Black Label are the best live band in Australia – fact. Over a ten year career- they have played hundreds of shows, including countless shows with both Rose Tattoo and The Angels – and if heavy, blues based rock in the tradition of those bands is your bag – then you will dig Black Label. Make no mistake though. This is not a band playing carbon copied Brewster Brother or Wells/Cocks riffs, and whilst they certainly tip their hats to those aforementioned bands, ‘Blood Money’ confirms in no uncertain terms that Black Label are at the height of their powers and playing truly amazing, original and memorable heavy rock of the first order, and with ‘Blood Money’, they have delivered a defiant collection of ballsy heavy rock anthems. To avoid confusion with Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society, the band changed their name to Lawless Breed, with ‘Blood Money’ gaining a European release in late 2008 through EMG Music Germany, (In Australia, they still play under the Black Label moniker).
This album was released late last year in Australia, some seven or so months ago now, and it seems to have slipped under the radar, which is a real pity, because this is without a doubt one superb heavy rock record. ‘Blood Money’ is the fourth studio album from this Sydney based band, and it shows a significant maturity in both the song writing and musical stakes. That is not an implication that any of their previous efforts were underdone – far from it in fact. It’s just that the band’s sound has come a long way from the days when they were plying a twin guitar style of southern fried, hard rock boogie that channelled Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet and Blackfoot. The difference, (to my ears anyway) is that the tunes on ‘Blood Money’ are world class. This is as good as ANY heavy rock album you’ll hear, and ranks as the bands heaviest album, with a sound that to me is aimed clearly, at the European heavy rock / metal market. Yes folks – it’s that good.
Whilst bands like Airborne have had some international success pillaging a dog eared, AC/DC style of rock, large scale success has eluded Black Label, who are far more authentic. Black Label have a pedigree that included former members of both Heaven and Boss in their ranks. They have been endorsed by Rose Tattoo’s Angry Anderson and the late Peter Wells, and after several years and hundreds of gigs, have more than paid their dues. Credentials aside though, ‘Blood Money’ affirms that they are the 100% bona fide article with this ten track album loaded with firebrand hard core riffs and a heavy duty groove. Recorded and produced by Greg Clarke, the guitars are underlined by thunderous rhythms – Australian rock at its best. Vocalist Steve Mulry has a strong, solid and powerful voice, and belts it out in no uncertain terms. From top to bottom, every song on this album is killer, from the brooding ‘Slap In The Face’ to the big riffing ‘Big Talker’, there’s plenty to like. The catchy, up tempo ‘Dirty Little Bitch’ would be an obvious choice for single, whilst ‘Lawless Street’ oozes slide guitar, balls ‘n’ boogie. ‘Fallen Angel’ has a gutsy riff and catchy chorus, perfectly showcasing Mulry’s searing vocals. This is a classic heavy rock song. My favourite cut off the album though has to be the anthemic ‘Brothers In Arms’, the post modern ‘Scarred For Life’. Utterly superb, a fist raising battle cry. Manowar never wrote anything this good. As I said though, this entire album smokes.
After several years, the lack of success must be a frustration, for Black Label know how good they are. There is no shortage of gigs on offer for this hardest of hard working bands, but there is a marked difference between playing to dozens of people at an outer Western Sydney pub, and thousands of metal heads at various European metal festivals. It’s an injustice that their music is not being heard by thousands. Denim and leather clad headbangers would lap this stuff up – if only given the opportunity to hear the bloody thing! I would hate to see this band fade away due to frustration at the lack of success. (I’ve seen that happen to other Australian bands in the past. They were peddling rock ‘n’ roll of global quality – yet couldn’t get the world to hear it). The Australian market is limited. I’m not sure whether an intended European assault stalled or not, but maybe these guys should consider basing themselves in Europe for a year and having a full tilt fling at the big time. They have the songs and the musical muscle to pull it off – and if not, there will always be a gig for them here.
Black Label should rightly be playing all the big metal festivals across Europe this summer in support of this album – but there’s no million dollar PR machine pushing this album, so the majority have yet to hear it – and it’s deserving of much greater exposure than what it’s had so far. If AC/DC took Black Label out on tour with them, I guarantee they would be massive. Such great songs are deserving of an opportunity to be heard. I love bands like Rose Tattoo and The Angels, but let’s call a spade a spade – those bands glory days are long over – yet here is an Australian band in their prime playing rock ‘n’ roll equal to anything that either of those bands have released – so get out and support ‘em! If ever a band were on the cusp of greatness – it is this one. Large scale success is so near you can almost taste it. ‘Blood Money’ is the release that should justly propel them into the big time.
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