Review: Black Label Society – ‘Doom Crew Inc.’

Coming in at 60:00 minutes and 12-tracks in length, the eleventh studio album from Black Label Society, ‘Doom Crew Inc.’, is a meaty, lengthy affair with plenty for the listener to chew on (Giggity).

The first thing of note is that guitarist Dario Lorina has much more of a role to play on this outing. Whereas on previous output you could state without fear of ridicule that Lorina played more of a Malcolm Young bedrock rhythm guitar role, on ‘Doom Crew Inc.’ Lorina goes toe-to-toe with BLS Papa bear Zakk Wylde and trades solos and melodic guitar harmonies with the big man himself…and the album is all the better for it. Maybe not quite as earthshaking as Tony Iommi sharing guitar duties, but close. As you would expect from a BLS album, ‘Doom Crew Inc.’ is guitar-heavy. Solo’s are plentiful, and at times; staggering. Crucially though, they are not just for guitar heads and the refreshing lack of noodling should mean that they will appeal to anyone with a penchant for heavy, blues-based riffage. Straight from the off (opening track ‘Set You Free’, complete with its singing riffs), it’s clear that Wylde has given thought to what these tracks might sound like when played live, and the answer to that is “fiery”.

Black Label SocietyAnother noteworthy aspect about ‘Doom Crew Inc.’ (named in honor of BLS’s road crew, and as a salute to the fans that have been with the band since day one) is the growth in Zakk Wylde’s vocals. Perhaps it’s the relinquishment of some of the lead guitar duties, or maybe it’s the result of being off the road for so long, but whatever it is; Wylde sounds better than ever here. The Sabbath-Esque ‘Destroy & Conquer’ (‘Hole In The Sky’ done 2021-style, but with added extras) highlights the growth in his vocal capabilities, so much so that as good as the dueling guitar solos are (and they are), it’s the vocal performance that long lingers on. Full of life, and in general, stronger. Need further evidence of this? Drop the needle on ‘You Made Me Want To Live’ and melt away in a smoke-filled haze as Wylde whisks you away with his organic, un-schooled vocal style – think Willie Nelson with muscles and…well, you are nowhere near it, but it’s a fun image, isn’t it?

Highlights are numerous; ‘You Made Me Want To Live’ is one, another would be the piano-driven ballad ‘Forever And A Day’, which is surprisingly saccharine-free, and comes with an absolute killer of a lengthy guitar solo that evokes Skynyrd flashbacks (as does another highlight ‘Farewell Ballad’ which throws the rule book out by having the guitar solo first, before any vocals). ‘Gospel Of Lies’ is immense; thanks to the non-fussy (but crucial) work of bassist John “J.D.” DeServio and drummer Jeff Fabb, and the groove-filled shuffle of ‘Gather All My Sins’ simply slays. Ultimately, this is an album full of tracks written for the live setting, the vast majority have space for the band to spread their wings and for both Wylde and Lorina to flex their guitar-wielding muscles and really let fly. Prepare to be dazzled when the Doom Crew Inc. next rolls into your hometown.

Available now via Spinefarm Records International.

(Photo credit: Jen Rosenstein)

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