May 22, 2014 Black Label Society Tear Up Starland Ballroom, NJ 5-9-14 w/ Down, Devil You Know, & Butcher Babies
Friday May 9th marked a day of heavy metal excitement at Starland Ballroom in Sayerville, NJ. After a February announcement of the Revolver Golden Gods Tour, fans waited patiently for Black Label Society, Down, The Devil You Know, and Butcher Babies to grace The Garden State. Staring modern metal legends Zach Wylde, Phil Anselmo, Howard Jones, along with rising stars Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey, Starland Ballroom was packed out early and buzzing with anticipation.
To kick things off, Los Angeles, CA band Butcher Babies took the stage. Consisting of duel vocal battery of Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey, bassist Jason Klein, guitarist Henry Flury, and drummer Chrissy Warner, they have seen a quick rise to the fame in the metal rankings. Self-proclaimed passionate metal fans, their influences range from greats such as Marilyn Manson and Slayer, and on the theatrical end of the spectrum have an adoring love for horror cinema as well.
Their live performance can best be summed up as aggressive, stimulating, and heavy. Shepherd and Harvey stood perched on their light boxes for most of the set; screaming and singing in striking contrast while headbanging like there was no tomorrow. Playing a quick but powerful six songs set, they touched on fan favorites “Goliath”, “I Smell a Massacre,” and ended with “Magnolia Blvd”. While some naysayers may discount the band based on their attractive lead ladies, Butcher Babies are not a gimmick nor a novelty act, they are a force to be reckoned with.
Up next was supergroup Devil You Know. Made up of former Killswitch Engage vocalist Howard Jones, Fear Factory drummer John Sankey, All Shall Perish guitarist Francesco Artusato, Bleeding Through bassist Ryan Wombacher, and Hiss of Atrocities guitarist Roy Lev-Ari; this band is a freight train of talent. Releasing their debut album The Beauty Of Destruction back in April, opening this tour is just what this band needs to show the masses exactly who and what they are.
Jones, wired on adrenaline, arrived on stage screaming, “I’m back, I’m back muther fuckers!” Then they kicked into a set that only such a seasoned group of individuals could perform. Fittingly opening with the track “A New Beginning”, the band blasted through a seven song offering including “My Own”, “Seven Years Alone” and concluding with “Shut It Down”. With open arms, the audience welcomed Jones and the band with screams of joy and whiplash educing headbanging. This is a fresh start for Jones, a new musical outlet for his bandmates, and judging by the nature of their songs, Devil You Know are prime to be around for years to come.
Blasting out of the gates and providing direct support for the evening was Down. Another super group in their own right. They consist of former Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo, former Corrosion of Conformity guitarist Pepper Keenan, former Crowbar drummer Jimmy Bower, former Goatwhore bassist Patrick Bruderss, and former Down stage manager on guitar Bobby Landgraf. Formed back in 1991 the band has three full-length albums and a series of EPs including this month’s release of Down IV – Part II. Bringing with them a respected history all their own, it was also evident there were plenty of Pantera fans throughout the crowd anxious to see Anselmo in action.
Keeping their set at a solid hour, the pillaging performance consisting of nine songs. Starting off with “Eyes of The South”, they mixed in new tune “We Knew Him Well…” , along with Down favorites “Lifer”, and “Stone the Crow”. Anselmo tore up the stage, never slowing down, and constantly in the face of the audience; shouting each lyric with the fury. The incorporation of Corrosion of Conformity song “Albatross” sounded outstanding and received a warm reception from everyone. Down are cast from a long line of respected veteran musicians, their performance at Starland Ballroom justified their importance to the scene and influence they have on metal.
Finally the time came for Black Label Society to take Starland Ballroom along a journey of guitar god rock. Hailing from Los Angeles, CA, Zach Wylde has led this manic bunch since 1998. Playing with Ozzy Osborne for nearly two decades helped tattoo his name in the history books as one of the greatest metal guitarists of our time. Wylde’s talents do not stop there though, he is also multi-instrumental, a vocalist, producer, and songwriter. Now fully concentrating on Black Label Society in recent years, the band has toured regularly and built a cult following along the way. With their latest album Catacombs of the Black Vatican fresh in the minds of listeners, this venue was ready to erupt.
With powerful drumming of Jeff Fabb beginning the opening “My Dying Time”, Wylde stepped out from the shadows and the nearly blew the roof off Starland Ballroom with cheers and claps raining down. Wylde naturally adorned his infamous bull’s eye guitar, stepped front and center, and began his face-melting, dominant guitar work. Throughout the set they touched on multiple fan favorites including “ Heart of Darkness”, “Parade of the Dead”, and “Concrete Jungle”. Balancing out the old and the new can be a difficult task for a band but they did a fine job of offering up new tunes evenly with classics. Every member of the band played with the utmost precision and energy from the opening track to the closing.
Midway through the set, Wylde dazzled with an extensive guitar solo that had fans jaws dropping in awe. While in some cases a guitar solo this long may bore some fans, only someone as prestige a player as Wylde can pull it off without a dull moment. It is one thing to have excellent skills on your instrument, but Wylde was entertaining with an array of emotions in each note his fingers hit. As the evening wore on, fans were treated to a sixteen song set that was simply magically.
With the room at the point of exhaustion from the forceful performance, Black Label Society finished the night off inviting Anselmo on stage to play the classic Pantera song “I’m Broken”. To say this was a climactic ending would be an understatement and both Wylde and Anselmo controlled the audience until the very last note while feeding a noise level which could be heard all the way out in the parking lot.
Black Label Society never fail to disappoint their fans with the dedication they bring to the stage. With an undying passion for performing, they brought each and every song to life in vivid color. Having grown up in New Jersey, Wylde’s home state unquestionably made this a special return for the guitar hero. Recovering from the devastation Starland Ballroom sustained during Hurricane Sandy two years ago, it was a truly moving experience to see the state have one of their own come back and put on such a unforgettable performance. Be sure to catch all the action before the tour concludes in a couple of weeks.