Zakk Wylde and his Black Label Society took a chance by stripping down their sound, by heavy metal standards, and recording their newest release: Unblackened. Metal fans are by far the most dedicated fans in the rock genre, but they also don’t always take kindly to change. When you read that the Black Label Society is putting out a live album with a greater use of acoustic instrumentation, the average metal fan might be tempted to turn away or holler “Sell out!”
What they get on this record, however, might actually be superior to the normal BLS excellence. With an almost southern rock bite to these songs, you gain a better appreciation for Wylde’s vocal abilities. The gritty sound of his voice creates a perfect fusion with the stripped down music that gives new soul to his songs. It isn't like you are losing the solos or Zakk’s famous hammer-on notes either.
Rather than dwell on the fact that the lead guitar isn't out front as much on these tracks, embrace the powerful voice that is breathing new life into songs like The Blessed Hellride. I would say to the fans of the band that you are getting a spin on these songs that make them even more powerful than their originals. To the bands haters, I would argue that hearing these songs in a classic, southern rock vain may give you a new appreciation for this underrated band.
I don’t say underrated lightly, either. Metal and hard rock bands tend to get overlooked by the mainstream because their songs tend to tackle difficult issues instead of seeing how much they can rub their asses on stuff or how many sledgehammers they can lick. The Black Label Society gets due credit for their musicianship, but the fact that their stellar lyrical contact and Zakk’s vocal strengths go largely ignored is criminal to music.
Unblackened encompasses the best of all things Zakk Wylde and the Black Label Society. It’s perfect for somebody new to the band to gain access to the often hidden strength of the vocals and it’s great for the longtime fan to reacquaint itself with the blistering solos and a catalog of great music. I always argue that there is also an atmosphere to live music that can’t be replicated in any recording studio and this album captures the same vibe that classic live albums like Frampton Comes Alive and Live After Death have. It's Live After Death good, seriously! Spread out over two discs, it’s the perfect change of pace for the band and brings you the sound and feel of an authentic live rock band. The album is available tomorrow, September 24th, 2013 and deserves the support of rockers and metal heads nationwide. Pick it up on iTunes or if you aren't a poser pick up a physical copy and enjoy the whole package. Horns up, you all know what to do.