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Black Label Society - 'Unblackened' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/7a/8d/ab/black-label-society-unblackened-21-1399148460.jpg Hot

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The live album is a must, more so than the DVD.

Black Label Society have unwrapped an unexpected and bizarre new world to their music. They have released a new live album with a live DVD of the same concert titled 'Unblackened'; it's a diverse direction away from their previous live DVD 'Boozed, Broozed And Broken Boned', where it was said on the night of recording that the bar ran out of booze [poor preparation – Ed]. 'Unblackened' is a peeled back performance showing a more naked and raw side of BLS. Both versions feature renowned tracks such as 'In This River', 'Stillborn', 'Throwin' It All Away' and 'Spoke In The Wheel'; all in a more exposed and accessible light.

The album starts with their most famous song 'Losin' Your Mind' – with no alternation, grabbing the listener's attention quickly. Now they have your attention BLS move straight in with a perfect contrast 'The Blessed Hellride'. It has a much lighter sound with plenty of space for Zakk Wylde's vocal ability. However his diction and clarity is completely lost and it's extremely difficult to hear any lyrics.

'Spoke In The Wheel' is one of Wylde's greatest hits; 'Unblackened' showcases a new version with added piano from the man himself and Nick Catanese taking over the solos. Then you have 'House Of Doom' with a faster tempo change and that familiar aggression and bite.

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There is a lot added to 'Unblackened', it has a richer sound with classical tones and a softer rhythm. You could say it's a lot more substantial with added keys and strings but there isn't a lot of change, it is very monotonous making it a hard listen from start to finish.

The live album is a must, more so than the DVD; firstly there are added bonus features like six exclusive studio tracks including a cover of 'Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone' and secondly you can focus greatly on the music and the atmosphere creates a live experience.

Looking at the DVD the focus is entirely on the music; it's very minimal in visual and interactive aspects from what the norm of a live performance would be. It opens with the start of their music video for '...Mind' then cuts to the live footage. As the suspense builds the curtain falls and there is astonishment at their new stage set-up. There are strong similarities to Guns N' Roses' staging and an unplugged performance from Alter Bridge.

BLS creates a casual atmosphere with brighter colours in the lighting and the band members being sat down. The venue is large for this type of event, generating a lack of intimacy with the audience. The DVD holds extras; Wylde visits HM Prison Stocken, an interview, the '...Mind' music video and a photo gallery.

Throughout the concert, there is this need for a climax; the songs are very identical through tone and melody and there isn't much visually on stage to hold your attention, making over two hours worth of material quite an endurance.

Lara Kisel

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