Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society (BLS) returns with 11 new tracks of embattled hard rock, their first full album in four years. Catacombs of the Black Vatican features all the BLS signature southern style that’s maintained the band so far—hard-driving blues rhythms that always find legs to rock, squalling guitar solos, all anchored by Wylde’s mournful drawl. As much as the band has mined dark subject matter before, the overall tone of Catacombs is miles more dour and despondent than earlier albums. Things get positively hellish during highlights “Heart of Darkness” and “Damn the Flood,” which, combined with the rest of the album, make these songs more suited to the harsh morning after than the hard-partying earlier works. Because of this, casual listeners might be more inclined to stick with previous albums.
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