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pinpals, September 23rd, 2006

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.