Black Label Society
CATACOMBS OF THE BLACK VATICAN
When Zakk Wylde decides to release new music, the metal world definitely stops for a moment and listens. They may not like it all, but they do listen. It's a testament to how unbelievable the man is on guitar; a true legend who stands shoulder to shoulder with the Eddie Van Halen's and Dimebag Darrell's of the world of guitar playing. If Zakk has a habit though, it's to release an album that's dull every once in awhile. It doesn't happen all the time, but it certainly has been known to happen. SHOT TO HELL was pretty lame, and 1919 ETERNAL was a little too full of concept instead of substance. Still, the last two releases, ORDER OF THE BLACK and the acoustic THE SONG REMAINS NOT THE SAME left me thinking that Wylde was back to his creative best, and caused a lot of anticipation for his latest. Unfortunately, CATACOMBS OF THE BLACK VATICAN just doesn't measure up. Slow, plodding and mid-tempo, the word that comes to mind throughout is boring.
If you are a BLS fan as I am, you won't hate this release. All the elements of a traditional BLS release are here. Zakk sings as he always does (although it's really time for him to stop singing through his nose and get back to the more gritty vocal style from the beginning of his career with BLS). The songs are all melodic and simple. The guitar playing? As always, it's great with some truly standout solos mixed in here and there. Without question, this release's best track is "Believe"; a midtempo rocker that's not only cool, but contains one of those trademark Wylde guitar blasts in the middle for good measure. Other songs, like the first single "My Dying Time" will probably surprise a few people with the fact that there are no pinch harmonic squeals anywhere in the song (which, by my count, is the first time EVER on a studio track from Zakk in BLS or Ozzy).
Unfortunately though, that's really where the good words have to stop. Not that there's any truly "bad" songs on CATACOMBS, but there's just nothing much that stands out at all. So much of this release is midtempo and boring that it's just not a lot of fun to listen to. It seems like since the success of "In This River", Wylde goes back to that writing well over and over again with further degraded results every time. Listening to songs like "Angel Of Mercy", you just hear it as a b-version of "In This River". Again, a great guitar solo in the break, but that's about the extend of it's goodness. Further CATACOMBS just doesn't have enough ragers on it. Songs like "Heart Of Darkness" try to be, but they never get all the way there. The pace is just too slow.
PITRIFF RATING - 50/100 - Definitely a disappointment coming off of ORDER OF THE BLACK to say the least. CATACOMBS OF THE BLACK VATICAN is one of those releases that you might give a listen every now and again if you are a fan of Black Label Society, and it's not likely to chase any fans away. At the same time though, it's not going to really serve to feed those current chapter members of the SDMF. There' a lot of great soloing here, but it's mixed into some fairly dull music.