA @ Showbox Sodo
Thu/Apr-17  Portland, OR @ Roseland
Fri/Apr-18  Boise, ID @ Knitting Factory Concert House
Sat/Apr-19  Missoula, MT @ Wilma Theater
Mon/Apr-21  Billings, MT @ Shrine Auditorium
Fri/Apr-25  Milwaukee, WI @ The Rave
Sat/Apr-26  Nashville, TN @ Marathon Music Works
Tue/Apr-29  Ybor City, FL (Tampa) @ The Ritz
Wed/Apr-30  Lake Buena Vista, FL @ House of Blues
Fri/May-02  Birmingham, AL @ Iron City
Sun/May-04  Silver Spring, MD @ Fillmore
Mon/May-05  Clifton Park, NY (Albany) @ Northern Lights
Wed/May-07  Philadelphia, PA @ Electric Factory
Thu/May-08  Worcester, MA @ The Palladium
Fri/May-09  Sayreville, NJ @ Starland Ballroom
Sat/May-10  New York, NY @ Best Buy Theater
Mon/May-12  Norfolk, VA @ Norva
Tue/May-13  Stroudsburg, PA @ Sherman Theater
Thu/May-15  Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE
Sat/May-17  Ft. Wayne, IN @ Piere’s
Mon/May-19  Sioux Falls, SD @ The District
Tue/May-20   Chicago, IL @ House of Blues
Wed/May-21  St. Paul, MN (Minneapolis) @ Myth
Fri/May-23  Grand Prairie, TX (Dallas) @ Verizon Theater
Tue/May-27  New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues
Wed/May-28  Houston, TX @ House of Blues
Sun/Jun-01  Denver, CO @ Ogden Theater
Mon/Jun-02  Salt Lake City, UT @ The Complex – Rockwell
Wed/Jun-04  Tempe, AZ @ Marquee Theater
Thu/Jun-05  Las Vegas, NV @ Brooklyn Bowl
Fri/Jun-06  San Francisco, CA @ Regency Ballroom
Sat/Jun-07  Los Angeles, CA @ Fonda Theater

Along with its upcoming headlining spot on the Revolver Golden Golds Tour presented by Epiphone, Black Label Society will also present its own thirteen-city Canadian tour.  That tour will feature the band performing some somewhat stripped down versions of its hits as well as songs from Wylde’s solo album, Book of Shadows.

‘My Dying Time’, the lead single from BLS’ upcoming album, can be downloaded now via iTunes.  It can be downloaded at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/my-dying-time-single/id798941029.  The album in its entirety can be pre-ordered via iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/catacombs-black-vatican-deluxe/id799689367?ls=1.  The album’s track listing is available below.

01. Fields Of Unforgiveness
02. My Dying Time
03. Believe
04. Angel Of Mercy
05. Heart Of Darkness
06. Beyond The Down
07. Scars
08. Damn The Flood
09. I’ve Gone Away
10. Empty Promises
11. Shades Of Gray
12. Dark Side Of The Sun (bonus track)
13. The Nomad (bonus track)

More information on Black Label Society’s upcoming album and tours is available online at http://www.zakkwylde.com, http://twitter.com/zakkwyldebls, http://www.facebook.com/zakkwylde and http://www.facebook.com/blacklabelsociety.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Black Label Society Releases Album Art, Track Listing For Upcoming LP

Courtesy:  eOne

Courtesy: eOne

Zakk Wylde and his Black Label brethren have released the official track listing and album art for the upcoming Black Label Society album, Catacombs of the Black Vatican.  Also released is the album’s lead single, ‘My Dying Time.’  The single is available now online via iTunes.  The track listing for Catacombs of the Black Vatican is available below.

01. Fields Of Unforgiveness

02. My Dying Time


03. Believe


04. Angel Of Mercy


05. Heart Of Darkness


06. Beyond The Down


07. Scars


08. Damn The Flood


09. I’ve Gone Away


10. Empty Promises


11. Shades Of Gray


12. Dark Side Of The Sun (bonus track)


13. The Nomad (bonus track)

Catacombs of the Black Vatican will be available in stores and online via eOne on Tuesday, April 8th, 2014.  It is first full length studio album from Black Label Society since 2009’s Order of The Black, which debuted on the Billboard Top 200 Chart at #4.  The band’s most recent recording, Unblackened, was released in 2013 on both a double-disc CD set an Blu-ray. The performance taped for that live performance was recorded at L.A.’s Club Nokia.  Two live dates are currently planned for the band this Spring. The first of those dates is on May 16th in Columbus, Ohio.  The other, a performance at the annual Rockfest festival, is scheduled for May 30th.  More information on the band’s tour schedule, its upcoming schedule and more is available online at http://www.facebook.com/blacklabelsociety and http://www.blacklabelsociety.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Zakk Wylde Releases Teaser Trailer For Upcoming BLS Album

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Media outlets across the country have already started releasing their lists of the year’s most anticipated albums.  Bands the likes of Slipknot, Tool, Mastadon, Down, and so many others have found themselves on the lists of so many writers.  Now Black Label Society founder and front man Zakk Wylde has thrown his band’s name in the ring for a spot on those lists.  Wylde released a semi-cryptic video today via YouTube announcing the upcoming release of BLS’ upcoming new release. Audiences can check out the trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fN13Pp5EJWs&feature=youtu.be.

Catacombs of the Black Vatican is currently scheduled to be released April 8th, 2014.  It is the band’s first new full length studio release since 2009’s Order of the Black and will be the band’s ninth full length studio release.  Order of the Black debuted at Number Four on Billboard’s Top 200 Chart in its original release.  The band’s most recent release is 2013’s live recording, Unblackened.  That recording was released separately on double-disc CD, DVD, and Blu-ray.  It saw Wylde and company performing last year, a much more toned down set than that for which they are known to hold.  It was recorded at Club Nokia in Los Angeles, California, BLS’ the territory of the BLS home chapter.

Long time BLS fans know the “Black Vatican” to be Wylde’s recording studio.  It is where some of BLS’ best music has been recorded and produced.  That knowledge serves to build even more excitement over the upcoming record. More information on Catacombs of the Black Vatican is available online at http://www.facebook.com/blacklabelsociety, http://www.facebook.com/zakkwylde, http://twitter.comzakkwyldebls, and http://www.zakkwylde.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.