Black Label Society @ Best Buy Theater (5/10/2014)

Logo - Black Label Society

Artist: Black Label Society
Venue: Best Buy Theater (New York, NY)
Opener: Down, Devil You Know, Butcher Babies
Date: 5/10/2014
Label: eOne Entertainment

I had last caught Black Label Society during the 2013 Gigantour that featured Megadeth and Newsted (the band with former Metallica/Voivod bassist Jason Newsted in case you were unaware). Now that tour itself actually had three more bands on the daily roster but not during its NYC stop which was instead broken up into two shows and left the one without BLS and Newsted being cancelled. For that show Zakk and the BLS boys were supporting the live release “Unblackened” which is a solid recommendation in my book because it was a heavier version of an Unplugged album and from top to bottom this was some raw stuff. There was even a video release to go along with it. Fast forwarding to where we are this evening, it was now time for what was called “The Revolver Golden Gods Tour” and this event seemed to work in tandem with the magazines own awards show. You’ve heard of “The Golden Gods Awards” right? Good, let’s continue then. The four bands on this touring package would begin with Butcher Babies, Devil You Know, Down and close out with the headlining Black Label Society. Since I always find a massive event like this of interest I would get there nice and early in order to be able to bring you thoughts and images on each of the performers. Butcher Babies would be the first item of focus – here we go.

Butcher Babies: Tonight would mark my third time having seen The Butcher Babies in action over the last couple of years and with the shows that had previously taken place (one being with Otep and another on the Rockstar Mayhem Festival) the band as an option made sense. With the Revolver Golden Gods Tour (henceforth being written as RGGT for brevity) I don’t think that it made much sense. Bear in mind that I do not say this as a slight but I was unsure as to whether the band was making any new fans this evening or raising the level of ire in the musical minds of the BLS loyalists. At Gigantour last year I saw BLS fans walking out before Megadeth came on and while that surprised me, they were there for one thing and only one thing – that was a crushing set by BLS and once it was over, their night had ended and it was time to return to normal life. Clearly there are defined lines as to what the larger BLS crowd likes and will support without question. Now that being said the ladies in the Butcher Babies were giving the audience their all and they are something else to watch. It’s almost dizzying how both Heidi and Carla patrol the stage like angry lionesses and deliver their sound. It’s an intense delivery for sure and for those who wonder if the band still performs in skimpy attire the answer is no. They are pretty much fully clothed up there and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Their most recent album is entitled “Goliath” and is available on Century Media Records. I look forward to seeing their energetic display again but on a bill that makes more logical sense to me. Oh and before I forget they also have a comic book out which I am sure my fellow geeks will like. Devil You Know was up next.

Devil You Know: Devil You Know is the new band that finds singer Howard Jones holding the microphone and you might remember him as being a member of Killswitch Engage for a number of years. The band also features members of All Shall Perish and Divine Heresy and when I poked around a little bit more for details was surprised to find them listed as a supergroup. Meaning no offense to the talented players in this lineup, I am thinking that the term is devalued at this point because simply having a new band with members of other bands does not equate to a supergroup in my humble opinion. Anyway, so I was walking in to their sound with completely new ears and I was curious as to how it would be received by the audience. From the moment that Howard took to the stage while the guys crushed their riffs I noticed a little more support. Perhaps because Jones has not been heard from in some decent amount of time and was someone that this audience was looking forward to hearing new material from. The band is signed to Nuclear Blast Records which is a very good thing since their listeners are often hard core in terms of support and their debut album is entitled “The Beauty Of Destruction”. Jones is responsible for all of the lyrics while Sankey and Artusato have composed all the music. Being new to the sound I can only say that I enjoyed the presentation and felt that it was super-duper heavy and in some sense had a similar vibe to what we liked about Howard in KSE. I’ve got the album in my label download queue to give it a better listen when I get the chance but I think if you have missed him as a player then you will likely be supportive of it. The venue was now getting a little crazier as our main courses of Metal got themselves together as Down prepped for their arrival on the stage.

Devil You Know Set List: A New Beginning, My Own, Embracing the Torture, Seven Years Alone, A Mind Insane, The Killer, Shut It Down.

Down: It’s been a couple of years since Down had toured around these parts and one of the things that the band has been doing is releasing these shorter EP’s as opposed to full length albums and I liked this idea since it let fans get the music in their hands a little bit faster. When I last caught them they had the “Purple” EP out and it was also referred to as “Down IV – Part I” and the latest effort is its follow up “Down IV – Part II”. Some changes had happened since that last time as well, as guitarist Kirk Windstein had decided to move on and in his place we would find Bobby Landgraf who hailed from a band called Honky (if my Google research is correct in its findings). I would sure miss Windstein in the lineup but so be it, no band can remain intact forever. Even those who try seem to find it rather difficult at the end of the day. Now with a singer like Phil Anselmo taking charge of the microphone in a sludgy band like this you know it’s going to be intense and as much as NYC seems to love Phil, he very visibly loves them back. Anselmo was sporting a beard this time around and it added to the aural drama that was taking place on the stage. Down is definitely a band that you want to get more into if you are enjoying those finer Metal craftsman in life such as classic Sabbath, St. Vitus and pretty much anything that is toning it and tuning it down a few steps to get the extra crunch. The crowd came more to life once Phil hit the stage and that meant the bodies were flying over the barriers between the stage and the audience. It gets even crazier when Phil decides to get as close to the edge of the stage to reach out to his fans as possible because they become like ravenous animals. Now even though the band has these two new EP’s out we would only find a single song coming from each of them and that left the set to touch upon the bands deeper catalog. I was good with that as I am not one of those fans who want a whole lot of new stuff in one set. Space it out or change up the repertoire on your next go round. Lucky for us Down decided to do just that and give us a wide variety this evening. I have not yet heard the full new EP but the tune that they delivered tonight from it sounded alright to me and I guess it is what one should expect of Down at this point in their career – solid, sludgy doom Metal. Highlights for me came via “Bury Me In Smoke” and “Stone The Crow”. Anselmo appeared to be having as much fun as the audience tonight and that is never a bad thing to witness. Black Label Society was up next and you could feel the excitement in the air for this set.

Black Label Society: It was now time for the main event and at this point in the night the place was jam packed to what appeared to be its maximum capacity. There would be no curtain drawn up where the seats were as we found happening with the recent Blackfield show and standing almost elbow to elbow with the various members of the BLS Chapters from the East Coast along with those who had travelled much farther to participate in the show. Much like we found in Down, there were also some changes in the lineup for BLS in terms of rhythm guitar and drums as both Nick Catanese and Chad Szeliga had moved on to other projects and in their place we found Dario Lorina who I remember seeing in Lizzy Borden a few years ago on the guitar and Jeff Fabb who used to pound the skins for In This Moment, Filter and James Durbin (who was the Metal head on American Idol a few years back). I love what both of these players would bring to the table in BLS since each had a unique and highly interesting pre-BLS history to them. The massive curtain that shows the skull and logo of Black Label Society was even too big for this stage and flowed to the floor below and when the dramatic light showed Zakk’s shadow it was suddenly gone while he ripped into the opening tune of “My Dying Time” which hails from the recently released “Catacombs Of The Black Vatican” and as the beginning part of the bands set was delivered we would get five numbers in total from the new release. Zakk swapped them around and didn’t play as we get them on the album which was a good thing and overall I had to say that I liked what the new CD was all about. While I realize that I said something similar about the new Down material, the same actually applies with BLS in that the fans are not going to have to worry about any experimentation in their music. It is pure solid guitar driven Metal from beginning to end and this new album keeps up their traditions and follows along with their now classics.

black label society, black label society live photos
Black Label Society in Concert by Ken Pierce (2014)

Speaking of the bands classics, they managed to get to every one of the songs that I like the most in this evenings set with “The Blessed Hellride”, “Suicide Messiah” and the always moving “In This River”. I did have to laugh when we saw the BLS beach balls heading out into the audience because a Metal band doesn’t seem like the proper forum for this but oh well, the crowd was loving it and several fans even went home with one of these things once they deflated it. Zakk had me cracking up during the band intros and was coming off like a sports announcer as he introduced his right hand man John Deservio and gave him one of the most complimentary intros that I have heard in a long time. Zakk is not someone shy at public speaking and I tell you if he does a speaking tour like we recently found Scott Ian doing I am there in heartbeat. He got to their new drummer Jeff Fabb and talked up his skills and abs which was rather amusing and when he got to new guitarist Dario Lorina, he cited how he had gone down to Las Vegas to negotiate with Lizzy Borden and would be contracting Dario for about eighteen million dollars over the course of five years. Now this is all kidding of course but since I just know one of the fans had to record this on their phone, Dario can easily get his “Show Me The Money” game going on. What made this so much fun as we were in the middle of the draft picks and they were happening down at Radio City Music Hall this same week. Sadly all sports references are lost on me since I don’t follow much of it.

black label society, black label society live photos
Black Label Society in Concert by Ken Pierce (2014)

Now the other night it seemed that Phil Anselmo came out after the closing number to sing a Pantera song with the band and there was high anticipation that this would happen again tonight in NYC and as luck would have it we got the surprise appearance. To say that the room exploded during this closing tune would be an understatement. “I’m Broken” would be the tune and the bodies were flying everywhere during it. As someone who is fortunate enough to take photos of the band in the professional sense in the pit I had to say that this was the most dangerous place on earth during this particular part of the show. I think I would rather take my chances in a shark tank the next time  After the tune ended Phil and Zakk embraced like brothers and it was over. Of course this kept the audience chatter about a Pantera reunion being done with Zakk on guitar and perhaps at this point something like this can and should happen. 2014 marks ten years since Dime was taken from us and it would be the perfect celebration of his life and his music if these Metal forces joined together for that kind of event. Even if it’s a one off. This sold out show was one for the books and I cannot wait to sink my teeth into the new album a little deeper once I get back to the writing command HQ. Good stuff from beginning to end during the BLS set and these new additions to the lineup did it justice. I was very happy to see this and wish them the very best going forward.

Full Black Label Society Photo Gallery:

Down Set List:
1. Eyes of the South
2. We Knew Him Well
3. Witchtripper
4. Lifer
5. Pillars of Eternity
6. Hail the Leaf
7. Losing All
8. Stone the Crow
9. Bury Me in Smoke

Black Label Society Set List:
1. My Dying Time
2. Godspeed Hell Bound
3. Destruction Overdrive
4. Heart of Darkness
5. Overlord
6. Damn the Flood
7. Guitar Solo
8. Parade of the Dead
9. Fields of Unforgiveness
10. Angel of Mercy
11. In This River
12. The Blessed Hellride
13. Suicide Messiah
14. Concrete Jungle
15. Stillborn
16. I’m Broken (with Phil Anselmo)

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