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Black Label Society
Catacombs Of The Black Vatican
May 2014
Released: 2014, EOne
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Helias Papadopoulos

Zakk Wylde is a man who hasn’t an easy ride lately (see health problems, death of a close family member). After all, he and his partners in Black Label Society released the incredible ORDER OF THE BLACK. Now, they are back with another great album, CATACOMBS OF THE BLACK VATICAN. We all enjoyed the amazing first single “My Dying Time” which was the best omen of what would follow and aptly chosen as such.

This is a record that makes it clear to see why they’ve made a name for themselves ever since. And yes, if the album starts with: “Fields of Unforgiveness” and “My Dying Time” is definitely a good start for someone who missed the dirty rock-iness of Zakk’s Gibson. There is a strong groovy start while listening and beautifully combined Alice in Chains influences, melodic refrain and double voiced choruses correctly and cleverly used into the music. “Believe” song serves us then an extra dose of Sabbath- emulation, while in “Angel of Mercy”, Zakk goes back to the BOOK OF SHADOWS hideout, where there was an atmosphere of melancholy ballads - and not a few the times we've seen this ‘piece’ of Wylde and of course we are not spoiled of of that side of Zakk Wylde.

Heavy-Sabbath moments go with “Heart of Darkness”, a typical and BLS classic stylized piece of all the good that we know from the past and it is understood that there are also pinch harmonics (whistles) that give a country feeling in the record, which is a registered trademark in each tray of Black Label as impressive solo with endless wah-wah (the well known guitar squeals). With “Beyond the Down” the Heavy-Rock- stoner -Groove- emulation continues unabated, with melodic vocals and a " burr " , so that later to welcome another quiet phase of the album in a more calm-down travelling and melancholic minutes in the "Scars".

The striking is continued with full force with the crazy pentatonic-riffs of “Damn the Flood” which has a beautiful Black Sabbath-meets-Pantera majesty or even the “I've Gone Away” the fingerboard is on fire with the beginning of a very loud and unbearable heavy riff and later to more slow-mid tempo melodic passages. Penultimate track is the “Empty Promises” with a more marching doomy-stoner riff reminiscent of “Snowblind” enough.)

The album closes with the extra bluesy beauty of “Shades of Gray”. This is the best ending of any BLS record to date. The bonus tracks “Dark Side of The Sun” (strong bears to mind Sabbath’s “Pshycho Man”) and “Nomad” or “Blind Man” (depends on the edition you have, the US or Europe one) are quite lovely.

Despite the variation, the tracks seem to flow together successfully. CATACOMBS OF THE BLACK VATICAN is an album that will be among the exceptional albums of Black Label Society. They have managed to stay true to their roots, but still go through an evolution that is firmly saving them from copying themselves. An effective joining together of immense, ink-black heaviness and beautiful though heartfelt melodies. This is album that will pass through the catacombs of bad metal unscarred and that’s the utility and the benefit for it and the band as well, and it’s the reputation as one of the most heavy and emotional shapes given to a Black Label Society album.
Track Listing

1. Fields of Unforgiveness
2. My Dying Time
3. Believe
4. Angel of Mercy
5. Heart of Darkness
6. Beyond the Down
7. Scars
8. Damn the Flood
9. I've Gone Away
10. Empty Promises
11. Shades of Gray
12. Dark Side of the Sun (Bonus Track)
13. Nomad (Bonus Track)


Zakk Wylde – vocals, guitar, piano, acoustic guitar
John DeServio – bass, additional vocals
Chad Szeliga – drums

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