Anyone who has been a fan of hard rock and/or metal for the last decade or so has no doubt heard of Black Label Society. Fronted by legendary guitarist Zakk Wylde (ex-guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne), the band has had a few members come and go over the years, but for the most part they’ve strictly done what they do best: play very hard and very loud. Now with Wylde celebrating ten years in the hard rock business with Black Label Society, Skullage is releasing as a “best of” style effort that has a few other live cuts and acoustic tracks for fans to check out as well.
Skullage represents a look at the history of Black Label Society through live performances and videos filmed throughout the years. Also included is the never-before seen “Slightly Amped” performance from Wylde’s “Blessed Hellride” promotional tour, along with a new interview feature with Zakk Wylde entitled “Welcome to The Compound.” The best-of CD “Skullage” is also included in this retrospective to the modern-day guitar god.
I’ve been a fan of BLS for some time now and was always curious how they didn’t get more exposure than they did. They honestly have some of the most dirtiest (not verbally [though there’s that too], just in terms of the guitars and drums) sounding music among all bands out today, which may actually contribute why they aren’t heard from as much on the local radio affiliates. It’s not that they aren’t a great band, it’s just that they aren’t friendly to all ears—you have to like the styling’s of Ozzy Osbourne or Metallica to get into Black Label Society, which is, again, decidedly a bit darker than even those two.
But that’s part of what I like about their music. They don’t sound like everyone else, although it’s obvious after playing alongside Ozzy for so many years, there’s a lot more Osbourne influence in BLS than anything else. Wylde’s even gone as far to cover a few of his songs (“No More Tears,” which isn’t included here sadly enough, is one of my favorites of BLS) and done them more than enough justice. It’s a really great band all around, as they have plenty of great original songs as well, which range from the head-bangers dream to the quieter, and piano (which Wylde also plays) styled efforts.
Enough about the band though—let’s delve into Skullage. This is a two-disc (one CD, one DVD) set that really does act like a “best of” from the seven albums the band has put out. If you’re coming into the set thinking the DVD is the main event, then think again—there’s no real rhyme or reason to the DVD and it really simply acts as the “bonus” to the compilation CD, which shows off some of the bands best songs. I won’t dwell on the CD, however, as aside from some previously unreleased acoustic versions, there isn’t much here that hasn’t been heard before. Before we delve into the DVD, however, let’s take a look at the track listing for both discs in the set:
1.) Machine Gun Man
2.) Dead As Yesterday
3.) All For You
4.) 13 Years Of Grief
5.) Bleed For Me
6.) Doomsday Jesus
8.) Won’t Find It Here
9.) Suicide Messiah
10.) In This River
11.) Fire It Up
12.) New Religion
13.) Instrumental Intro (acoustic)
14.) The Blessed Hellride (acoustic)
15.) Spoke In The Wheel (acoustic)
16.) Stillborn (acoustic)
1.) All For You (From Boozed, Broozed & Broken-Boned DVD)
2.) 13 Years Of Grief (From Boozed, Broozed & Broken-Boned DVD)
3.) Bleed For Me (From Boozed, Broozed & Broken-Boned DVD)
4.) Stillborn video
5.) Suicide Messiah video
6.) In This River video
7.) Fire It Up video
8.) Acoustic Live
9.) Instrumental Intro – Live in Lehigh Valley
10.) The Blessed Hellride – Live in Lehigh Valley
11.) Spoke In The Wheel – Live in Lehigh Valley
12.) We Live No More – Live in Lehigh Valley
13.) Stillborn – Live in Lehigh Valley
14.) New Religion
15.) Welcome To The Compound
The DVD sports variety of live performances, the majority of which are in full screen and even feature Robert Trujillo, the BLS bassist who went to play bass for Metallica, fully pulling off his crab walk and all. It’s a great collection of performances, although the only two members who have any stage presence are Trujillo and Wylde—the other guitarist really doesn’t do much. The rest of the extras are simply music videos (all of which look…well…really amateur) for the songs included on the CD, although there is one fairly interesting and long extra, the “Welcome to the Compound” (29:46) bit where Wylde takes us through…well, his life, really. It’s a mixture of hyperbole as well as truth, but a lot of it really paints Wylde as a bit more eccentric than you’d even think a rock star could be (not Metalocalypse eccentric, but still). Whether it’s just randomly “watering” the plants outside or walking around in a dress (both of which occur at the same time), Wylde’s an entertaining one to follow around, although the video can get a bit childish at times. But hey—rock god and all, so who cares. There is also the aforementioned “Slightly Amped” (32:11) piece that is fun to watch as well, but really just more footage of performances.
The package itself arrives in a standard size clear Amaray DVD case, although the case itself it a bit different. Instead of a standard “swing door” case to hold the CD, it has it on the opposite side of the case on a small little pull-out tray. Kind of an odd case, but hey—whatever works for Eagle Rock. Menus for the DVD are simple and easy to navigate and video quality ranges from average to rather poor (mainly the acoustic sessions—which appear to have been cropped into 16×9, but…really not a huge deal).
Overall Skullage is a great package for new or old BLS fans, but you’ll definitely get more enjoyment out of it if you know or heard of them previously. Recommended for the fans, Rental for the curious, as Wylde’s antics may be a bit off-putting if you get to know him before the music.
Skullage arrives on DVD on April 21st.