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'Catacombs Of The Black Vatican'
(Provogue Records)
Release Date: Out Now!

Gary 'Rockulus' Clarke

Rockulus Maximus

black label society

With 'Fields Of Unforgiveness' and 'My Dying Time' already being released to radio, the tone of this tenth studio opus was already evident and casting its ominous shadow over the hordes.

So the album was due to deliver 'Sabbath like riffs and soaring melodies with some piercing guitar solos that were unmistakeably from the mighty hands of Wylde. This isn't a bad summary for the eleven tracks that are caged within 'Catacombs Of The Black Vatican'. Is it just me, but isn't the album title awesome too?

We all know how Zakk Wylde is the beating heart and the core ingredient that makes Black Label Society the band they are. He produces this album, plays guitars, piano and strings, plus handles lead vocals in conjunction with being behind the artwork concept and writing all the material. Apart from all of that he doesn't really do a lot.

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It seems such a long time ago now when he arrived on the main stage at the 1994 Monsters of Rock festival at Donington Park to the controversy of fans everywhere. Other acts that appeared on the second stage were deemed more qualified and well worthy of such an esteemed place on the bill, but Pride & Glory took the stage by storm nevertheless. That year was the first time the festival had presented fans with two stages, those were the days eh? Incidentally, their self-titled album is very impressive if I'm to be honest, and who couldn't fall in love with the final track called 'Hate Your Guts'?

Looking at this album, you get the tender side of the band as they share the beautiful 'Angel Of Mercy', the emotive 'Scars' and the album-closer 'Shades Of Gray' which showcases both their tranquil side before introducing some distortion for the big showdown without losing sight of the melodious back-bone.

Strings make for a subtle addition in 'Scars' which is mostly acoustic-based. Out of the three, perhaps 'Angel Of Mercy' also incorporating a tasty string section would make a strong single with that delicious chorus.

When Wylde cranks that guitar though, is when the vibes of familiarity and comfort flow forth. 'Believe' is chunky; 'Heart Of Darkness' wields a mighty riff; 'Beyond The Down' is trimmed of excess and goes for the jugular; 'Damn The Flood' explodes into life like a fireball pillaging the ears with that infamous roar from Wylde sporadically breaking the cutting riff.

Taking a step back and thinking about this album, you've got to say that it feels like a band which is comfortable in its own skin these days. There are no surprises really, just maintaining the quality that is close to Wylde's pride; making sure the rockers deliver a hook and provide ample inner rage whilst sharing the fragility of raw emotion in the slower tracks.

John DeServio provides the bass with Chad Szeliga on drums. Both do a great job of providing some foundations on which Wylde can explore and devour with his usual touch. There isn't a great deal to criticise once you've heard it a few times. Maybe the lack of surprise could be a negative, but to the fans of this guy and this band the album ticks all of the boxes.

Fields Of Unforgiveness
My Dying Time
Angel Of Mercy
Heart Of Darkness
Beyond The Down
Damn The Flood
I've Gone Away
Empty Promises
Shades Of Gray

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Wacken Winter Nights 2018 takes place between February 23rd and 25th 2018 and the great news is that you can now experience a full-on, top class German Metal Festival easily and affordably.

It only takes an hour to fly to Hamburg from London and we've had longer journeys than that within the capital and they were certainly more expensive than the £33 air ticket that just appeared in our 'flights to Wacken Winter Nights' search.


Wacken Winter Nights is organised by the same team who are responsible for the world's greatest Metal festival, Wacken-Open-Air and the 2018 bill includes Skyclad, Orphaned Land, Elvenking, Finntroll, Grave Digger, Aeverium, Comes Vagantes, Coppelius, Corvus Corax, Die Pressgëng, Elvellon, Heimataerde, Hell-O-Matic, Ignis Fatuu, Ingrimm, Irdorath, Johnny Deathshadow, Krayenzeit, Letzte Instanz, Mr Hurley und die Pulveraffen, Pampatut, Pat Razket, Schandmaul, Sündenrausch, The Aberlour's, The Moon And The Nightspirit, Torfrock, Visions Of Atlantis, Vroudenspil, Wind Rose and more.

Besides this rich billing of superb Metal bands, there is so much more to see in the festival area including the medieval market and also the walking acts and jugglers you will meet at the theme worlds, including Robert Blake, three-time World Cup winner of street magic.

Wacken Winter Nights is something not to be missed and you can check out the amazing ticket and accommodation prices right here.

We just priced up the whole four day trip with hotels, flights, shuttles and festival tickets for less than £300 and we don't think you will get a better value festival than that, anywhere.


MetalTalk recently sat down with Wacken founder and owner Thomas Jensen and that interview will be online next week and it's a fascinating insight into how Wacken originated from nothing to become the world's premiere Heavy Metal event.


Wacken 2018 takes place from 2nd to 4th August 20218 and as with Wacken Winter Nights, if you have never experienced all it has to offer, then you owe it to yourself to remedy that.

Already announced for Wacken 2018 are Judas Priest, Nightwish, Running Wild (exclusive), Arch Enemy, Dirkschneider, Doro (Special Anniversary Show), In Extremo, Sepultura, Amorphis, Amaranthe, Firewind, W.A.R., Belphegor, Mantar, Knorkator, Deserted Fear, Watain, Night Demon, Epica, Knorkator, Belphegor, Firewind, Deserted Fear and many more and we'll have more Wacken 2018 announcements during December.

As well as being the greatest Heavy Metal festival in the world, it is without a doubt the Mecca of Metal and the one thing that every single person who loves our music should have on their bucket list.

For 2018, MetalTalk have joined forces with Wacken-Open-Air to help you get to Wacken easily and inexpensively and you can peruse the ticket and travel options right here.

If you are interested in going to Wacken 2018 and have questions, please fill out the form below and we will contact you with answers to all your enquiries. You are under no obligation whatsoever by filling this form out. We won't add you to any mailing lists or send you loads of spam - all we will do is help you get to Wacken as easily and inexpensively as possible.



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