Valentine’s Day eh? Another attempt by the corporate industries to cash in on the gullible public who seem to think that a display of affection need only happen one day a year. Well, I think not and this year chose to spend the “special day” with 1500 mainly bearded, sweaty and hairy men (and a few rather less hirsute ladies) at the lovely 02 Academy in Bristol. Regular readers will know that our happy band at MoM are often less than impressed with the venue, especially when it is filled to capacity. An inability to move on the floor due to the ridiculous layout and an overall unpleasant experience is often the result. Tonight was no exception with the venue full way before BLS hit the stage and a number of quite unpleasant fights broke out on the floor during Black Tusk’s set and prior to BLS’s arrival. A number of other people were observed receiving medical treatment at various stages of the evening. Paying for the privilege? It’s a bit shit to be honest. Anyway, due to the continued lack of a middle sized venue in South Wales it was another trip across the Severn for an evening with Zakk and co
Last year Crobot (8) crept in under the radar with their first full album, the rather tasty Something Supernatural. With a sound that contains elements of Zeppelin, Alter Bridge, Wolfmother, Clutch and Soundgarden, it was worth getting in early to catch the Pennsylvanian four piece. As well as obtaining an excellent vantage point on the balcony, we were treated to an excellent half hour of music. Frontman Brandon Yeagley is a natural; image wise a cross between Russell Brand, Myles Kennedy and a young Robert Plant, and vocally refreshingly good. A decent sound allowed the band to showcase tracks from their debut album, including the stunning opener Legend Of The Spaceborne Killer and a favourite of mine, The Necromancer. With the obvious exception of drummer Paul Figueroa, the rest of the band didn't rest for a minute throughout the set; Yeagley constantly twirling his mike stand, guitarist Chris Bishop spinning his guitar, jumping off the drum riser and adjusting his effects whilst bassist Jake Figueroa, resplendent in a mighty pair of flares cut some of the most magical shapes ever seen. The man just could not stand still. As our esteemed editor remarked, brilliant but paid up member of the Sunshine Bus (*send Ed on Equality and Diversity Training Course*).
The venue was filling up nicely as Black Tusk (7) arrived on stage. They proceeded to spend the next 45 minutes taking a sledgehammer to the head; full on punk edged metal, driven by the battering ram Jamie May on drums and the powerchord assault of Andrew Fidler’s axe, Black Tusk showed absolutely no mercy; not even when the bass drum pedal collapsed under the sheer ferocity of May’s hammering. This is a band that has overcome some pretty heavy recent tragedy with the untimely and tragic death of bassist Jonathan Athon. Touring bassist Corey Barhorst has slotted in so smoothly that if the band hadn't mentioned it you were unlikely to have even noticed. The sludgy Baroness style assault (sans the clean vocals) was impressive but slightly repetitive and by 35 minutes the sheer aggression had me tapping out. I can’t fault the effort or the huge amounts of energy on display and the Georgia outfit received an excellent reception.
A huge BLS curtain was lowered over the front of the stage as anticipation built for the main event. The floor looked quite horribly crowded and there was a substantial amount of aggro with the security staff working overtime to resolve issues. Then the sound of Whole Lotta Sabbath (a Wax Audio Mashup - Ed) blasted out of the PA and it was show time. As the sirens wailed and search lights scanned the venue, the curtain dropped to reveal the four piece outfit known as Black Label Society. Of course, all eyes focus on a certain former Ozzy guitarist, the phenomenal Zakk Wylde; a beast of a man, hair and beard flowing and stacked like the proverbial brick wall, elevated on a reinforced packing box as he soloed as if his life depended on it. The Beginning … At Last segued into the first of three tracks from The Blessed Hellride, Funeral Bell. BLS (8) are a huge live force, and there is little subtlety to their show. It follows a pretty routine format; perform the song, cue in Zakk who destroys with a brutal solo and then conclude with a further solo. Obviously Wylde is the star of the show but he was ably assisted by long serving bassist John DeServio and new members Jeff Fabb who demonstrated an excellent lesson on the drums and rhythm guitarist and pianist Dario Lorina. After seven songs which included three from last year’s underrated but thoroughly great Catacombs Of The Black Vatican (Heart Of Darkness; My Dying Time and Damn The Flood) came the inevitable; Zakk’s guitar solo: all 12 minutes of frenetic fretwork, little soul or construction but fast as hell. He maybe a brilliant guitarist but given that he adds about three minutes to the end of each song with his twiddling, a shorter solo would have been welcomed (add another song or two). Normal service resumed with the only track of the night from Order Of The Black; God Speed Hell Bound which got the crowd moving and head banging.
Following some rambling band member introductions, there was a change of tempo with the ballad Angel Of Mercy before the Dimebag flags were draped over the two Marshall banks (20 in total folks – no wonder my ears were ringing for ages) and Zakk ran through In This River; always a bit of an emotional one (For some of us more than others - Ed) A killer final three to conclude the evening opened with The Blessed Hellride before a stunningly good Concrete Jungle and the inevitable Still Born concluded the evening (without the need to have an encore – heartily endorsed) and produced a massive ovation from the assembled masses. A good evening with three excellent bands; just a shame that the venue sucks.