I never really had an interest in Black Label Society. A few friends were fans, but I didn't especially find the need to listen to their music. When Zakk Wylde stood behind Sharon Osbourne after she sabotaged Iron Maiden's set back in 2005 I made a point of avoiding the man's work, regardless of whether it was Ozzy albums, Black Label Society albums, or what ever else that I knew he participated. Looking back, it was pretty stupid decision. But if Shot to Hell represents Black Label Society's music in any shape or form, than I wish I continued boycotting the band. I picked up Shot to Hell a little while ago, and with all the praise and recognition Zakk and his band receive, to say I was disappointed would be an understatement.
I've heard some pretty uninspiring performances. While Shot to Hell is not one of the worst in this regard, the album still manages to sound dull and boring. If you're looking for an album without hooks, Shot to Hell is for you. There is absolutely nothing that stands out on first listen. Nor second, or even third. With the disappointing, forgettable riffs; the bland vocals; the poor songwriting; nothing seems to be going Black Label Society's way as the album is more of an exercise to listen to rather than one you'd listen to out of enjoyment. Songs such as Devil's Dime, Faith is Blind, and Give Yourself to Me are some of the worst perpetrators in this area. None of these songs have any real energy. None of these songs have any real replay value and will likely be forgotten by all except for the hardcore fans of the band. Perhaps some time off is in order for Zakk and the boys, as they seem to be running low on ideas.
Guitarist Zakk Wylde has won all plenty of awards for his playing, and his leads on this new album aren't really all that bad. Even fairly interesting to listen to at times. Yet despite this, the solos do not add to the music at all. At times it feels like Zakk just solos for the sake of soloing, and it does not work very well at all. Because of this, many of the leads are not very memorable at all, as I mentioned earlier. Hell is High has a decent solo, as does Devil's Dime (listen really
carefully, and you might
hear it), but a lot of the time, it'll just pass you by without you realizing, as do most of the leads. His rhythms are beyond abysmal, lacking in both strength and catchiness. Instead, they don't really serve any purpose, other than just being there. I can't really speak for some of Black Label Society's older albums, but on Shot to Hell Wylde shows nothing more than generic heavy riffs that sound rushed and rehashed.
Another key element missing from Shot to Hell is emotion. Really, this goes hand in hand with the point I made about the uninspired writing earlier, but I feel that this too must be mentioned. Through most of the album, hell nearly all of it, it seems as though the band just plods through their sixth album like they're prisoners of the recording studio, hacking away at rocks with their pick axes like in old cartoons. However, there are a few emotional parts of the album, and the intro of New Religion is one of them. At just over two minutes, the piano intro is among the album's best moments, and certainly the most impressive moment instrumentally. In a way the piano is somewhat depressing, yet at the same time very soothing and enjoyable. I think Black Label Society could have done a better job in this area; it would inject some life to an album that desperately needs it.
The most positive aspect of Shot to Hell is the length of the songs. The longest song, New Religion, is thankfully only 4:36. With the lack of, to be a little blunt, quality material, the fact that Shot to Hell is only 44 minutes long (as well as the longest track being only 4:36) is a relief. With these shorter tracks the band produces, they perform what they are best at, rather than a long epic track that would likely have been very difficult to absorb.
Black Label Society's new album Shot to Hell can be summed up in just three words, disappointing and very poor. While listening to this I get the feeling that Zakk and Co. did not spend enough time either the recording process or the writing processes. A very dull, boring album, nothing really sticks out save for the cool piano intro in New Religion. Do yourselves a big favour and do not purchase this release.
New Religion (If only for the piano intro)