The Sunshine Theater was transformed last Monday into the Albuquerque chapter of a Black Label Society synagogue, with worshipers paying homage to rock legend Zakk Wylde.
The show started at 8 p.m. with Albuquerque’s own The Ground Beneath. Despite technical difficulties, including a blown amp and a cord malfunction, The Ground Beneath managed to do what they came to do: rock. Frontman Steve Civerolo gave a polished performance in the vein of Metallica’s James Hetfield. One backup amp later, the set was over and Civerolo gave a shout-out to his mom, who was in the front row cheering him on.
Next on the stage came Wovenwar, a band formed from the ashes of the As I Lay Dying fallout after frontman Tim Lambesis’s arrest in 2013. The lineup consisted of Shane Blay on lead vocals, Josh Gilbert on bass and vocals, Nick Hipa lead guitar, Phil Sgrosso on rhythm guitar and programming, and Jordan Mancino on drums.
From the start of Wovenwar’s set, Mancino’s drums were so loud and hypnotic it seemed as if Thor brought his hammer down at the Sunshine. The walls shook so hard that it felt like an off-the-chart earthquake. Blay and Gilbert started the show trying out some harmonies together, but to no avail.
The only discernible sounds in the entire set were of the drums and moments of great lead guitar from Hipa. The set sounded looped and, at one point, frontman Blay walked away from the mic to get a drink and his vocals kept running. This was a total Milli Vanilli flashback. Three more rockers got the crowd going, but the vibe petered out when the band tried a ballad, of all things, and then went into thrash jamming.
With all of the polished musicians in Wovenwar, the band may be suffering from an identity crisis — not knowing what direction to take and hone in on. That being said, this is their first tour together, and from what they brought Wovenwar has the makings of a behemoth force as long as their audiences wear earplugs and don’t mind the feeling of being put in a paint shaker.
I give Wovenwar a 10 on noise, but on overall sound and singing I give them a three.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of anticipation and eight warm-up songs played through the house sound system, the lights go down and the smoke comes up as Zakk Wylde steps onto the stage. A flash of concert lights sets the theater into a metal frenzy. Wylde wasted no time getting started and ran through three hard-hitting songs without stopping his accomplished guitar-centered sermon.
The quality of the sound was like night and day compared to the first two acts. The stage was filled with six sets of Marshall half stacks — three on each side of the platform — and an intricate drum kit that contained a gong. The backdrop displayed a huge skull-faced monk with a cross insignia.
As Wylde transitioned through his polished set list, he changed out guitars for each song, showing off his new tour line of Gibson SG and Flying V and regular Gibson Les Paul instruments. At one point in the show Wylde was given a Gibson double neck 12-string six-string combo with a mirror finish, which he held high in the air like an altarpiece for the crowd to bow to. He brought the guitar down and kissed it like a holy relic.
One of the standout signatures of the show was the 15-minute nonstop guitar solo Wylde expertly and rigorously performed while the rest of his band went backstage for a break. The riff started out as an ode to Van Halen’s Eruption, but Wylde took this arpeggio hammer on driven homage through the stratosphere and left the stage in flames. The crowd worked up into a metal mash lather.
The impressive fact of this showcase was that Wylde, the main star of the show, did not stop for a single breather between sets. When he was finished with the solo, the band returned from their break and he started right up again with more songs. This is the mark of a true professional.
A baby grand piano was brought in for the mid part of the show and Wylde, displaying his instrument virtuosity, played a little piano instrumental just to get the crowd into the slower, ballad-like mood.
The highlight of the evening was Wylde’s ode to the late Dimebag Darrel, “In This River.” As he began playing the song two huge banners, each depicting the legendary Dimebag, were unfurled over the amps to the uproarious approval of the frenzied crowd. It was a somber but beautiful moment; one unexpected for this caliber of rock show.
After four piano-driven songs, Black Label Society came back with a metal roar, finishing with three heavy offerings and ending the night on a bang of lights and colored smoke. Wylde graciously gave high-fives to the people in front of the eager mass, and the entire band threw swag to the crowd.
Black Label Society are the high priests of the metal genre and shining examples of the power of hard work. This metal revival was the catalyst for recruiting new disciples of this blackened bands congregation. I place a 10 on the altar of greatness for this amazing performance and beat my chest in salute to the order of the black.
Stephen Montoya is the culture editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @StephenMontoya9.