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Black Label Society - Shot To Hell

By Debby Rao, Boston Contributor
Thursday, September 14, 2006 @ 10:39 AM

On Roadrunner Records

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Zakk Wylde steps into the center spotlight on ‘Shot To Hell’, Black Label Society's first release on Roadrunner Records ‘Shot To Hell’ is fueled by driving guitar melodies, passionate vocals, and a pulverizing rhythm section that picks up where "Mafia" leaves off. "Shot To Hell" displays a very album cover concept that features Nuns shooting pool. The insert of the cover features Nuns partying with the Devil, which gives the whole ‘Shot To Hell’ approach a true hellish ambiance, where heaven meets hell in rock and roll BLS style.

Opening track and first single,” Concrete Jungle” is infused with Zakk Wylde's famous whammy bar effect speed guitar sound. The catchy lyrics and melody is destined to become a favorite among Black Label Society fans, as the song is being played on FM radio station across the country showcasing it's commercial versatility. I recently had the opportunity to discuss the meaning of "Concrete Jungle", and the different rock influences that transpire on ‘Shot To Hell’, with BLS guitarist Nick Catanese. When I asked Nick if the song was about the music industry, he told me, ”No, it's actually about Los Angeles or New York, or any city in general. You always see freaks in the streets, not a lot of nuns with shotguns. But just the point of how you can do a lot of people watching. Hell I do it in the mirror everyday. ’Shot to Hell’ has everything, great heavy grooves, and slow piano songs for the Book of Shadow people. It has everything, I think. ’Shot to Hell’ is just the start, we have been going strong for 10 years, but this is the NEW beginning of Black Label Society.”

"Black Mass Reverends" features the heavy, driving bass rhythm of new bass player John JD Deservio. This song has a killer power groove, but it is one of the shortest songs on the album. The song is It is one of the catchiest tunes on the album with a killer power groove, but it is way too short. John JD Deservio replaced bass player James Lomenzo last year and really played an important role in laying down the heavy bass foundation of BLS on “Shot to Hell.” The rhythm section, which also includes druumer; Craig Nunemacher plays a major role in the heavy, skull crushing sound of BLS. "Shot to Hell " features 13 tunes that are very diverse in their musical style. Each song has a different musical influence including classic rock, blues, ballads, and metal. I also had the opportunity to discuss the making of ‘Shot To Hell’ with BLS bass player, John JD Deservio who told me, "I would say it's in the ‘MAFIA’ vain, but there’s some old school riffs as well! Zakk's vocals keep getting better! Zakk sang his ass off on this one. The songwriting is killer on this record. There’s some epic shit here! It’s like ‘Mafia’ but there’s also some heavy shit! We had a blast making the album, and it was pretty much musical freedom. It's right where Mafia left off. It's been evolving for years, and I think it might be Black Label Society’s best work yet! We wrote the album in the studio. It was written in a few weeks but the actual recording and mixing took a few months. It's awesome working with the guys. Everybody truly likes hanging with each other so it's been a great experience.”

‘Shot To Hell’ is produced by Zakk Wylde and Michael Beinhorn. Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society have returned to their early roots of progressive rock, inspiring an album that is rich in melody, expertise guitar technique, and vocals that are deep and rich. ‘Shot To Hell’ features a bluesy vocal style that is reminiscent of Greg Allman, with Ozzy Osbourne musical overtones.

One of the most exciting aspects of ‘Shot To Hell’ is that Zakk showcases his true talent as a singer/songwriter. The new BLS CD features four ballads that are the real hidden gems on "Shot to Hell." Unlike,” Mafia" which only featured two ballads, on the new BLS CD, Wylde is not afraid to take a chance and illustrate that Black Label Society are about more than just a heavy rock band with a biker image.

One of my favorite tunes on ”Shot to Hell" is the piano ballad, "The Last Goodbye." Zakk sings from the heart, and delivers a performance that is real and moving. They say you have to feel the pain, in order to sing the blues, as Zakk sings, "Take This Love, Take This Life, Take This Blood, I'll Never Die, This Ain't The Last Goodbye", sets the tone for Zakk's Tribute to friend Dimebag Darrell Abbott. As I listened to ‘Shot To Hell’, it is clear to see that many of the lyrics on ‘Shot To Hell’ were inspired by the lost of Zakk Wylde's friend, Dimebag Darrell Abbott. The lyrics are real honest, and full of pain. The song also reminds me of "Mama I'm Comin Home”, with it's Ozzy like overtones.

"Give Yourself to Me," has a gritty, hard driving sound that was reminiscent on, "Mafia." One of my favorite tunes is the ballad;” Nothing’s the Same," which picks up where,” In this River" leaves off. As Zakk delivers his true reflection on the loss of his friend Dimebag Darrell Abbott, as he sings the chorus, ”Crash and Burn, Refuse to Learn, Your Only Friend Inside the Scars That Never Mend, The Never Ending Rain, Kill the Past, Nothing's The Same."

Although the Cd is laden with melodic ballads, it also has a well mix of rock tunes which include "Hell Is High,” and "Faith Is Blind,” that are intense and feature the velocity of the innovative pinch harmonics that is the BLS trademark.

The last three songs on ‘Shot To Hell’ have an Alice In Chains appeal, and are reminiscent of "The Blessed Hellride." era. Highlights on ‘Shot To Hell’ include, "Blood Is Thicker Than Water," in which Zakk sings about his deep family values. ”Devil's Dime” is a catchy speed demon guitar song that exemplifies the impact that Dime really influenced on "Shot to Hell."

‘Shot To Hell’ ends with the melodic ballad, "Lead Me to Your Door,” and showcases how the band has grown musically over the last ten years of their career.

Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society first release for Roadrunner Records combines all of the band's musical styles, with a progressive modern approach this is well orchestrated and diverse. Zakk Wylde is not afraid to show is softer side; delivering a performance this is real and honest. ‘Shot To Hell’ is a reflection of true events and feelings that have helped mold the songwriting process that has evolved since the early Pride and Glory days. ‘Shot To Hell’ proves that a good song can stand on it's own, as Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society make a bold statement with their new melodic classic rock approach, with traces of hard driving guitar sound that is the reminiscent of the Black Label Society trademark. Zakk Wylde delivers a powerful performance, as h combines guitar, piano, and melody on possibly the best produced album of his career.

I recently had the opportunity to discuss the songwriting process of Shot to Hell" with Zakk Wylde. Zakk told me,” It always starts the riff. That is the way I always love doing it best. I go into the studio with nothing and ten days later, I had 23 songs. Bottom line is, this kind of sounds like Zeppelin, this kind of sounds like Sabbath. It is just like there is no shortage of great songs. With Zeppelin or Sabbath it is safe to say, it is not going to suck. We just have a good time, when we go into the studio. We start jamming and having fun. When we get tired from blasting from the Marshall’s, I would sit at the piano, pick up an acoustic, and do some mellow stuff. It is just like you can take a million different pictures. Like the famous picture of Jim Morrison. They probably took a million pictures that day, to get that one shot. It was a classic shot."


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