By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven. -- John Milton
The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do, and doing it with the people you love.-- Anonymous Hell's Angel
Go fuck yourself. -- Zakk Wylde
The weeks lead are a joyous time in the freelancer slave pits of the RFT music department. The door to the Undying One's cell opens on an hourly basis, disgorging not just the usual detritus (candy wrappers, vague threats, empty methadone bottles and dogeared copies of the Congressional Record) but a steady stream of high-quality Ozzfest detritus: promo photos, glossy Kinko's-quality press kits and the iron pyrite of the Metal Fest, the promo CD. A pack of snarling, half-starved freelancers can reduce a pile of promo CDs to store credit in less time than it takes to renege on a deadline, which is pretty damn fast in these parts.
But this year, in amongst the Linkin Parks and Crazy Towns and other rap-metal offal, there glistened a rough-cut gem of an album: The Black Label Society's Alcohol Fueled Brewtality Live + 5 (Spitfire Records). This is an album so loud, aggressive, soulful and absolutely over the edge fucking great that not only did it escape the short walk to the Vintage Vinyl trading block, it compelled a certain freelancer to shell out the cash for BLS's two previous albums, Sonic Brewand Stronger Than Death(both on Spitfire Records). It was money well spent. Alcohol Fueled Brewtality Live + 5 is undoubtedly the heaviest album released this year and, barring a late-year release from Black Sabbath, will retain that title with no real challenge. Oh, many of those previously mentioned press releases tout their bands' "extremeness" or "intenseness," but how heavy can you be if you need a turntable, a drum machine and a face full of fishing lures to make your point? This ain't a circus sideshow, it's rock & roll, you gimps! Take a look at the BLS promo photo: What do you see? Leather, chains, big dogs, denim, skulls, guitars and one righteous bad-ass of a guitarist, Mr. Zakk Wylde. The Black Label Society's music is exactly what you see in that photo, only with more beer.
Live + 5 opens with the wail of an air-raid siren and then scorches a 50-foot pillar of fire through your head with its gratuitous power chords, grinding rhythm section and fuck-all, beer-soaked vocals. It is a subtle masterpiece of metal fury, if your idea of subtle is an overhand right that shatters your teeth at the gumline.
What's even better is that if you have the chance to talk with Zakk, you'll find he's as expansive and as blunt as his music. There is no question he won't answer, no set of toes he won't step on. This is a guy who got his start playing guitar for Ozzy Osbourne, and yet he has no rock-star attitude. The last BLS tour took him to Sauget's own Pop's Nightclub, which some folks might consider a step down for someone who's toured stadiums with Ozzy, but to Zakk it doesn't matter where he plays: "Anywhere where someone will fuckin' show up and I can make a livin' doin' what I love: music. Of course I'd fuckin' love to have an album that's sellin' fuckin' tons, but at what expense are you gonna fuckin' do it? What am I gonna do? Cut my fuckin' hair and dress like 'N Sync or Backstreet Boys and doin' music like that? Even if I fuckin' sold 8 million records doin' it, I'd look like a fuckin' complete fuckin' dickhead doin' that shit, you know what I mean? I'd have one good run, one good record, and that'd be about it. You completely sell out like that ... of course, when you make the records, you wanna turn people on to 'em. I don't wanna fuckin' sell three copies to my fuckin' friends. But at the same time, are you gonna turn yourself into a dishrag whore? At what expense?"
Speaking of dishrag whores, just before BLS launches into a balls-out version of "Superterrorizer" on the live disc, Zakk bellows, "Limp Bizkit sucks dick!" Is there some bad blood between Black Label Society and the rich white crybabies?
"I don't think it's actually so much fuckin' Limp Bizkit ... ahh, we'll never tour with those motherfuckers, so I just don't give a shit," Zakk says. "It's that whole fuckin' wigger thing. Put it this way: if you've been into that shit since before it came out, fine.But I know guys who were into fuckin' metal bands like you wouldn't believe, and I run into 'em now and it's, like, 'Yo! My buck-G! Whassup, my nigga?' And it's, like, 'Who the fuck are you? Go fuck yourself.' You got younger kids who are into it because that's what they been weaned on. But it's, like, guys who have been into Sabbath all their life and been into metal, and it never fuckin' panned out for them, and now you see them and they got the baggy pants and the ugh!-- it's, like, 'Go fuck yourself, you fuckin' phony piece of shit!'"
No argument there. But what about this year's Ozzfest bill? It seems to be a little heavy on exactly that type of band.
"Well, Slipknot is pretty heavy. Disturbed is pretty fuckin' heavy. He just sings, like, real rhythmic, real percussive. I don't think he's really rappin'," Zakk says. "The Linkin Park guys got their Limp Bizkit thing, but they're younger kids and shit like that. Who's goin' after us? Fuckin' Crazy Town, I think ? Well, fuckin' good luck. We'll destroy them -- fuckin' destroy them! They'll be a smoldering lump of shit by the time we get done. Every fuckin' night."
If Zakk sounds like Hell's Avenging Angel of heavy metal, it's no coincidence. He's appropriated much of the style of the Hell's Angels (the colors, the bylaws and chapter structure, and the raw finger of disgust thrown defiantly in your face), but only because the outlaw biker gang's ethos is the only one that matched his own. "Yeah, the Angels, the Outlaws. They do what they love, and you can go fuck yourself. When the Angels started, Sonny Barger, he just wanted to start a club that, you know, you get the people that are into the same shit you're into. Today's kids, they want to be a part of the Machine," he says incredulously. "They wanna be part of the fuckin' movement as opposed to bein' against it. A 16-year-old will want to audition and learn these dance steps, take fuckin' vocal lessons and do shit like that to make sure he fits in the group, as opposed to goin', 'Ahhh, FUCK THAT!' and buyin' a guitar and startin' a heavy fuckin' hardcore metal band or playin' punk rock or anything like that. Nowadays, kids, they want to conform to whatever the fuck it is. That's why, with the imagery, the biker style, I was, like, 'I'll start my own fuckin' club: the fuckin' club for people like me, who dig the heavy shit and they're tired of hearin' fuckin' Backstreet shit and all that other crap.' And it's bigger than me. It's a fuckin' society. It's a hell of a lot easier just bein' yourself than tryin' to be something you ain't and just actin' all the fuckin' time. Life's too short for that fuckin' shit. As far as I'm concerned, as long as I can make a living and support my family, keep a roof over my head and keep the fuckin' fridge stocked with beer year-round, I'm fuckin' doin' fine."
And for the curious, Zakk's official Black Label Society beer recommendation:
"Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is always good. Anything that's high in fuckin' alcohol content will do the job, I guess. A little fuckin' Guinness will never hurt you." Neither will a little high-alcohol-content rock & roll.