Black Label Society albums ranked:

Hate list features? Feel free to skip this article and others in this series.

Here I’ll be ranking the albums by certain bands in order from Best (actually my subjective favourite) to worst/least good (subjectively, in my opinion). Number 1 is obviously the best. The lowest number is my least favourite.

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1. 1919 Eternal (2002) – As an outsider you might think BLS would just be a giant excuse for guitar solos and all style over substance, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out they are a proper band who write proper songs, that just happen to feature amazing lead guitar, and write proper albums that just happen to include a few guitar solo tracks. This was the first BLS album I ever heard and even though I didn’t actually love it on first listen, it has wormed its way into my good graces over the last decade. I think this is a classic album not just for the band, not just for the subgenre, but for metal in general. If you only buy one BLS album, this is the one to get. I feel like this album gets the balance between hard rock, heavy metal, stoner, groove and acoustic moments just right (other albums tend to lean too heavily in one direction, whereas this is the perfect synthesis of all their various directions), and the song-writing is simply the best of the band’s career. If you want a catchy, memorable, balanced album where the metal songs have umph and the acoustic moments shimmer, look no further.

Highlights include: “Battering Ram,” “Genocide Junkies,” & “Life, Birth, Blood, Doom.”  

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2. The Blessed Hellride (2003) – Following hot on the heels of 1919 Eternal, ‘Hellride is another solid and memorable album with some of their career highlight songs on board. If the band had split up after this, I’m sure they would go down as an utter cult classic band. The production here is a bit less dated than the previous 3 albums, without becoming over-produced. You could make the argument that the lead guitar work here is even better than 1919 Eternal. It might be the first time in their career you could say “Hmm… perhaps one ballad too many” but again, not egregiously so. There is also a tiny bit of filler creeping in here compared to the previous record, but nowhere near as much as later in their career.

Highlights include: “Funeral Bell,” “Doomsday Jesus” & “Suffering Overdue.”  

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3. Order Of The Black (2010) – I debated having this album so high in the list, because there is quite a bit of filler on it and it is a bit too long, but the highlights are just too strong to have it any lower in the list. If you took just the best songs from this album and had them as an EP, it would be the best thing the band ever did. As it stands, it is still about the 3rd best BLS release to date. Some people tend to write the band off after the first 4 albums, but to do so is to miss out on this fine album.

Highlights include: “Parade Of The Dead,” “Godspeed Hellbound” & “Crazy Horse.”  

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4. Sonic Brew (1999) – A very strong debut from the band. If I was to offer one minor criticism, like Order Of The Black it is a bit too long. Other than that, everything you want from BLS is represented here. It may lean a bit more into the stoner side than the three albums which follow, but it is nicely balanced with an acoustic guitar solo and ballads for contrast. Its quite a chunky and satisfying album while it is on, and I’ve seen lots of people online and in print say it is the best BLS album, and very much one of the first albums you should buy if you are going to get more than one.  

Highlights include: “Bored To Tears,” “Born To Lose” & “Spoke In The Wheel.”

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5. Stronger Than Death (2000) – A worthy sequel to the debut. I would say this is probably the band’s most metallic and consistently heavy album to date, but the flip side of that is that it is a bit less diverse than the album before and after it. I do rate this quite highly in my mind, but the other albums above it in my rankings have higher highlights, and really notable singles, whereas this one is solid all the way through but maybe missing out on the flashiest moments.
Stylistically; If you are more of a rock than Metal fan, this might not be the best album for your introduction to the band, if you come to the band (not unreasonably) expecting something that sounds a bit like No Rest For The Wicked and No More Tears or indeed if you expected something doomier after you caught a Zakk Sabbath tribute show, then you may find this album a bit of a shock, because that isn’t really the sort of direction this album goes in. I would almost say this is more for fans of Pantera and Machine Head than ‘Sabbath or Ozzy. The production is also probably the harshest of any album in their discography.

Highlights include: “Aint Life Grand” “Superterroriser” & “13 Years Of Grief”

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6. Mafia (2005) – There are a segment of fans online who will either call this the beginning f the end, or else the straw that broke the camel’s back so I can understand if you are reticent to give the album a shot. However; I also know it has a ballad dedicated to the memory of late Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell that causes  plenty of casual fans who only want that one song who artificially pump the reputation of this album higher than it maybe truly ought to be and so you might also see it called the best thing they’ve ever done (or only thing worth buying) which is too far the other way. The truth lays somewhere in the middle. A little bit of a step down after the excellent first four albums but still worth a go. It definitely feels a tiny bit too polished, a bit more watered down, a bit more lightweight and the ballad focus is upped slightly… however, it still works. It’s the start of a change, but it isn’t all the way down the slippery slope just yet.

Highlights include: “Say You Will,” “Electric Hellfire” & “Dirt On The Grave.”

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7. Hangover Music (2004) – This is the stripped back semi-acoustic album. I has a mixture of tempos, a mixture of acoustic guitar, piano, full band or solo type songs. It has some upbeat yet acoustic tunes, some southern-rock moments and some slow mournful ballads, there’s also a cover song. I can see the effort they put into making the album as diverse as possible, but its main drawback is still that it can feel like a gimmick album. You get the sense of “Its not a proper album, it’s the acoustic one” which while a bit harsh and unfair in some ways, does ring true in other ways. Its perhaps a bit too long for its own good, and even though there are some wonderful moments, as a whole it isn’t easy to sit through as a whole and listen to front to back. They might have been better saving the best songs from it as the diversity moments for the next few albums (the best songs here are probably better than the acoustic moments or ballads for the majority of the rest of their career). Objectively, it is very well made, but it will never be my favourite.

Highlights include: “Steppin’ Stone,” “House Of Doom” & “Crazy Or High.”

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8. Grimmest Hits (2018) – In contrast to Stronger Than Death, I would say this is probably the band’s most rock album, and the people who don’t want things getting too metallic can switch the places of those two albums in the rankings. If you like Skynyrd & Blackfoot’s quiet moments, but also want some Ozzy-era Sabbath rockers now and again, this tries to be the middle ground of those. I’ve seen a bit of retroactive rewriting of the history books recently, with people saying this is one of the band’s best moments and all the people pleasantly surprised by Doom Crew Inc are getting directed to check this one out too, but I think this is an OK album at best, and I remember the overall vibe at the time being “nothing wrong with it, but BLAS have settled into a formula now and this is for fans only.”
I did end up listening to this album quite a lot in the car, and it is definitely not a bad album by any stretch, but it isn’t really special, I couldn’t hand on heart call it a career highlight. For fans only seems pretty fair. Like a late career Hatebreed album or a mid-career Motorhead album, it gives you what you need but I feel like it wouldn’t really win over new people (although, obviously I am wrong about that given the aforementioned “also check out Grimmest Hits” tsunami online at the moment).   

Highlights include: “A Love Unreal,” “The Day That Heaven Went Away,” & “Room Of Nightmares.”

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9. Catacombs Of The Black Vatican (2014) – Like Grimmest Hits except with a bit of an Alice In Chains twinge, and less memorable, Catacombs’ is one of the weaker albums in the band’s career and I would go so far as to say “For Completionists Only.” Its not worthless or anything, and there is one or two songs I really like (the “Angel Of Mercy” guitar solo into post-solo-chorus-with-extra-emotion combo is spine tingling), but its more of an album I listen to in shuffle with other things than as a whole on its own. Perfectly inoffensive background music, but definitely shouldn’t be the first BLS album anyone goes for. It does get better the more you listen to it, but then again, so do the classics.    

Highlights include: “Angel Of Mercy,” “Heart Of Darkness” & “Believe.”

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10. Shot To Hell (2006) – Something had to be in last place, and I don’t think there would be too much public outrage if I chose this as the least best-album being discussed today. I don’t know if they were just running out of steam after so many albums in quick succession without a break in between, or if the move of record labels somehow impacted it, or if its just coincidence that they happen to have written better songs in other sessions, but whatever the reason, this is the BLS album that does the least for me, and which I would recommend the least. I mean, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it rubbish (not least for fear that gigantic frontman Zakk Wylde would break my face) but lets just say I am not shouting its praises from the rooftops on a daily basis. I can’t foresee this going down as a classic album.
Highlights include: “Devil’s Dime” & “Blood Is Thicker Than Water”

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Ps. New album Doom Crew Inc (2021) hasn’t been out long enough to fairly place it, but on first impressions, its probably between Mafia and Hangover Music. I don’t know how I’ll feel in a few years, but it does seem like “one of the better ones” of the post-2003 albums so far.

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