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Black Label Society

the back of Zakk Wylde, Black Label Society on cover of Maximum Ink CD: Stronger Than Death
Record Label: Spitfire
by Paul Gargano
July 2000

There’s nothing subtle about Zakk Wylde. He’s the guitar demon that laid the sinister soundtrack to Ozzy Osbourne’s No Rest for the Wicked and No More Tears, breathing insanity into “Crazy Babies,” ripping through “Demon Alcohol” and raising hell on earth with “Tattooed Dancer.” He wore his Southern pride on his sleeve with Pride & Glory, enjoying fleeting success with the project, but not completely satisfying his hunger to rock with reckless abandonment. From there he split songwriting time between Osbourne’s Ozzmosis album and Guns N’ Roses, in the process, recording his solo-acoustic Book of Shadows, an album that made for an interesting sidebar for the shredding metal phenom, but only intensified his desire to raise Caine with six-string, Sabbath-inspired salutations.

When writing with GN’R seemed a dead-end road, Wylde had a revelation—he’d sing the songs himself, give them his own voice, and create a band that fulfilled his vision of rock’s most brutal attributes. He dubbed the band Black Label Society, and their self-titled Spitfire Records was one of last year’s stunning metal releases. Fire, brimstone, guitars that scorch, and music that humbles. It’s what metal was intended to be, but has had difficulty achieving in recent years. Think Monster Magnet and Corrosion of Conformity, the attitude of Pantera and the sonic depth-charge of a guitar hero who’s been quiet for far too long. It’s nasty, it’s sweaty, it’s rock, and it’s oh so satisfying. And his current follow-up album, Stronger Than Death, is more of the same, landing Black Label Society on a handful of this summer’s OZZfest dates and placing them atop the contenders to open this fall’s Pantera tour. Currently? They’re headlining a tour of their own, the Penchant for Violence tour.

What, exactly, is Black Label Society? We asked Zakk Wylde, and his response said it all: “It’s a way of life. It’s bigger than a band. It’s just freakin’ music made by alcoholics, for alcoholics and alcoholics in the making. Somebody like Kurt Cobain wouldn’t have survived in this band because suicide is not an option. You can’t be a pussy. The complaint department is closed. It’s just about how much fucking ass you can possibly kick from one bar to the next.”

That being said, what do Zakk Wylde and Mark Wahlberg have in common? No, Wylde’s Black Label Society doesn’t brutalize a cover of any Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch classics on Stronger Than Death, but Wylde does have a role in the upcoming movie Metal Gods, which stars Wahlberg as an aspiring rock musician. That connection made, Wahlberg—long hair and all—agreed to make an appearance in Black Label Society’s premier video from sophomore release Stronger Than Death, “Counterfeit God.”

As the title suggests, the Los Angeles shoot had all the trappings of a metal fan’s dream come true: A priest, metal, Zakk Wylde confronting the priest, more metal, an enraged priest, more Wyldeness, and a lot more metal. “Get on your knees and worship me!” bellows Wylde before a chainlink mic stand, the brewtality bursting from his veins as he swills Sierra Nevada Pale Ales between takes. The biggest surprise of the afternoon came when someone on the set asked Zakk if he wanted another drink, and the response came back, “No thanks, I’m fine…” “No?!” The whole set looked on in stunned silence before the frontman clarified—“Oh, I thought you meant water… I’ll take a Becks.” That’s more like it. But the brewtality was two-fold, as a few hours later, a member of the crew ran for coffee and returned with four shopping bags full of Starbucks. “Shit,” Wylde laughed, “That was the first $528 coffee run in the history of metal!”

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