Black Label Society - Order of the Black
Roadrunner Records
Heavy Metal
13 songs (50 minutes)
Release year: 2010
Black Label Society, Roadrunner Records
Reviewed by Jake

Zakk Wylde the songwriter is unkind to Zakk Wylde the musician. His strengths are in the performance of high-tempo, high-adrenaline rockers with bouncy rhythms, randomly placed pinch harmonics and plenty of room for bluesy shred, but he consistently saddles himself with rocksteady numbers and painful ballads that waste his considerable talents as a singer and guitarist. Everything about the way he performs, from his thick, resonant, screaming take on the Ozzy whine to his defiantly old-school, genuinely exciting and impressive soloing—not to mention the image of his band—lends itself to a level of energy much higher than he usually allows himself. 2010's Order Of The Black is no exception to this pattern. Lead single Parade of the Dead plays perfectly to Wylde's strengths and is inarguably awesome; it's hard to see why the album isn't full of tunes like that one.

The problems begin immediately with Crazy Horse, which wastes riffs that could have been fast on mid-tempo drum beats. The overlong Overlord is no better, spending half its runtime on dismayingly steady mid-tempo riffs before getting to the energetic stuff we come to Black Label Society for. It's not until track three, when the aforementioned and absolutely frantic Parade of the Dead welcomely arrives, that we get to the really good stuff. It's touch-and-go for a few tracks after that: Darkest Days is a shitty ballad that sounds like it could play on Radio Disney, but then the lead-driven Black Sunday is pretty cool; Southern Dissolution is completely forgettable, but it's followed by Time Waits For No One, which is the rare BLS ballad that works—with a great solo and a vocal melody that lends itself to Wylde's unmistakable voice, it actually qualifies as an album highlight (even if that kind of hurts the thesis of this review). After that one, though, it's the familiar formula of interchangably dull rockers punctuated by solos that deserve better songs.

If Zakk Wylde made a better effort to live up to his stage surname, Black Label Society would be a fantastic band. Even without the example set by bright spots like Parade of the Dead, we can see from his work with Ozzy Osbourne—especially any live footage of him performing the faster songs from the Randy Rhoads and Jake E. Lee eras—that he was born to play heavy music, and to play it fiercely. By trying to force a kind of emotion that his music doesn't and shouldn't produce naturally, he sandbags himself, and on this album especially, leaves us with only a handful of moments that suggest how great he could be if he'd let himself go wild.

Killing Songs :
Parade of the Dead, Black Sunday, Time Waits For No One
Jake quoted 69 / 100
Other albums by Black Label Society that we have reviewed:
Black Label Society - Grimmest Hits reviewed by Goat and quoted 78 / 100
Black Label Society - Catacombs of the Black Vatican reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Black Label Society - Skullage (CD/DVD) reviewed by Marty and quoted no quote
Black Label Society - Sonic Brew reviewed by Khelek and quoted 92 / 100
Black Label Society - European Invasion - Doom Troopin' (DVD) reviewed by Marty and quoted no quote
To see all 11 reviews click here
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