Zakk Wylde became well known over the years as the guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne. Besides playing along side the madman, and recording with his band Black Label Society, Zakk also found time to release his own solo project as well as record a heavy, Southern rock album with Pride & Glory.
Zakk Wylde - Book of Shadows (Spitfire) 1996
After laboring years with Ozzy and recording his Southern rock debut Pride & Glory, guitarist Zakk Wylde released this solo album titled "Book of Shadows." As would be expected, "Book of Shadows" showcases Zakk's guitar virtuosity. Fortunately, however, this is not a album full of rhythms for Zakk to solo over, as most shred guitar instrumental albums are. This is an album full of actual songs with vocals. The songwriting is actually quite good, and quite different from what you might expect. This is not an Ozzy album without Ozzy. Rather Zakk offers a bit of diversity. While much of the album is a bit mellower than I expected, there is plenty of grit and grind to keep a metal fan happy as well. The Southern influences are still present as well, although not like they were on Pride & Glory. This 1999 reissue includes a bonus disc that contains the non-LP cuts "Evil Ways," "The Color Green," and "Peddlers of Death."
Black Label Society - Sonic Brew (Spitfire) 1999
To Tears" (4:28)
A boozy hard rock/heavy metal disc featuring well-known Ozzy guitarist Zakk Wylde and drummer Phil Ondich. Reviews I have read on this album say such things as "nothing on the record sounds as if it's designed for the year 2000, it sounds like classic '80s metal" or "this disc sounds like outtakes from Ozzy's last two discs." However, this is just not the case. While Zakk is heads and tails above most of the nu-metal artists of today as far as talent and songwriting ability, this disc doesn't exactly sound like regenerated 80's metal. (For proof of his superior guitar playing abilities, check out the acoustic instrumental "T.A.Z.") Rather what Zakk has done is taken traditional heavy metal and mixed it with some of his Southern roots and some more modern, down tuned guitar tones and techniques. I am not sure I would call it nu-metal, but 80's metal this is definitely not! His music is intense and somewhat dark, as are the lyrics. Unfortunately his lyrics grate on me a bit. It's not really the ideas behind the songs as much as the constant use of the same expletives over and over again. However, it seems to be the subjects of the songs that gives Zakk his passion as well. Zakk says he is all about dedication to God, family and drinking as much alcohol as humanly possible. I personally can relate to the first two, but the allegiance to alcohol I can live without. I think there are two different covers for this disc. The original release features the bottle with the Black Label Society label. Unless I am mistaken, the recent pressings feature a black cover with the B.L.S. skull logo in the middle and no bottle.
Black Label Society - Stronger than Death (Spitfire) 2000
1. "All for You"
If you, like I, thought that this would sound anything like Ozzy, or even Zakk's Pride & Glory project, you would be dead wrong. "Stronger than Death" is a downtuned, Southern, heavy metal sludge-fest. However, don't think Hatchet or Blackfoot, rather think Pantera or even C.O.C., with blazin' solos to boot. Actually it's the guitar solos that have me intrigued and was the reason I picked up this disc. Zakk's vocals, aren't bad for the most part, staying within the "tough-guy with a chip on his shoulder" type of vocals that seems to be cool as of the late 90's. Unfortunately, despite the 'dedication to God & family' all over the cover, much of the lyrics are unsuitable for the family. I'm certainly not saying Zakk should sing songs of fairies and pixi-dust, however a little less foul language would have been cool with me.
Black Label Society - 1919*Eternal (Spitfire) 2002
1. "Bleed For Me"
1919 Eternal has Zakk in a more somber mood that his first two B.L.S. discs. It seems that his father passed away between the last album and this album; "1919 Eternal" is dedicated to his father's memory. It's pretty obvious that his death affected Zakk quite hard for even the music has changed. This disc is much more in a traditional Black Sabbath inspired heavy metal mode than the last two discs. I'm not exactly sure how to express what I mean but it just seems that "1919" is a bit more serious than anything Zakk has done in the past. Zakk's masculine "can't sing, don't care" vocals sometimes sounding a tad like his employer Ozzy, while at others sounding a bit like Rob Zombie, especially on the opening track "Bleed For Me." Actually this track has a slight White Zombie groove to it. Perhaps the terrorists attack of 9/11 had it's effect on Zakk as well as he shows his patriotism by performing an awesome instrumental version of "America The Beautiful." I should also mention the short but excellent acoustic instrumental called "Speedball" in which Zakk totally shreds. As with all Zakk's discs, the guitar solos are awesome.
Whilst "1919 Eternal"
was indeed a solid metal album, jam packed with bludgeoning riffs, and I thoroughly
enjoyed that disc, it lacked a bit in memorable hooks and commercial accessibility.
The Blessed Hellride rectifies that problem with several tracks that are quite
memorable, yet without selling out to some trend or going overly pop. The Blessed
Hellride covers most aspects of Zakk's career thus far, from the heavy as a
freight train riffs of "The Funeral Bell", to the unbelievably catchy "Stillborn"
(with guest vocals from Ozzy), to the
southern rock tinges of the title track and "Dead Meadow," as well as the pure
down tuned heavy metal groove of "Suffering Overdue". The guitar solos are outstanding
once again and really add something to the songs, rather than sounding like
something added on after the fact. Once again Zakk's voice sounding even better
than the album that proceeded it. This it the type of new heavy music that needs
to be on the radio instead of the so-called alternative and nu-metal crap that
is currently being played. This is heavy metal for the masses.
1. "Demise Of Sanity"
"Boozed, Broozed & Broken-Boned" is a live recording, mostly taken from the band's gig at Harpo's in Detroit, Michigan on Sept. 14, 2002. However some of the video is also from Ventura, CA, March 29, 2003. On top of a good set list, this live DVD also features Craig Nunemacher of Crowbar on drums and Robert Trujillo (ex-Ozzy, ex-Suicidal Tendencies, Metallica) on bass. The band is tight and the crowd is rowdy. Zakk is a great guitarist and a good songwriter, but he is also an enertainer. His antics are almost comical at times, from his tirades about Limp Bizkit to busting beer cans open on his head. Unfortunately the overall good vibe of the disc is marred by the over use of the same expletive, over and over and over again. It's not that I am easily offended by this, but it just sounds insanely unintelligent. Sure, guys like Ted Nugent and Dee Snider seem to be able to get away with it and it comes off as comical. However, here it just becomes annoying and sort of ruins the vibe of the live material a bit. This DVD includes almost two hours worth of material. On top of the live show, there is also concept videos for two songs as well as a ton of other bonus footage.
Black Label Society - Hangover Music Vol. VI (Spitfire Records) 2004
1. "Crazy or High"
Hangover Music is unique from the rest of the BLS catalog in that it isn't the screamin' guitar driven metal romp that you might expect. Rather this is a much more melancholy release and most of the material is acoustic guitar and piano based. I wouldn't exactly say it was mellow, but it is certainly a different experience. Instead of being heavy with guitar distortion, "Hangover Music" is heavy with emotion. Many of the songs are pretty depressing, so this is not a CD you want to throw on at a party. "Hangover Music" is deep with themes of grief, loss, struggle, abuse, death and finding inner strength. "Layne " for example is a teary-eyed tribute to the late Alice in Chains frontman. With such deep, emotional themes, Zakk manages to make the music have that same deep, meaningful sound. There is also a piano and vocal rendition of Procol Harum's classic "Whiter Shade of Pale". If I had one complaint about this CD, I think that it's a bit too long. Had there been 11 - 12 of the best tracks, it would have been a more solid listening experience.
Black Label Society - Mafia (Artemis) 2005
1. "Fire It Up"
Zakk Wylde's seventh offering has become my favorite. No other of his discs, save for Pride & Glory, remained in my CD player for as long as "Mafia". Once I did finally put it on the shelve, it wasn't long before I revisited it again and again. OK, I must confess, on my very first listen I wasn't immediately drawn in. However, upon subsequent spins, I became more and more captivated. As with the Black Label CDs, this CD is crushingly heavy and is a mix of heavy metal, some Southern rock, a bit of modern rock and a ton of attitude. Even the ballads on here are good. From the very opening track of "Fire it Up," you know you are in for some fun, headbanging, heavy metal. "Suicide Messiah" is a pummelling track and probably the most immediately likeable track on the CD. If this track isn't the first single, I'd be surprised. "In This River" is the first ballad here and is dedicated to fallen guitar legend Dimebag Darrell. Unlike some radio ready rock ballads, Zakk's ballads don't come off as sappy. "Dirt On The Grave" closes the album and is a bluesy ballad as well. For the most part, the rest of the tracks are bone-crushing heavy. I've heard some comment on how they don't care for Zakk's vocals. I would not say he was the next Rob Halford, but he knows his voice and it's limitations and uses it well. The first pressings of this CD also come with a bonus track, "I Never Dreamed" which is a soulful ballad from Skynyrd's "Street Survivors".
Black Label Society - Shot to Hell (Roadrunner) 2006
1. "Concrete Jungle"
"Shot to Hell" is Black Label Society's Roadrunner Records debut. This CD took a little longer to grow on me than "Blessed Hellride" or "Mafia", both of which consumed my CD player for weeks upon their release. On first listen to "Shot to Hell" I was a bit disappointed and put the CD away for a few days before picking it up again. On "Shot to Hell", Zakk intermingles hard rockin' tracks not unlike those two albums with an almost equal amount of melancholy ballads, not unlike "Hangover Music Vol. VI". So, this overall album sounds exactly like what you'd expect from Zakk and Co. Zakk's vocals this time around seem to stay in the lower register, and he only the higher Ozzy style sparingly. I do think that Zakk has learned to add a bit more hook into his last few albums, and this one is no exception. Songs like "Concrete Junge" and especially "The Last Goodbye" could easily be rock radio hits, if given the chance.
Black Label Society - Order of the Black (E1 Entertainment) 2010
Black Label Society - The Song Remains Not The Same (e-one) 2011