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Case Number 16215: Small Claims Court

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Black Label Society: Skullage

Eagle Rock Entertainment // 2009 // 115 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // April 23rd, 2009

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All Rise...

Judge Victor Valdivia's biker-rock combo, the Moto-Guzzis, doesn't get many gigs. Maybe it's the matching red and green outfits.

Editor's Note

Our review of Black Label Society: Doom Troopin' Live (Blu-Ray), published September 16th, 2010, is also available.

The Charge

"Limp Bizkit can s*ck our fat mother-f*cking c*cks!"

The Case

Sometimes you need good background music when you're looking to kick someone's face in. Black Label Society fills that need flawlessly. Since 1999, BLS has been cranking out a satisfying brand of biker-metal that isn't particularly groundbreaking but doesn't need to be. All that matters is that it evokes the feel of a fleet of Harley-Davidsons rolling down the open highway without stopping for anything or anyone, and that it does, in spades. Skullage, a two-disc set that includes a best-of CD and a DVD which compiles BLS's videos along with some live performances and interviews, is an excellent package for anyone needing a shot of pure testosterone. Longtime fans might be disappointed that much of this collection is already available on other BLS releases, but there's some previously unreleased content that should entice them.

For the uninitiated, Black Label Society is the solo project launched by Zakk Wylde, the guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne's band. Though Wylde sometimes uses backing musicians, such as bassist Robert Trujillo (now a member of Metallica), for the most part BLS is Wylde's solo show: he sings lead, writes all of the songs, and plays almost all of the instruments, occasionally accompanied by drummer Phil Ondich. Musically, BLS does take most of its cues from Osbourne's doom-metal style-Wylde's singing voice even bears more than a passing resemblance to Osbourne's. BLS, however, also incorporates more Southern rock and grunge into its music and Wylde takes the opportunity to display his instrumental prowess far more often than he does when he's playing with Osbourne. Several songs here show off Wylde's skills as a pianist and classical guitarist, and BLS's songwriting and arrangements are sometimes surprisingly complex and eclectic. That's not to say that BLS doesn't deliver the hard-rock goods, but it would be a mistake to dismiss Wylde's music as simplistic. He has far more talent and depth than that.

The Skullage DVD consists of various segments. There's a collection of BLS videos from throughout the band's career:

• "Stillborn"
• "Suicide Messiah"
• "In This River"
• "Fire It Up"
• "New Religion"

There are songs taken from BLS's previous concert DVD releases:

• "Spoke in the Wheel" (from Doom Troopin': European Invasion)
• "All for You"
• "13 Years of Grief"
• "Bleed for Me" (all from Boozed Broozed & Broken-Boned)

There's a segment titled "Slightly Amped," which consists of four previously unavailable acoustic songs taken from a radio performance in Lehigh, PA, on February 13, 2004:

• "The Blessed Hellride"
• "Spoke in the Wheel"
• "We Live No More"
• "Stillborn"

Finally, there's also "Welcome to the Compound," a brand-new 30-minute interview and behind-the-scenes segment with Wylde at his home. This is a good place to start. Though Wylde has defined his public persona as a Harley-ridin', leather-wearin', hard-rockin', tattooed badass, he actually displays an endearing sense of humor. Somewhere in between wearing a lovely pink dress, proudly showing off his doll collection, and dropping a ten-pound weight on his foot, he comes off as more of an amiable goofball than a mean tough guy. Plus, he discusses the writing and recording of some of his best songs and plays some beautiful pieces on piano and acoustic guitar. For both newcomers and longtime fans, this segment will be the real highlight of the DVD.

The others are very good as well. The "Slightly Amped" performances are excellent, showing off Wylde's dexterous playing and letting him sing in a softer and more soulful voice. Both fans and newcomers will be pleased with these performances, although newcomers should start with the electric songs, which are more representative of BLS's sound. The videos are mostly standard metal videos with lots of skull, steel, and fire imagery, none of which detracts from the brutal energy of the music. The one exception is "In This River," Wylde's touching tribute to his friend Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell Abbott, who was murdered in 2004. It's a beautiful ballad accompanied by an equally poignant video. The performance clips are all excellent showcases of Wylde's improvisational skills for newcomers, although fans who have collected BLS's previous DVD releases already have them. Still, as a sampler of BLS for newcomers, this is a perfectly compiled collection.

The disc's technical aspects are decent. It's a bit irritating that the original releases of the live performances and some of the videos included 5.1 Surround mixes but this DVD only has a Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 mix. Still, it is a nice loud one, as is the case with most of Eagle Rock's music DVDs. The 1.78:1 non-anamorphic transfer is generally solid, although the "Slightly Amped" songs were shot on badly lit cheap video and consequently look rougher than the other material. The package also includes a greatest-hits CD:

• "Machine Gun Man"
• "Dead As Yesterday"
• "All For You"
• "13 Years of Grief"
• "Bleed For Me"
• "Doomsday Jesus"
• "Stillborn"
• "Won't Find It Here"
• "Suicide Messiah"
• "In This River"
• "Fire It Up"
• "New Religion"
• "The Blessed Hellride" (acoustic)
• "Spoke in the Wheel" (acoustic)
• "Stillborn" (acoustic)

Unlike BLS's previous greatest-hits anthology, Kings of Damnation, this one concentrates mostly on the band's more recent albums, with only a smattering of pre-2004 material. Because BLS has had a generally consistent sound throughout its career, this is not a huge flaw, although it could have been a little more comprehensive. Nonetheless, it's a well-chosen sampler and the acoustic songs (the same ones on the DVD) are a great addition.

Skullage is definitely the place to start, if you've ever been interested in Wylde's music. Longtime fans will appreciate the new content and neophytes will find Skullage a treasure trove of pure metallic swagger. This is the definitive Black Label Society DVD.

The Verdict

Not guilty through sheer aggression. Now please put that broken beer bottle down!

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 115 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Concerts and Musicals
• Documentary
• Performance

Distinguishing Marks

• None








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