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My first impression of this album was a good one, seeing as though it opens with “Concrete Jungle” which, in my opinion, is a fuckin’ amazing song. The hype that was building up in my mind about this album was ridiculous, seeing as though it's the first album by BLS under the direction of Roadrunner Records, and the fact that it’s fuckin’ BLS and Zakk Wylde. But then I bought the album and was horribly disappointed. It's BLS that's for certain, but it’s BLS with a strange twist. A twist that I hope will never appear again on another album ever.
Most every metal album has a "slow" song or two, but Shot to Hell has far to many. I would estimate that a good half of this album is fuckin’ acoustic. Acoustic is fine, as proven by Alcohol Fueled Brutality, a previous BLS release in which all the tracks were acoustic, but for an album of this magnitude, an album that had the potential to be better than previous BLS albums such as The Blessed Hellride or 1919 Eternal, acoustics on every other track just does not work. Zakk is an amazing guitarist and kicks as much ass without distortion as he does with it, but this album was a poor choice to do so with.
Although this album was beyond disappointing, Shot to Hell has its upside…it's not to big of a side, but it exists. For one, the heavy true BLS sounding songs on this album almost make up for their clean and well-bathed counterparts. Again, “Concrete Jungle” is amazing, but so is “Devil's Dime” and my favorite, “Hell is High”, among a few others. These songs bring forth the truly brutal sound that is Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society. Zakk brings it, as he usually does, with his inventive solos and truly genius old school metal riffs. The drums on these particular tracks are pretty impressive in and of themselves, and so is the brilliant work on bass. "Concrete Jungle", "Devil's Dime" and "Hell is High" are the highlights of this album and are a through back to the classic Zakk and BLS.
Overall, this "Shot to Hell" isn't even close to being one of Black Label's best albums, and they have a few. Zakk and his crew should just stick to their old, classic, "good" stuff, and stop showing life of those golden years in only a few of their songs per album. If you're new to BLS, then check out "The Blessed Hellride", "1919 Eternal", and "Alchohol Fueled Brutality". Within those albums, one will find true southern sludge genius.
I never really had an interest in Black Label Society. A few friends were fans, but I didn't especially find the need to listen to their music. When Zakk Wylde stood behind Sharon Osbourne after she sabotaged Iron Maiden's set back in 2005 I made a point of avoiding the man's work, regardless of whether it was Ozzy albums, Black Label Society albums, or what ever else that I knew he participated. Looking back, it was pretty stupid decision. But if Shot to Hell represents Black Label Society's music in any shape or form, than I wish I continued boycotting the band. I picked up Shot to Hell a little while ago, and with all the praise and recognition Zakk and his band receive, to say I was disappointed would be an understatement.
I've heard some pretty uninspiring performances. While Shot to Hell is not one of the worst in this regard, the album still manages to sound dull and boring. If you're looking for an album without hooks, Shot to Hell is for you. There is absolutely nothing that stands out on first listen. Nor second, or even third. With the disappointing, forgettable riffs; the bland vocals; the poor songwriting; nothing seems to be going Black Label Society's way as the album is more of an exercise to listen to rather than one you'd listen to out of enjoyment. Songs such as Devil's Dime, Faith is Blind, and Give Yourself to Me are some of the worst perpetrators in this area. None of these songs have any real energy. None of these songs have any real replay value and will likely be forgotten by all except for the hardcore fans of the band. Perhaps some time off is in order for Zakk and the boys, as they seem to be running low on ideas.
Guitarist Zakk Wylde has won all plenty of awards for his playing, and his leads on this new album aren't really all that bad. Even fairly interesting to listen to at times. Yet despite this, the solos do not add to the music at all. At times it feels like Zakk just solos for the sake of soloing, and it does not work very well at all. Because of this, many of the leads are not very memorable at all, as I mentioned earlier. Hell is High has a decent solo, as does Devil's Dime (listen really carefully, and you might hear it), but a lot of the time, it'll just pass you by without you realizing, as do most of the leads. His rhythms are beyond abysmal, lacking in both strength and catchiness. Instead, they don't really serve any purpose, other than just being there. I can't really speak for some of Black Label Society's older albums, but on Shot to Hell Wylde shows nothing more than generic heavy riffs that sound rushed and rehashed.
Another key element missing from Shot to Hell is emotion. Really, this goes hand in hand with the point I made about the uninspired writing earlier, but I feel that this too must be mentioned. Through most of the album, hell nearly all of it, it seems as though the band just plods through their sixth album like they're prisoners of the recording studio, hacking away at rocks with their pick axes like in old cartoons. However, there are a few emotional parts of the album, and the intro of New Religion is one of them. At just over two minutes, the piano intro is among the album's best moments, and certainly the most impressive moment instrumentally. In a way the piano is somewhat depressing, yet at the same time very soothing and enjoyable. I think Black Label Society could have done a better job in this area; it would inject some life to an album that desperately needs it.
The most positive aspect of Shot to Hell is the length of the songs. The longest song, New Religion, is thankfully only 4:36. With the lack of, to be a little blunt, quality material, the fact that Shot to Hell is only 44 minutes long (as well as the longest track being only 4:36) is a relief. With these shorter tracks the band produces, they perform what they are best at, rather than a long epic track that would likely have been very difficult to absorb.
Black Label Society's new album Shot to Hell can be summed up in just three words, disappointing and very poor. While listening to this I get the feeling that Zakk and Co. did not spend enough time either the recording process or the writing processes. A very dull, boring album, nothing really sticks out save for the cool piano intro in New Religion. Do yourselves a big favour and do not purchase this release.
Originally written for Sputnikmusic
I've been listening to BLS since "Stronger Than Death" came out, and I've yet to hear another really, but REALLY good album from this band/side project. 1919 Eternal had its moments, as did Blessed Hellride, but factor in Mafia, Hangover Music, and now this...well, it's like one long never-ending song.
Zakk's patterns always remain. First song is a low-end bad-ass riff that always starts the album off strong. Track 3 is usually a stand-out, then Track 4 or 5 is always a slow ballad-ish song, only to have things pick up with the following track. Then around 3 tracks or so later, another piano-based ballad. It's a good formula. But it's been repeated on every single BLS release since "Stronger Than Death". Immediately, that gave me a negative impression of this album.
Another point is that BLS have never really evolved. Every song is still about how bad-ass Zakk is, drink booze, and crush the enemy. Granted, there is a strong religious influence on "Shot to Hell" (I'll let you decide if that's a good or bad thing) which differentiates it from the last few releases. But still, I never feel like his lyrics are extraordinary.
The music itself is dime-a-dozen Zakk riffs. They're heavy as hell, and he does more than enough squeals and phenomenal guitar work. But, once again, it's the same type of riff as on every single other BLS record. Nothing special, and sadly on this album, there isn't one riff that made me stop what I was doing to listen to it more closely. I'd have to say "Devil's Dime" is the most interesting song, because it sounds so different and fresh unlike anything else on this disc.
I should say also, the closing track was particularly good. Once again, nothing groundbreaking, but finally another real good slow song from Zakk. Essentially, this last track didn't feel forced.
Finally, his voice. Zakk had such a great voice on "Stronger Than Death", but has since adopted a new very nasal kind of vocal style; almost à la Ozzy. While it does have its qualities, over all, it falls flat for me. He does stay a little more in his lower range on this album. But sadly, I'm just not impressed.
I still have immense faith in BLS, and Zakk. Everytime a new record comes out, I always pick it up, hoping to be amazed yet again. But I'm at strike 5 now, and starting to wonder...
We've all done it...get a job, work hard for a little while until we start finding ways that we don't have to work hard and still receive our paycheck. Pretty soon it comes to the point where we do just enough to be allowed to stick around, but nothing that would get us any praise. This is similar to Zakk Wylde's condition with his Black Label Society. Back in the day he wrote albums like Pride and Glory's self-titled, where he added so many touches to the songs that they were at the same time instantly memorable and lasting long enough to still be enjoyable after a considerable time of consistent listens. Then he realized all he had to do was sound like Ozzy and Layne Staley along with writing a single riff (with the obligatory pinch-harmonic) and driving it to the ground. This simple formula has allowed him to release eight full length (seven studio) albums in seven years. Each album has generated more and more sales until "Shot To Hell," which, while performing decently, dropped significantly in its first week. But that's no real surprise because for the most part, "Mafia" was terrible, so most of those fans didn't feel like taking a chance again.
Many of the songs are less than 3:00 long, so there isn't much into these songs. It's just more assembly line stuff that has been heard on the past few albums. "Concrete Jungle" is mildly catchy, but is overall mediocre and yet is the best "rocker" on the entire album. As for the other "rockers," if you've heard one, you've heard them all. The solos are better than usual, but nowhere near being good enough to salvage any of the songs. The pinch-harmonic is abused to an almost cartoonish level where there is barely able to be any sort of hyperbole in expressing their frequency. The guitar sound for the riffs is total shit, burying anything even remotely resembling a memorable riff. In addition, there are too many damn ballads. Like the rockers, they're all basically the same. "Blood is Thicker Than Water" is actually a very good ballad, but it's also very short and too similar in structure to the other ballads to really stand out.
There is some difference between "Shot to Hell" and BLS's earlier efforts, mainly in the production. The sound is somewhat more full; slightly more exciting than the dull, lifeless, one-dimensional sound of every previous album since "Stronger Than Death." There are two sounds actually, one for the rockers which is somewhat more similar to earlier efforts, and a second for the ballads which gives them a cleaner sound reminiscent of Poison. This probably is the result of being signed to major label Roadrunner Records; they think BLS can make a popular radio hit; perhaps they're right. The signing to Roadrunner seems to have given a spark to Zakk's writing skills. But still, it's just a little spark, enough to take this from a half-assed effort to perhaps a 5/8 assed effort. Maybe. I guess I should give up hope that this band can accomplish anything significant; instead choosing to be satisfied with their current status in music. But if the "Pride and Glory" album is any indication, the talent and songwriting skills are there, they just choose not to utilize them.
After seeing Black Label Society live at Ozzfest I really could not believe how amazing this band was. Their music completely blew me away, but there is a difference between hearing a band live and hearing them on an album.
The first thing I noticed about this album was the guitar work. Zakk Wylde is a phenomenal guitarist, combine that with powerful, grooving vocals and this album is a winner, no doubt. Though as with any BLS album I have heard there are certainly high's and lows
As I mentioned earlier the guitar work is flawless and the vocals great. But not only is it good I believe it’s a step up. The soloing sounds truly inspired, the majority of the tracks just make you wanna drive fast and not care where you’re going.
Another thing I noticed right away was that the lyrics were somewhat less repetitive. This alone would have to be one of my biggest score boosters as the lyrics on previous albums would get me hard pressed to find a song that didn’t sound like a broken record or the song that came before it. I’m not saying they were bad because even though Stillborn would have to be the definition of this broken record feel it’s still one of my favorite songs.
A couple of things that I didn’t like however were most of the songs that incorporated piano. I respect piano as a classical instrument, but I really don’t think it works well in a metal album. I especially don’t think it works well in this style of metal. It may have some uses in other styles such as symphonic black metal, but I really feel that this interrupts the feel of the album. I know some people will say that BLS can do whatever they want because they are just that good. I don’t agree I think they should stick to the rocking songs they’ll play live.
In conclusion I think this is a really good album, and I would recommend buying it to anyone who has heard a black Label society song and liked it because odds are the first song you’ll hear (if you play the CD in order) will be better than anything you’ve heard by them before.