I think it’s cool when a good but slightly aging band can overcome its weaker records and put something really good on the table once more. It's especially cool when a band in that situation is able to release one of its finest records ever. Such is the deal with Black Label Society, whose 8th studio offering Order Of The Black consists of some of the best material the band has put on a record in a long time.
I’d like to refrain from saying that Order Of The Black is a surprisingly great album because I’ve always liked Black Label Society, but there's no doubting that this is the band's best work in years. On Order Of The Black, the band sounds motivated and energetic again – something it seemed Black Label Society wasn’t on a few previous releases. They have also accentuated the role of southern grooves again, making Order Of The Black sound closer toSonic Brew than Shot To Hell, and that can only be counted as a plus.
Musically, the overall blueprint hasn’t changed much during the years for Black Label Society, so one has to wonder, how can these guys jump from something so generic (if still ok) asShot To Hell to something so engaging as Order Of The Black. The answer: energy. On Order Of The Black, the band sounds electrified. The rhythms are infectious, the overall tempo is great, the grooves are gripping, and the tone is heavy. All this result in a heavy metal album that sounds both fun and badass – just like Black Label Society should always be.
What's also excellent on Order Of The Black, besides the music itself, is the production. One could argue that Black Label Society has always had solid production, but on Order Of The Black it really stands out. Almost every facet of the music is brought out admirably: the drums are pounding, the main riffs gritty enough, the solos just in the right tone (plus meshing well with the background), and Wylde's howled vocals are just as much in the forefront as the guitars and drums, thus not overshadowing the instrumentation in any way, nor being indecipherable. And even though the bass, sad but true, isn’t heard during most of the album, it doesn’t detract from the overall quality production, especially when taking into consideration that inaudible bass isn’t a rarity in metal nowadays.
The only dislikable thing on the album is the inclusion of two generic ballads, "Darkest Days" and "Time Waits For No One". Black Label Society can compose solid rock ballads, with "Shallow Grave" being a good example on this very release, but the aforementioned two sound both out of place and boring. Then again, they do have a slightly redeemable factor, too. Since the other tracks here sound energetic and fun, the cuts that follow those ballads sound twice as refreshing, making them extra enjoyable. So in that regard, the two ballads can be excused.
Black Label Society have started this decade with a bang, just like they did 10 years ago when they released Stronger Than Death. Order Of The Black is the band’s heaviest, most energetic, and most cohesive record since 1919 Eternal, being of the same quality that Black Label Society's first three albums were. The boys truly are back, baby.