January 15, 2015 Black Label Society open tour with a bang Knitting Factory Spokane, WA 12-28-14 w/ Butcher Babies & Hatebreed
Southern California’s Groove Metal leaders Black Label Society have built a name for themselves over the years as road warrior, with a dedication to no holds bar live performances and releasing their ninth studio album, Catacombs of the Black Vatican, back in April 2014. On Sunday, December 28, 2014, the band kicked off a six month tour at the Knitting Factory in Spokane, Washington. Backing them on this grueling expedition are the Connecticut’s Hatebreed and LA’s own Butcher Babies. Spokane’s streets were buzzing with excitement as the time came for this interesting paired bill of bands were ready to rock.
Jump starting the event was the fast rising act Butcher Babies. Fronted by the charismatic duo of Carla Harvey and Heidi Shepherd, these Molls of Metal are former voices of Playboy radio who have had a burning desire for music since a young age. Joined with a killer band of Henry Flury on lead guitar, Jason Klein on bass, and Chris Warner on drums, Butcher Babies have toured with practically every big name Metal and Rock act in an impressively short span. Taking the stage and opening with throat throttling “Smell a Massacre,” each song to follow was filled with equal fury. Rattling out tracks from their 2013 debut Goliath, the band made the most of their opening slot, leaving the audience with their heads spinning. They head bang, they jump, and boy, did they get the Spokane crowd going. While the less open-minded metalhead maybe drawn to them just for their good looks, this band has something much more than skin deep to offer audiences.
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Next up was Emmy nominated Hardcore veterans Hatebreed. As a well respected entity in modern Metal music, the line-up of Jamey Jasta on vocals, Wayne Lozinak on guitar, Frank Novinec on guitar, Chris Beattie on bass, and Matt Byrne on drums continue to dominate two decades later. Filling the venue with their crossover Thrash/Hardcore Punk sound, the band immediately got the crowd amped up to a higher level as they opened with 2006’s “To The Threshold.” On the floor, an insane pit was created almost immediately and by the time “Honor Never Dies” began, Jasta had to halt the music so guards could carry a semi-conscious fan to safety. The scene was beautifully chaotic, but with the help of security and fans, no one was seriously hurt. Once the music started again, people surfed to the front of the stage to give high fives and the pit was back in full speed. In fact, Butcher Babies’ Shepherd even got into the act by surfing her way to the stage. Continuing on with crowd favorites like “In Ashes They Shall Reap,” “Live for This,” and “As Diehard as They Come,” each member of the band was enthralled in the music and heavily concentrated in performing the music flawlessly. Much appreciative of the efforts, fans were completely taken in by Jasta’s adrenaline rush that did not subside, and perhaps the biggest moments came during anthems “I Will Be Heard” and closer “Destroy Everything.” Hatebreed exhausted every once of energy they had and then some. This type of delivery is exactly how this band is keeping the spirit of Hardcore alive, well into the future.
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Finally, the time came for Black Label Society to take the stage, led by guitar icon Zakk Wylde on vocals, guitar and piano, along with John DeServio on bass/backing vocals. Just before hitting the road, the band added new rhythm guitarist Dario Lorina, and Jeff Fabb on drums. Revamped and recharged, the opening night of the tour had a anticipation no one could deny, not even the band. Locked, stocked, and ready to roll, roars of cheers commenced as the lights went down.
With red lights and sirens blaring, the Viking brutes were ready to pummel and pillage as an eruption came with “The Beginning… At Last.” Immediately bringing down the hammer, Wylde had fans body surfing at will. Going into “Funeral Bell,” the arrival of Wylde’s signature piercing shrill and the band’s imposing sensory arrangement filled the air. Meanwhile, “Bleed For Me” was a give and take performance with the Spokane chapter of the Black Label Society order, as the fans gave back as much as they received. Not letting down one bit, the art of Black Label Society’s craft was fully demonstrated with new song “Heart of Darkness,” as Wylde’s fingers blistered across the fret board as if summing the God of Valhalla.
As the set moved on at a rapid pace, a bullhorn call was delivered during “Suicide Messiah,” and the audience really dug into the blusey-metal track of “My Dying Time.” Everything the band offered was met with horn-fingers in the air and many crowd members singing along. Mixing into a crowd raising performance of “Damn The Flood,” Wylde and company were a unified force. Directly following a horde of applause, everyone but Wylde excited the stage in preparation for an epic, seven-minute guitar solo. With baited breath, the audience watched with full attention as Wylde dazzled with wah-wah effects, scorching note bends, and a classic introduction to the art of guitar neck destruction.
Acting as a marker for the midway point of the set, the second half of Black Label Society’s performance marched on with “Godspeed Hellbound,” followed by a touching performance of “Angel of Mercy.” Featuring Lorina behind the keys, the ballad has been dubbed as Wylde’s tribute to his fallen friend, and late Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell. Sincere and heartfelt, Wylde put himself front and center, vividly performing the song. Keeping up with the piano tunes “In This River,” there was barely a pause before the double neck guitars were broken out for “The Blessed Hellride.” Sounding simply magnificent, the tone of the guitar work tore through the room, leaving nothing but warm sensations all around. As the night came to a close with “Concrete Jungle” and fan-favorite “Stillborn,” all cheered loudly, showing they were thoroughly satisfied.
Black Label Society’s most undeniable quality is that they are the models of consistency. They appear to be right at home on the stage as they fist bump and hug each other with nods of musical satisfaction. On the exterior, Black Label Society appears doom and gloom, but what they have done with their musical direction is the adverse. They channel the depths of despair into a songwriting wisdom that is self-moving, with messages that are ultimately there to help heal the broken, and Spokane been the first to bare witness to the opening night of the tour.