VERSUS: The Blessed Hellride vs. Deliverance

VERSUS: The Blessed Hellride vs. Deliverance

Welcome to Versus. The series where we look at two albums in metal history, compare them to each other, and see which one was the better record.

In this edition of Versus, we are going down south to tackle the groovy sound of heavy metal with tinges of the south. Though, the area is primarily known for the NOLA sound with acts like Down, Eyehategod, Crowbar and Acid Bath, there are other acts that have ventured away from the genre to incorporate traditional heavy metal, stoner rock, and some incorporating the sludgy bayou sound of the scene. One band, features one of the most famous and recognizable guitarists of all time, who had roots in southern metal with his first band Pride & Glory. Transforming that project into one of the classic heavy metal bands of the modern day. The other, a band that would switch from a crossover thrash sound on their debut, into a southern metal sound that the band would become known for. Incorporating other elements of blues, stoner rock & metal in the vein of the legendary Black Sabbath. So, grab a beer, get comfy cause this is gonna be a good'un in this matchup I'm calling "Soloin' in The South".

In this corner, we have heavy metal act Black Label Society with their fourth album, 2003's The Blessed Hellride. Fronted by the legendary shredder and Head Berzerker himself Zakk Wylde. Impressively, except for drums that were done by longtime drummer Craig Nunenmacher, Wylde performed all the other instruments on this album. The album would peak at number 50 on the Billboard 200 and number 2 on the independent albums chart. What do these hellions of heavy metal bring to the battlefield with this release?

Now, hold on a second. You're probably saying, "Uh Justin, Black Label Society was founded in Los Angeles, California. That isn't the south at all!" You are correct, and I'm pretty sure Zakk Wylde would also call me out on that too. BUT, while researching a matchup for their opponents today, BLS CONSTANTLY came up under the southern metal genre in noted music sites like Metal-Archives, Metalstorm, Rate Your Music, Google, and Wikipedia. Also, the band shares a very similar sound musically and vocally. So, I'm counting it and if you don't like it, there's the door brothers and sisters.

The album opens with the track "Stoned and Drunk". With a slow, ominous build, the song kicks in with a dark and unsettling riff. Picking up with a heavy and driving riff as Wylde belts out his gravely vocals, with little bass pops throughout the verse. Nunenmacher's snare hits punch through the mix, especially in the chorus. Wylde's voice is commanding in the delivery, all while delivering a tasty riff throughout the chorus. The song has a Thin Lizzy feel in the guitar playing, chorus and the swagger of the band. Wylde shreds the fretboard on his guitar solo at the three quarters mark, with Nunenmacher's rifle-like snare strikes and double bass keeping the heartbeat of the track. "Doomsday Jesus" has a opening chugging, machine like guitar and drum combo. Wylde's cries to the sky vocals before the chorus just hit so good amidst the pinch harmonics before the song's title. I love the juxtaposition of up-tempo playing on the verses, before slowing the song down on the chorus to a groovy, sludgy riff with Nunenmacher pounding the kit through it. The bridge with the driving main riff, impressive solo by Wylde and the drums, has a short burst of energy before returning to the doomy sludgy sound of the chorus one last time.

The album's lead single off the album is "Stillborn". Featuring an uncredited appearance by "The Bossman" himself Ozzy Osbourne. Due to record label issues, Ozzy could not be credited on the track and on promotional material was marketed as "a very special guest" on the album's cover sticker. Wylde's high cries open the track off with Nunenmacher's drums VERY prominent in the mix, adding a punch to the gut feel on his playing. I love the main riff and the duel vocals on the chorus from Wylde and Ozzy work so well and are mixed beautifully, maybe seamlessly. The song has a bounce and groove to it, which fits the song and understandable why it was the single. With Wylde's guitar solo and Nunenmacher's drums adding more punch to the solo, the song is just an instant headbanger of a track. GREAT song and one of Black Label Society's best tracks. "Suffering Overdue" starts with a very down-tuned heavy opening riff soaked in pinch harmonics, which would be a signature in Black Label Society's sound. Wylde's vocals have so much power, anguish, and aggression all in one on the track. The song instantly makes you slow headbang along to it, channeling that slow groove throughout the verses. I do love the song dropping to a slow, ballad like feel after the halfway mark with just bass, light drums and vocals before the song picks the pacing and attitude back up. The song's energy picks up with the groove becoming more aggressive, especially into the guitar solo. Before hitting the brakes to bring the groove back during the solo with Nunenmacher's drums making you wanna bang your head along with every drum and cymbal strike.

The album's title track starts off with a great sounding acoustic guitar before pounding drums kicks in. Wylde delivers a more restrained and somber vocal performance as the song instantly gives you that raise your lighters to the sky feeling (God I'm old as I type that). Wylde and Nunenmacher really do shine on the track, showing you don't need a lot of effects and distortion to make a great song. That simple is sometimes the best option and this track does that. I do love the acoustic guitar solo on the track. I was almost expecting an electric, but acoustic is the right choice, since I feel it would have broke the theme and feel of the song. The aggression comes back on "Funeral Bell". With pulsing opening drums, and a riff that sounds straight out of the 80's, it sets a build for the track before the pinch harmonic kick the vocals off. Another groovy riff with bounce in the drums, with Wylde belting to the balcony on the chorus. Black Label Society are a great example of a band doing heavy metal at its core. In an almost meat and potatoes kind of way, but in a good way. Their sound IS heavy metal at its roots, with songs that sound like the origins of early heavy metal while also sounding modern day. On the opening "Final Solution", with a chugging riff with trademark Wylde pinch harmonics, the song has a nice crawling-esque riff going up and down on the fretboard as Wylde plays. Nunenmacher is hitting so hard on the cymbals in-between the chorus and verses. I'm surprised he isn't breaking the cymbals as he plays the track. The guitar solo has so much emotion in the playing and performance, going for the more impactful playing instead of "shredding just to shred".

"Destruction Overdrive" has a pounding opening riff, drenched in pinch harmonics, with the pulsing drums going throughout the track. Drums are louder in the mix, adding more drive and stank to every hit Nunenmacher delivers. The song instantly has that pit energy to the song, with the fans going crazy during the main riff and Wylde's wailing vocals on the chorus. The track flies by with its energy, straight into another fretboard hopping guitar solo by Wylde. "Blackened Waters" starts with a melancholic opening guitar section, then ringing bass and Nunenmacher's kick drums providing a pulse to the song. Wylde has a retrospective, regretful and empathetic sound in his low vocals, before the vocals bring life and exuberance in his delivery. Giving off a darker feel of the album's title track, but with Wylde delivering a Bob Seger-esque feel of low vocals into belting highs. The opening drums of "We Live No More" have so much punch in the kick drum. Wylde comes in with an almost modern rock/metal opening sounding riff. I love how Nunenmacher is kind of the star of the track with the drums higher in the mix, showing his punch in the performance. Also, the dynamic of Wylde just singing over the drums, lets his vocals shine even more on the song. The album's closer, "Dead Meadow", opens with a beautiful sounding piano piece. with a slide-guitar sound amidst the drums. Wylde's voice is more quieter and somber in his vocals, almost soft spoken compared to the rest of the album. The song definitely has that southern, almost country feeling to the song, that you'd hear on a Johnny Cash or Hank Williams track if it were done today. The guitar solo also is more emotional and fits the song's aura, and closes the album with a beautiful track to one of the band's best records.

Their opponents are Corrosion of Conformity with the band's fourth album, 1994's Deliverance. This would be the band's full transition to their stoner/southern metal sound following their previous album Blind. Which still had traces of the band's early thrash/crossover roots. Fronted by vocalist Pepper Kennan, the album would begin to launch the band's popularity and the record going gold as of 2023 and Rolling Stone naming it the 31st best record of 1994. Will these guys topple the mighty brothers of Black Label Society? Let's dive into this classic from the band and find out.

The album's opener "Heaven's Not Overflowing", has that gritty, sludgy sounding opening bouncy riff you would hear from the sludge scene. As well as stoner rock acts like Kyuss & Clutch. Pepper Keenan's vocals have so much attitude and bravado in his vocals. The simplicity of the riff during the chorus, letting the riff hang, lets Keenan belt and showcase his vocals more. The atmosphere of the song definitely takes me back to early days of heavy metal, where it was heavy, but the riff still had a bluesy, bouncy rock sound to the track. I love the composition of the lead guitar solo and the bouncing riff around the halfway mark of the track. I love the fuzzy bass sound of Mike Dean throughout. A strong & heavy opening track from this classic album. "Albatross" has that grimey guitar tone, with pounding drums by Reed Mullin kicking off the track. The song has that Sabbath Masters of Reality-era sound, but infused with that NOLA sound of sludge and bass tone on the guitars and bass. Keenan sounds like he is groovin' along with the track. His vocals have fun & energy in the delivery, with a tinge of machismo and swagger. The rising boost of the guitar solo at the halfway mark, adds such a booming effect and depth to the track. Mullin's drums add so much groove and swing to the track as the song goes on. My favorite track from the album.

That opening start/stop riff of "Clean My Wounds" continues the same energy and attitude of the previous track. Keenan channels his inner blues singer in his vocals. I love the dueling vocals on the chorus as the song returns to that earworm guitar riff. Guitarists Keenan and Woody Weatherman have a great dueling harmony into the guitar solo. With the accenting, bounce like drums, the song makes me picture the crowd bobbing along to Mullin's snare hits. Definitely a classic stoner/southern metal classic from the band. There is a short acoustic instrumental "Without Wings" which brings the energy down a bit and sounds beautiful in both the playing & the mix. Keenan and Weatherman sound great in harmony as well as letting each shine in certain moments of the track. "Broken Man" starts with a dirge-sounding opening guitar piece. A lot more aggressive in its tone and sound. Gone is the chill and fun vibes from the previous track, Keenan sounds angrier on the song. The song becomes more upbeat at the halfway mark and the wah-heavy leading guitar solo kicks the pace of the track up. Then it comes crashing down back to that angry and brooding riff.

"Señor Limpio" opens with a driving opening riff, that instantly makes you think of Down. The song is more up-tempo in its performance, definitely has bounce and pop to the song, due to the drums and the vocals by Keenan. Another catchy earworm riff. Vocals turn to shouting and more belting the highs out, with Keenan singing and delivering such machismo as he says "guitar" going into the solo. The groove of the main riff, with the short start/stop of the solo, is a nice combo as the drums keep the pulse of the track going. Another acoustic instrumental follows with "Mano De Mono". A lot of ambience and simple guitar playing, adding to the feel of the song amongst the eerie background of it. "Seven Days" has a great, heavy bass sound. Dean's bass pops through at certain parts before the vocals. I love the dueling guitar harmonies on the verse section. The underlying riff through it also sounds good. Where the riff is there, but it let's Keenan still lead the charge with his vocals. The song is instantly stoner metal 101 in it's sound and playing style. Hearing the sound that would influence acts like Orange Goblin, The Sword and Alabama Thunderpussy. There is one last instrumental interlude with "#2121313" but this time features electric guitar, along with drums on the track. Creating that build you would hear on 70's albums from Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin before the track would start.

"My Grain" kicks off with high energy drums and the growl of Dean's bass before Keenan's shrieks kicks the song into high gear. The song has a very up-tempo feel, almost energy in the veins of MC5. With those moments of up-tempo high sections, into cool downs, interspersed with building sections throughout the track. I love the bass gurgling through the guitar riff at the halfway mark into the solo. Corrosion of Conformity wanted to amp up the song and they do, before bringing the song's pace back down for the chorus. Mullin's drums are the point of attack of the song. He is in-the-pocket so deep in the song and is just commanding behind the kit on the track, and the star of the track. The album's title track has a change of vocals with Dean taking over vocal duties for the song. His vocals are deeper and ominous compared to Keenan. He does have a good vocal high on the track when the chorus kicks in. The bass is strong, adding a sultry groove to the track. A nice change of pace for the album with new vocals.

Corrosion of Conformity's logo

"Shake Like You" has that trademark NOLA sound of sludgy, bluesy guitar tone, driving drums and heavy bass undertones. Mullin's tom hits ring loud and strong, drenched in reverb. The vocals have that same aggression to them from earlier, with a lot of vocal effects on Keenan. I do love the distorted effects on the guitars near the halfway point on the guitar solo. "Shelter" opens with an acoustic guitar, with a slide-guitar background behind it. Keenan's vocals sound depressing and downtrodden in his performance. You can hear the break in his voice throughout the song, and the song has a country twang to the track and it fits with Keenan's voice. The album's closer "Pearls Before Swine" starts with a groovy bass line, with pounding but simple drums behind it. The song's slow groove feel is different then the rest of the album. Then WHAM, the chorus kicks in and vocals and guitars hit HARD as they ring prominent and Keenan's cries to the sky vocal delivery ring so good. The eerie harmonies on the track, almost sound like Tom Araya of Slayer in the background. With the song going for a much grander scale conclusion, the song is a unique closing track, but delivers one hell of a final punch to this album.

After listening to both of these records, and enjoying them both, which one would I declare the winner? In my opinion, Black Label Society is the winner with The Blessed Hellride. Hellride was a stronger record overall, with the music paced very well and there really wasn't any elements of a "wrap the song up" feel to it. Corrosion of Conformity did deliver one hell of a record and I am a HUGE fan of Keenan's vocals in general, which really shined on this record. Deliverance is in my top three of favorite Corrosion of Conformity records. This album had groove and that stoner sound I love out of the genre. To me, BLS just had stronger songs between the two. Both band's deserve the respect they get. Both band's sound are iconic for different reasons, but you can hear the influence from these records in a lot of current bands that are in this genre.

Black Label Society released their most recent record in 2021 with Doom Crew Inc. Although Wylde has said he is currently working on the follow-up to Doom Crew Inc. the project is currently on hold, since Wylde is playing with a reunited Pantera on their current reunion tour. In 2015, Wylde launched his own company, Wylde Audio, with his own custom line of guitars and amplifiers.

While also playing with Black Label Society and Pantera, Wylde also has an all start tribute band named Zakk Sabbath. The band released it's first double album in 2024 called Doomed Forever Forever Doomed. It is the band covering the Black Sabbath classics Paranoid and Masters of Reality in their entirety. With Wylde on guitar and vocals, bassist Blasko and drummer Joey Castillo. The album has received positive reviews and a fitting tribute to the legendary Sabbath. Check out my review of the double album at the link here

Corrosion of Conformity would continue to release music through 2006, until the band went on hiatus so Keenan could record and tour with the southern sludge supergroup Down. During that time, the band would record two studio albums without Keenan. Their 2010 self-titled album and 2014's IX with vocal duties shared by Weatherman and Dean on both releases. Keenan would rejoin the band in 2015 and contribute lead vocals and guitars on the band's most recent album, 2018's No Cross No Crown. Sadly, the band would lose drummer Reed Mullin as he would tragically pass away in 2020. The last new music from the band was the band's cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "On The Hunt". There is no update on any new music or touring from the band at the time of writing.

Do you agree with my decision? Who do you think should have won? Cast your vote on the poll below, leave your comments on our social media, and your suggestions who you think should step in the ring next. I’m Justin, your friendly neighborhood metalhead, for This Day in Metal and this has been Versus.

VS: The Blessed Hellride vs. Deliverance - Online Poll - StrawPoll
What’s your opinion? Vote now: The Blessed Hellride, Deliverance…

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