Much like my last visit to the Roxian, a male dominated crowed poured in to the theater for a night of heavy metal mayhem. Upon fighting my way through the general admission floor, I was challenged by the darkness and speed supporting thrash act The Native Howl took the stage prior to Zakk Wylde’s highly anticipated performance with tribute band Zakk Sabbath.
The Native Howl is a band from Leonard, Michigan which offers a very unique blend of bluegrass and thrash metal, tossing a banjo into the mix of a traditional thrash pulse of electric guitar, bass, and drums. As I’d noted earlier today on social it was badassery with a banjo, seriously! They are Alex Holycross on guitar and lead vocals, Jake Sawicki on banjo, Mark Chandler on bass, and Zach Bolling on drums.
Self-described as being born from a musical experiment that defied all expectations and have truly crafted a sound of their own. Coined as “Thrash Grass” they have the married the pounding quick-tempo you’d expect from Bay Area favorites like Testament and Exodus with bluegrass melodies.
Like myself, you may be reading this description and thinking of how John 5 and his telecaster have brought dixie picking to metal, but until you see the explosion that is The Native Howl, I promise you, they are their own breed of intensity and the crowd was left powerless under the control of frontman Alex Holycross who formed an instant bond with the responsive audience. Check out the band’s latest release Can’t Sleep (Sumerian Records) and catch them on the road in support of Clutch after this run with Zakk Sabbath.
Formed in 2014, Zakk Sabbath is a three-piece tribute band featuring Zakk Wylde of Ozzy Osbourne solo fame and Black Label Society along with father John “JD” DeServio (Black Label Society) and father Joey Castillo (Danzig, Queens of the Stone Age) on Drums. Described as similar to the keg parties they used to throw as teenagers where he would always end up singing the Black Sabbath songs, but now the crowd just has a ‘few more’ people.
Having been a fan of Zakk Wylde since the early days when he was just a skinny kid in bell bottom jeans playing alongside one of his heroes to watching him return to the Ozzy Osbourne’s band and roar like the God of Thunder in front of 50,000 plus fans headlining Download Festival in Paris, France in 2018… I can tell you that the thing that personally keeps me coming back is the grit, the speed, and the sweat behind every song he plans on that guitar.
Performing favorites from one of the most influential bands in heavy metal history, Zakk Wylde took the stage on a raised platform last night with flowing locks, a wild beard, and a yellow pleated kilt accessorized by steel-toed work boots, his signature BLS vest and a leather studded guitar strap. His purple and back signature guitar illuminated as his hair bounced to the beat delivered by Joey Castillo and his partner in crime father John “JD” on the bass.
The evening began with “Supernaut,“the fifth song from the album Vol. 4 by the British heavy metal band and included many favorites like “Into the Void” and “Children of the Grave” before the epic finale of “War Pigs,” where Zakk left the stage and traveled to the second floor balcony to get up close with seated fans. Those fans quickly rose to the occasion with cell phones in the air to capture his fretwork and string-bending solo before encouraging the crowd to raise a bit more hell and taking a final bow as his guitar pulsed like a siren next to the set-list an his microphone stand.
There is a reason that Sharon Osbourne recruited young Zakk after hearing him cover some Ozzy tunes decades ago, and there is a reason why Pittsburgh metal fans came out in full force on a rainy Tuesday evening. He loves Black Sabbath and attacks the classic songs as a fan, and he even sounds like Ozzy as he takes on the lead vocals, but most importantly, he is 100% Wylde!
And while the “Tour Forever / Forever Tour” kicked-off in back in December, fans still have a few more chances to catch this unleashing of metal thunder before it wraps in Los Angeles on January 20th. See dates below:
Jan. 10 – Detroit, MI – St. Andrew’s Hall
Jan. 12 – Greensboro, NC – Hangar 1819
Jan. 13 – Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade
Jan. 14 – St Petersburg, FL – Jannus Live
Jan. 16 – Dallas, TX – Granada Theater
Jan. 17 – San Antonio, TX – The Aztec Theater
Jan. 19 – Tucson, AZ – Encore
Jan. 20 – Los Angeles, CA – Belasco
For more Zakk Wylde history, check out an article from the beginnings of Black Label Society, where Zakk tells us about how he first got the gig with Ozzy and other fun antidotes like beer economics (which is probably the reason behind this line-up being a three-piece).
Follow us @ThePureRockShop on Facebook and Instagram for more local show coverage including Mr. Big, Lynch Mob, and Extreme this winter. Later this month, you’ll find us in Key West’s at the Third-Annual Rokisland Festival, in March, we’ll be on the Monsters of Rock Cruise, and in May, you’ll find us at the M3 Rock Festival in Baltimore.