Some of us remember that there was a time long before YouTube and, well, yeah, there was no internet either (gasp!). Somewhere in that time of dinosaurs there was a thing called television (yes, we did have that), and inside those television sets, kind people would late at night show videos by musical artists who played harder music than the Justin Biebers of that time (he obviously wasn't even sperma in his dad's pouch yet back then). Some of us remember seeing the video for Ozzy Osbourne's Miracle Man and get blown away by the young, madly headbanging guitarist by Ozzy's side. What a kick to watch this energy! And what a player - it sounded fabulous, no less. Those pinch harmonics were over the top amazing!
Zakk Wylde's sound became, for many, the trademark sound for Ozzy Osbourne, but of course Zakk brought a lot of that sound with him when he founded Black Label Society later on. Now, nine studio albums down the line, there's still tons of Black Sabbath and Ozzy to hear in the Black Label Society expression, although Zakk and his crew have also managed to turn it into something else. And have no fear; the pinch harmonics have survived! It takes exactly 30 seconds before the first one appears as if by magic during album opener Fields of Unforgiveness.
The funny thing is that I keep being reminded of Alice In Chains when I listen to 'Catacombs of the Black Vatican'. Most of the album has that laid back, almost lazy and stoned sound, but it's of course ccombined with the Ozzy inspiration (mostly via Zakk's phrasing when he sings) and Black Sabbath riffing. The Sabbath inspiration is most blatantly obvious in the hammer tune Damn
the Flood if you want to check out if my claims are true.
'Catacombs of the Black Vatican' is one of those albums that makes you want to kick back, close your eyes and enjoy the heavy, flowing stream of rock solid guitar music (and the occasional pinch harmonic). It just works for me.
One less positive thing: Three ballads for an 11-song album is two ballads too many for me. Angel of Mercy, Scars (Damn the Flood is SUCH a relief after this song) and Shades of Gray (sonds like a mix between Nazareth and friggin' Rod Stewart!) bring the tempo down in a way that I don't really need - and Angel of Mercy is simply too nice with the strings and all. Anyway, it's still a strong album - do check out.