Black Label Society, The Black Dahlia Murder, Alien Weaponry
The Wellmont Theater, in the heart of Montclair, New Jersey, was the site of a triple-billed tour in honor of the seminal reworking of Black Label Society’s 20th-anniversary album Sonic Brew and most recent studio album Grimmest Hits, released last year. Fans lined up early on the uncharacteristically warm Saturday evening of October 5, 2019, and waited anxiously for the doors of the iconic Garden State rock venue to swing open.
The night began with a crushing onslaught of guitar-heavy riffs courtesy of overseas metal upstarts, Alien Weaponry from Waipu, New Zealand. The band is currently supporting their 2018 full-length debut Tu. The band entered the stage in tribal fashion with drummer Henry De Jong banging his chest to the Maori chanting, welcoming his bandmates, brother Lewis De Jong (guitars) and touring bassist Bobby Oblak, to the stage. Oblak is filling in for Ethan Trembath, who took a break from touring to finish high school. Witnessing a metal band sing in another language such as Maori (Eastern Polynesian) is one of the most unique live experiences of thrash. De Jong screamed out to the sizable crowd, “I want to see a mosh pit!” as the first of many to come that night erupted in the middle of the General Admission floor.
A quick intermission between sets soon gave way to crowd favorites, The Black Dahlia Murder. I recall catching the band on the Warped Tour and was quickly reminded how heavy this band plays – best described as sonic destruction. The Black Dahlia Murder continues to tour in support of their 2017 album Nightbringers. They pulled songs from their considerable catalog with older deep cuts, as fans broke out in the main mosh pit. Lead singer, Trevor Strnad fed off enthusiasm from the crowd as he pointed in each direction to the swath of fans before him, elevating their energy and commanded: “flex your muscles, Montclair!” Strnad possesses the kind of electric charisma earned from two decades in the music scene with a career spanning from the early 2000s to the present day.
After an extended second intermission, as headliner Black Label Society was getting ready to unleash their metal fury, a huge, green-tinted banner adorned with the BLS logo and skull-based tapestry hung hiding the stage setup from eager fans ready to go back in time. A mash-up of both Led Zeppelin’s driving rock anthem, Whole Lotta Love and Black Sabbath’s War Pigs blared from the overhead house speakers as a tease for fans who waited anxiously for the banner to drop and the show they came to see.
Frontman Zakk Wylde, equally well known for his tenure in both Black Sabbath and Ozzy Ozbourne, commanded the stage and “wields his guitar like a Viking weapon, bashing out thick riffage and squeezing out expressive squeals as if the glory of his Berserker brotherhood depends upon every single note, which of course, it does.” Wylde pointed to each side of the floor in striking fashion as he engaged captivated fans to a greatest hits type of set pulling from Sonic Brew in career-spanning hits like “Spoke in the Wheel”. The crowd erupted in continued throwdowns to heavy guitar slaying. Concurrent with the tour is BLS’s re-release of Sonic Brew, which has been “re-blended,” which is sort of like remastered, except that Wylde didn’t have all of the component tapes, and had to get creative and re-record some parts. Fans were treated to a triple “dose of black” and received an impressive level of stage talent that was both unbelievable and immeasurable.
Review by Brendan Maurice | Photos by Nick Scalera