When you have a career as long as Black Label Society and release an album entitled Grimmest Hits, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a greatest hits compilation. But the Zakk Wylde-led band has other ideas. Instead, they’ve delivered twelve brand new tracks, four years after Catacombs of the Black Vatican. It’s alright, I didn’t realise it’d been that long either.
In a sense, Grimmest Hits best encapsulates what Black Label Society are all about. It’s more Black Label Society – and that’s a great thing. Much like AC/DC, they’ve never made any massive experiments to their sound. Instead, they found their sound and stuck to it. And whilst for some bands, that can prove fatal, Wylde and co managed to defy that, ignoring trends and doing what they do best.
Massive riffs are the order of the day, as always when listening to a Black Label Society record, complete with Wylde’s inimitable howls. It’s a slow start to the album with “Trampled Down Below”, almost as if they’re firing the machine into life and it’s taking its time to warm up. But once the song gets going, it’s a statement of intent: “We’re back and we’re not messing around”.
Meanwhile, it’s “The Betrayer” that brings things up a notch after the chugging riffs of the first two songs. This one stands up with the staples you’d expect from Black Label, complete with its flashy and technical solo with a good helping of Southern groove and Wylde’s booming vocals. “Room of Nightmares” continues this and with its massive bass line coupled with the thundering drums, it would appear they’ve got a couple of new favourites I could see them getting a lot of distance out of.
Elsewhere, you’ve got “The Only Words” and “The Day That Heaven Died” to bring things down half a dozen gears before suitably ramping things back up to the usual level. They might not be on par with the iconic “In this River” but as tamer works go for a metal band, there’s been worse. If anything, it shows they’re not a complete one-trick-pony and “In this River” wasn’t a fluke.
Grimmest Hits doesn’t reinvent the Black Label Society wheel. It’s not trying to. It’s not their finest hour but it comes nowhere near to being their worst. It’s just more Black Label Society. And that’s no bad thing.
Header image by Amplified Gig Photography