Live Review: BLACK LABEL SOCIETY, Black Tusk, Crobot @ Nottingham Rock City 18th Feb 2015


Black Label Society blitz Nottingham on latest stop to conquer the UK.

Black Label Society mainman Zakk Wylde has been in the heavy metal limelight for nearly 30 years.  Since his rise to fame as the great Randy Rhoads replacement for Ozzy Osbourne he has been a constant cover star and has achieved it without compromise.  Whether it is Pride & Glory, BLS or his own solo work he laid down his marker early and has trod the line without wavering ever since.  It’s an attitude and philosophy not lost on tonight’s openers Crobot.

Pennslyvanian’s Crobot, led by the mighty voice of Brandon Yeagley, have been causing a bit of a storm of late since their awesome debut album Something Supernatural was released to rave reviews last year.  Obviously the debut album provides the setlist tonight and it’s packed with monster riff after monster riff.  Their 30 minute set blazes by in what feels like a quarter of the time.  Tracks like “The Legend Of The Spaceborn Killer”, “Chupacabra” and “The Necromancer” are stunning examples of the Dirty Groove Rock that the band are producing.  If you think the album is great then to see them live takes it all up another notch…..just as a great rock band should.

Bassist Jake crawls up and down the frets like a shamanic beast, whilst frontman Brandon plays the showman perfectly.  Drummer Paul hammers a volcano sized hole in his equipment, metaphorically of course.  Bishop spends as much time on top of his speakers as he does on top of his solos.  It all makes for a thrilling spectacle.

Finishing with the rollin’ thunder of “Fly On The Wall” is a perfect way to end a damn near perfect set.  Unsurprisingly they go down an absolute storm and within another album or so you can expect these guys to be headlining here.  Judging by the amount of people arriving as the band finished, although fora 6.30pm start there was a damn good attendance nonetheless, it appears they have missed out on something supernaturally special this evening. Pity the fools. They will catch up eventually just like the rest.

Black Tusk have an uphill task to ensure that the crowd remains as switched on as they were for Crobot.  To be fair to the Savannah, Georgia natives they do a mightly impressive job of keeping the energy flowing.  As with the openers there is no lack of quality in the music of Black Tusk as any cursory listen to last year’s Vulture’s Eye EP will prove.  Their sound may head down the road marked Sludge Metal, in fact you may find them at a junction  between Stoner Boulevard and Thrash Punk Avenue.  It’s a mix that works well and they have managed, over the course of their four albums, to define their sound.  The devastating loss of bassist Jonathon Athon late last year could have well ended the band so it’s great to see them out on the road.

With a new album in the can and ready to be unleashed the band waste no time in getting down to brass tacks.  Moving seamlessly from brutally heavy to raging speed as tracks like “Bring Me Darkness” enthral the masses.  This trio, with new bassist Cory Barhorst joining Andrew Fidler (Guitar/Vocals) and Jamie May (Drums) play their hearts out for 45 minutes which is not unnoticed or unappreciated.

It’s fair to say that Rock City is at near capacity tonight. Not many metal bands that play here achieve that feat. Black Label Society, as we should all know by now, are not one of the many. Their brand of Southern infused biker metal, for want of a better term, has laid down a marker for those who have followed.

The crowd are not so much expectant tonight, they know what’s coming,  as “rabidly well up for it”. At a guess you could say that 90% of the fans inside have seen this band more than a few times. They are the kind of band that engenders that kind of support.  After being treated to the only “mash up” worthy of the name, by way of introduction, “Whole Lotta Love/War Pigs” the gig proper begins.

“The Beginning….At Last” is the, erm, beginning of the set. It’s a track on record that makes you want to destroy all before you. Live it’s not much different, just amplified by 1000 screaming Metalheads.  There is something seriously wrong with a Metalhead if they do not enjoy nights like this. “Funeral Bell” and “Bleed For Me”, tracks that require no introduction, follow rapidly and the heat is turned up another notch. Now it’s getting sweaty!!

The latest album Catacombs of the Black Vatican gets it’s airing four tracks in with the thunderous “Hearts Of Darkness”. It goes down just like every other BLS track does with full on subversence from the masses gathered in their hordes.  Fellow newbie “Damn The Flood” receives a similar response. Just another classic track being played out before an audience raised on classics.

Amongst the here and now there is time for reflection. Never more evident than on “In This River”, a gut wrenching beautiful tribute to the late, and great, Dimebag Darrell.   “Suicide Messiah” is a can’t fail track such is its brilliance. Tonight it positively explodes in haze of smoke, sweat and beers. Same can be said for “In My Dying Time”.  There are no flaws in tonight’s set as a dynamic and muscular “Concrete Jungle” and the ever excellent “Stillborn” closes another stunning performance

It’s a risky strategy having an awesome opening band like Crobot. In this case it’s inspired as BLS use the energy already fuelled by Crobot, and Black Tusk to be fair, and spilled it all over Rock City. Anyone got a light?!!

In a modern world where so many bands or artists do just enough to keep fans in a state of inertia Black Label Society simply refuse to disappoint a single soul.  Nothing less than 100% attitude and commitment is required and that makes one of the finest bands on the planet. They don’t need to keep proving it but they do it anyway.


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