Welcome back to my mini-round-up of some of the best live releases of 2013.
The first release in this round-up can be found and read about here.
If you’re looking to discover my Top 20 studio albums of 2013, these posts can be accessed here.
As I admitted in my last blog post, I’m not normally the biggest fan of live albums and DVDs because if I want to hear music played live, I’d rather be at the gig than listening/watching it at a later date on TV. Mind you, there are advantages to the DVD option – the bar is easier to get to, the bar is cheaper, you don’t have to watch the gig through some idiot’s phone and you can’t be tempted to buy lots of stuff at the merch stand. But still, I prefer the live experience nonetheless.
Last year, three releases really spoke to me, hence this mini round-up. And the second of these releases is:
Not to be confused with the classic Metallica song, the ‘Unblackened’ that I’m talking about here is the latest DVD/double album release from Black Label Society. Always a band on my periphery, I had never really ‘got’ Black Label Society. Of course, I was aware that the band was the home for the ex-Ozzy Osbourne guitarist and all-round larger-than-life character Zakk Wylde but their brand of metal never fully struck a chord with me…until now.
‘Unblackened’ has really captured my imagination and my heart and now I feel that I understand Black Label Society a lot more and have since delved headlong into their back catalogue, wanting to discover all this band have to offer.
The show that features at the centre of this DVD was recorded at Los Angeles’ Club Nokia in March 2013 and it is not your normal average every day Black Label Society gig. It is not a fully unplugged show but it is a much more stripped down affair with a greater emphasis on acoustic instrumentation. For the most part, guitarist Nick Catanase, keyboardist Derek Sherinian, bassist John DeServio, backing vocalist Greg Locascio and Zakk himself join drummer Chad Szeliga by sitting atop stools rather than stand, creating a much more relaxed and chilled-out vibe.
It might seem strange that it is this type of show that has provided my epiphany. However, when presented in this fashion, the fifteen or so classic tracks from the Black Label Society back catalogue are given more space to breathe, more time to seep under your skin. And although they are naturally less aggressive and brutal than the studio-recorded versions, it allows the band to present the tracks in a more subtle format, allowing those small details that might get lost, such as a clever chord change or brief melody, to come instead to the fore. In addition, I find that Zakk’s vocals sound just that little bit more special when presented in this more laid-back manner. His tone is so rich and he can really convey emotion.
From a musical perspective, the stand-out moment has to be the five-minute-plus guitar solo at the beginning of ‘Throwin’ It All Away’. It gives me goosebumps every time.
From a DVD perspective, the show has been recorded using a number of high definition cameras and so not only is the sound rich and vibrant, but the visuals are also of a high quality, very professional standard. There are few surprises in terms of the viewing experience, although in between tracks there is a very touching moment when a video of a young Zakk and his daughter singing together is beamed onto a big screen. As a new dad myself, it really tugs at the heartstrings and you can see the love and emotion in Zakk’s eyes as he stares at the footage.
In a nutshell, this whole release is very special indeed. Not only does it offer a shed load of great music, it will always be special to me by helping me see the light about Black Label Society. I’m converted. Amen.