© Jay Hawkins
Photos by Jay Hawkins
Tonight’s gig was the stuff of dreams and one that’s been in my diary for a while now. With such an incredible line, which i’m dubbing an American Invasion, it was certainly one I wasn’t prepared to miss!
Getting to Nottingham, with all the road works about just lately, is an absolute nightmare. With early doors of 6pm I managed to leave work 10 minutes early and drove like a bat out of hell to get to Rock City in time. Thankfully, despite my panic the first band didn’t take to the stage until 6.45pm, but I didn’t know that at the time. I arrived all a fluster, but I’d made it and in time to see the first of two great support acts.
Crobot are from the small town of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, which was home for these guys, but of late they have been a touring band, so a van or tour bus is where they currently reside, I hope its comfortable? I first discovered “Something Supernatural” the bands debut album after speaking with legendary bassist Rex Brown, who mentioned them in an interview, as they were touring with Kill Devil Hill at the time. Last year alone, Crobot toured with Chevelle, Clutch, The Sword, Truckfighters, KYNG and more, in addition to playing festivals such as SXSW and Rock on the Range. This year, the band are already linked with the following tours, Limp Bizkit, Buckcherry, fellow Wind Up Records band Filter and obviously tonights main event, the legendary Black Label Society.
Crobot describes their music as “Dirty. Groove. Rock.” Personally, they remind me of bands such as Buffalo Summer and Scorpion Child. Tonights set was incredible, a little dark on the lighting, but the sound was immense! These guys are certainly a band you need to see live! After their set, I saw all four band members walking around the venue talking to people, posing for photos, signing CD’s and most importantly, vinyl copies of their latest album. Sadly I missed getting my album signed!
Another American band up next, with a shift in genres to heavy sludge metal, courtesy of Black Tusk, from Savannah, Georgia. Apparently, these guys all grew up together and lived on the same street, after continuously jamming, they officially formed back in 2006. Now signed to Relapse Records, these guys have already released 5 studio albums, the latest being “Tend No Wounds” which is heavy as f*ck! I’m also digging their latest 2 track EP Vulture’s Eye, released last year. These guys are good friends with Baroness’ guitarist and vocalist John Dyer Baizley, who is also a painter and creates all of Black Tusk’s album artwork!
The band, themselves have coined the phrase “Swamp Metal” to describe their sound and is more a reference to the climate in which they have created their music, personally, I get lost with all these sub genres, lets just say, they are a heavy metal band, with fantastic energy, who produce great music.
My only criticism of tonight’s set, was the lack of variety between tracks, each track started to sound like the last, by the end of the set. Being only a 3-piece, it must be hard to vary the sound, I guess, but what they do, they do well. No one person is responsible for the vocals, which I though unique, all 3 had a go, which you don’t see all that often, if ever!
That said, the bands final track of the night really changed things up, its intro was quite touching though, Andrew’s (vocals and guitar) brother died in a motorcycle accident, so they paid tribute to his memory and the crowd were invited to do the same, which they did, beautifully, RIP sir. Black Tusk then proceeded to blast out one of the best tracks in their set tonight. Awesome! Sadly, I couldn’t capture or find their set list on the inter web, so apologies.
So Black Label Society then, who hail from Los Angeles, California. From what I can gather, some, if not all his fans have labelled Mr Zakk Wylde as god! Personally I’d say he’s the gladiator of metal, but what do I know! Whilst stood in his presence, I did feel some what inferior though, I must say, well the guy is built like a brick shit house! I wouldn’t wanna cross him and for that reason, i’m going to try and make this review extra special, oh and i’m not a huge fan of Kanye West either!
In all seriousness I’m pretty much a new comer when it comes to this artist, yes, I hang my head in shame. I’ve known of tracks like “Crazy Horse” and “Concrete Jungle” for like forever, but it wasn’t until I was given a copy of the bands latest album “Catacombs of the Black Vatican” which was one of my top 10 albums of 2014, I might add, that I really got into Black Label society. Lets just say I’ve been relishing the opportunity to revisit all their previous albums, there’s 9 in total, that’s not including the 2 live albums!
Black Label Society are a band first and foremost, formed when lead vocalist and guitarist Zakk fell out with Ozzy Osbourne, back in 1996 (I see a pattern emerging here, what with Jake E Lee, see that review also). The full band consists of Zakk Wylde – Vocals/ Guitar, John DeServio – Bass, Jeff Fabb – Drums and Dario Lorina – Guitar. During my research I did discover that Robert Trujillo (now in Metallica) use to head up bass duties for BLS, its a small world a! Sadly, even with Zakk’s epic guitar solo’s, 3 tracks ain’t very long and I didn’t want to miss any photographic opportunities capturing this iconic figure of metal, so sorry to the rest of the band, as I didn’t get any shots of you guys!
Before tonight’s EPIC set, the stage was shrouded in mystery as a massive Black Label Society curtain blocked our view, which is the first time i’ve seen this happen at this venue. As the stage was readied for the messiah’s presence, we waiting in anticipation, you could cut the tension with a knife! Tonight’s show was pretty much a sell out, therefore floor space was at a premium, but were metal fans, we get on! As the band took to the stage, I could see from the side, as I waited to get into the pit, a stage hand, handed Zakk his guitar and gave him a congratulatory hug, then left him to ready himself. As the first notes wrung out, the curtain dropped and all was revealed! After the crew got rid of the curtain, us togs were allowed to enter, by now though, our numbers seemed to have multiplied 3 fold since the support acts, which really pisses me off! If you’re going to review a show, review the whole show, not just the headliners, anyway, I digress!
What separates BLS with other acts, in my opinion, is they know how to entertain a crowd. The lighting tonight was second to none, which is as rare as rocking horse shit. The sound made your ears bleed, which every metal head loves \m/ god bless you my child and the band were energetic with Zakk posing at every available opportunity. Couple that with an amazing set list, which spans nearly 2 decades, each and every person in the crowd singing back to the band, at the top of their voices, you can’t fail! to have a fantastic time. Simply put, tonight’s set was a master class in live music and entertainment. If you don’t believe me, I suggest you check out BLS when they play Bloodstock festival in the summer, I predict that will be an insane show, also! Thanks for reading Peace!
Black Label Society
Full Set List:
Whole Lotta Sabbath
The Beginning… At Last
Bleed for Me
Heart of Darkness
My Dying Time
Damn the Flood
Godspeed Hell Bound
Angel of Mercy
In This River
The Blessed Hellride