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Review: Black Label Society fires it up with Obituary, Prong at Knitting Factory

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 7, 2021

By Taylor D. Waring For The Spokesman-Review

Biker metal juggernaut Black Label Society and the rest of the Doom Trooping Over North America Tour crew brought an evening of grim riffs and heavy grooves to the Knitting Factory on Tuesday evening.

The tour also featured the legendary Florida death metal band Obituary and the New York groove metal band Prong. With such a solid lineup, Spokane metalheads showed up in full force – and, of course, full leather – to fire it up.

Black Label Society is helmed by Zakk Wylde, best-known as Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist. You’ve probably heard the New Jersey guitar player’s work on Ozzy tracks like “Crazy Babies” and “No More Tears,” which turned 30 on Sept. 17. The rest of the band features long-term bass player John DeServio, drummer Jeff Fabb and ace guitarist Dario Lorina.

Long-standing fans of Black Label Society enjoyed tracks from the band’s 23-year career and the over-the-top stage show they’ve come to expect from the band. To open the show, Wylde appeared onstage to perform “Bleed for Me” in a kilt and cut-off denim vest in front of a wall of guitar cabs and belt his signature yarl into a skull-embellished mic stand.

The band followed up at a breakneck pace with two more rippers. Then crowd was treated to a brief denouement of hard-rocking ballads with Led Zeppelin leanings. Wylde reappeared with a double-neck 12- and six-string guitar to play “The Blessed Hellride” before transitioning to piano for “Spoke in the Wheel.”

This was followed by 2005’s “In This River,” a tribute to Wylde’s friend Dimebag Darrell Abbott of Pantera, who was shot onstage during a performance in 2004. Banners with the faces of Dimebag and his brother Vinny, who drummed for Pantera and has also passed, appeared.

The rest of the set featured a series of blistering bangers. Fans were treated to a new song, “Set You Free,” off Black Label Society’s forthcoming record “Doom Crew Inc.” before the band launched into fan-favorites “Fire It Up” and “Suicide Messiah.”

The band performed a rendition of the 2003 classic “Stillborn,” which featured fancy drums and an extended guitar duel between Wylde and Lorina. It would be an understatement to say Black Label Society is focused on the guitar prowess of Wylde, but it’s also clear that Lorina has earned Wylde’s trust and respect as a guitarist himself.

Not only did Lorina go toe-to-toe in a guitar duel with Wylde, he also was trusted with important guitar solos from “Spoke in the Wheel” and “In This River” while Wylde gracefully played the piano. During “Trampled Down,” Lorina channeled Jimmy Page with his brief use of a violin bow on his guitar.

While Black Label Society headlined the show, many folks were in attendance to catch Florida’s Obituary. Obituary emerged from the 1990s death metal scene and has been heralded as a foundational death metal band ever since.

To outsiders, death metal may appear dour and needlessly gruesome with its down-tuned guitars, pummeling rhythms, growling vocals and lyrical focus on body horror. In a way, it is. In another way, bands like Obituary look the reality of death in the face as a way of affirming life – heads banging, horns in the air.

The Doom Trooping Over North America Tour is just getting underway and will be on the road through Nov. 28. If you missed Black Label Society, don’t fret. They return to the Knitting Factory with a stacked lineup every couple of years and have offered no signs of letting up on their rigorous touring schedule.

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