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The one and only Black Label Society landed in California last Friday, bringing their North American Crusade to the Riverside Municipal Auditorium.   Fronted by the unmistakable Zakk Wylde, their unique brand of Gloom/Biker Rock is undoubtedly something to experience.  Having not seen Zakk live since the early Ozzy days, I was looking forward to this show.  Along with Supporting acts Obituary and Lord Dying, this lineup was sure to put the structural integrity of the 91-year-old auditorium to the test.

The night began with Portland’s own Lord Dying, bringing with them their brand of doom/sludge metal. Their big fat plodding sound accompanied their enthusiastic presence and was a welcome start to the night. Lord Dying is touring in support of their latest release, Mysterium Tremendum, which explores all things death.  They did a great job and I would surely see them again.

Next on the agenda was veteran Florida based Death Metal pioneers, Obituary.  The medium tempo grinder “Redneck Stomp” opened the night and served as a bit of a warm-up of sorts.  Then it started.  Obituary proceeded to ignite a powder keg on the RMA that set the near-capacity crowd on fire.  Sprinkling songs in from their storied past, Obituary did their best to satisfy all in attendance.  The furious riffs and machine-gun drums instigated the fist-pumping and head thrashing that seemingly everyone took part.  This place was going off and the people loved it.  It was quite the spectacle by all accounts and a show I won't soon forget.  I was glad to see this was a very receptive crowd for the onslaught that is Obituary. Well done.

Now, it was time for the reason everyone packed the RMA.  As the background music from the PA finally faded, it was the familiar signal to all that the show was about to begin.  The intro to “Genocide Junkies” began bellowing and we knew what was coming.  I was so amped for this I almost wanted to yank down the massive red-velvet curtain hiding the stage myself!  Just a bit of patience was all I needed, and in a flash, Zakk and the boys instantly appeared on stage and barreled into the opening riffs.  Black Label Society was underway.  

Throughout the show, Zakk posed next to his signature Skull-laden mic-stand, throwing around enough hair around for three people.  John DeServio (bass) and Dario Lorina (rhythm guitar) were banging around in unison at the front of the stage, doing everything they could to keep up.  On drums, Jeff Fabb nailed down the bottom end and completed the package.  Their set included a variety of tunes, spanning the entire Black Label history and was enough to keep the most discerning fan happy.  A dirty filthy dose of bad-assery that I’ll remember for a long time to come.

Black Label Society is taking this show of force across the U.S. currently throughout the spring.  Treat yourself to one of the coolest packages of metal on the road today.  There’s sure to be something for everyone and I guarantee you’ll leave with a sore neck.  Be Well!   

John McAteer

Photojournalist - Orange County

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