I wouldn't call myself a huge follower of Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society, but I'm just familiar enough with them to conclude that Catacombs of the Black Vatican is the sort of album that existing fans will probably like but which probably won't turn them on to a big new audience.
In short, it is Black Label Society doing what they have largely always done - hard rock with guitar squeals, impressive solos, and the odd quiet song lobbed in for good measure.
The songwriting on here is very much intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-solo-chorus-outro, but that's never been Zakk Wylde's strength. His biggest asset has always been his insane guitar ability, and the biggest redeeming feature of this record is that the guitar work has all the hallmarks one has come to expect. The riffs sound huge, the squeals are... squealy, and the solos are excellent.
Tracks like Fields of Unforgiveness,Heart of Darkness and Damn the Flood are solid hard rock numbers, built largely around a solid riff and a good chorus, which come to life thanks to Wylde's guitar work.
There's no overwhelming musical revelations on offer here, but equally, Catacombs of the Black Vatican isn't the sort of record you turn to for that sort of thing. On the other hand, if you want some hard rock with really BIG guitars, you'll probably enjoy it.