Black Label Society is the side project from the Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde. In early 1998 Zakk Wylde, Mike Inez, and Randy Castillo were hired by Ozzy Osbourne for a tour in New Zealand, Australia and Japan but when the band returned from Japan they were all let go without reason. Zakk went to Italy in early May and did a one-off show by himself before calling up the drummer Phil Ondich and what became "Sonic Brew" was recorded in May 1998 in Miami, Florida. Zakk and Phil decided to call the band "Hell's Kitchen" and the album was to be called "Sonic Brewery". Phil designed all of the artwork and did the booklet layout for the album but after a few weeks they decided to change their name to Black Label Society since they were unable to get a trademark for the Hell's Kitchen moniker.
"Sonic Brew" was released in Japan on October 28th, 1998, and contained 13 tracks with an American release on May 4th, 1999. The band needed a bass player and Zakk put an ad in all guitar magazines. However, he found no-one of interest and instead he hired his long-time friend and former Pride And Glory replacement bassist J.D. All this time Nick Catanese had been in the band as well. The band did their first show ever in Japan on May 1st, 1999, at Club Quattro, Shibuya Tokyo. After a Japanese tour the band went to Europe and did the Dynamo Open Air in front of their largest crowd ever.
In mid September the band went on their delayed American tour with Loudmouth opening up on many of the dates. In the winter of 1999 / 2000, Zakk and Phil headed to their studio in California to record their second album "Stronger Than Death". Mike Piazza, cather for the NY Mets, recorded backing vocals / growls for the title track. Yet again Phil did all of the artwork and the album was released in Japan on March 8th, 2000, with a US release on April 18th. J.D. now decided to leave the band to pursue other interests and was replaced by Steve "S.O.B." Gibb, son of Berry Gibb from the BeeGees.
On June 14th, 2000, the band kicked off another Japanese tour and right after that came another American tour. On July 6th, the band played in Indiana and about 3 songs into the set there was a brawl between Zakk and Phil on stage which resulted in Phil being fired from the band. Craig Nunenmacher from their touring partners Crowbar took over and replaced him as the band's drummer from then on. In October the band recorded a live album entitled "Alcohol Fueled Brewtality Live" and it was released on January 16th, 2001.
Black Label Society was added to Ozzfest 2001 that summer as the main stage opener. Steve Gibb left the band in the middle of the Ozzfest tour and was replaced by former Ozzy Osbourne / Alice In Chains bass player Mike Inez. Inez in turn had to fly back to California because he had obligations with another band and the bass tech Frey Theiler filler in on a few dates towards the end of Ozzfest.
During Ozzfest, Zakk recorded a few demos with a guy named Christian Werr on drums. He showed Ozzy these for possible inclusion on his new album but he rejected them and Zakk kept them for the next Black Label Society album. In the fall of 2001 Zakk and Craig went into the studio to record "1919 Eternal". The album was at first supposed to be called "Deathcore Warmachine Eternal" but in light of the tragic September 11th events they changed the title.
"1919 Eternal" was released on March 5th, 2002, and the band did the Ozzfest 2002, playing on the main stage once again with Ozzy's bass player Robert Trujillo joining them. Zakk in turn played with Ozzy's band.