Black Label Society
Zakk Wylde has a pretty fair pedigree in the heavy metal/hard rock game. The six-string samurai spent a few years with the “Elvis of Metal” himself, Ozzy Osbourne, and contributed a lot to the rejuvenation of the Ozman’s career. On his own, however, the Wyldeman has been a bit spottier. His “Lynyrd Skynyrd meets Black Sabbath” power trio, Pride & Glory, was fairly entertaining and the more acoustically bent Book of Shadows had some bright spots, but one always got the impression Wylde was holding back just a little bit.
Well, he pulls no punches with his latest effort, Sonic Brew , with his latest bunch of drinkin’ buddies Black Label Society. Calling it “Alcohol Fueled Brewtality for the Next Millennium,” BLS is a full-on sonic kick in the jimmy, with crunching riffs and brain-rattling solos from one of the brightest guitarists on the metal scene. Wylde’s singing and songwriting has always paled in comparison to his riffage, but he finds the right combination on Sonic Brew , making for an all-around pleasing listening.
If one looks at Wylde’s career as a whole, Sonic Brew makes perfect sense. There’s the solos that made his name with Ozzy, the playfulness and sheer joy of his music that made P&G so engaging, and the solid song structure that made Book of Shadows such a success. The album kicks off in high gear with the brutal “Bored to Tears,” wherein Zakk lashes out at any and all who would beg off from real life. One can almost feel the anger through the speakers, and it brings to mind the frustration one gets watching the idiots’ parade on the nightly newscasts.
The opening track sets the theme for the album: pissed off and liquored up. Sonic Brew is a solid middle-fingers up from start to finish, from the stomping “Born to Lose” to the nifty rehash of Ozzy’s “No More Tears.” Wylde shows he’s more than just piss and Jack Daniels, though, particularly on the fleet-fingered “T.A.Z.” and the introspective “Spoke in the Wheel.” All the way through, Wylde’s guitar work is top notch and his songcraft has just gotten better as he’s gotten older.
“Alcohol Fueled Brewtality for the Next Millennium” or not, Sonic Brew belongs squarely in the glory days of heavy metal before bands started messing with hip-hop and Metallica weenied out. Wylde and his besotted company continue to impress, and Black Label Society may be a bit harsh going down, but it definitely leaves a pleasant aftertaste. Better yet, there’s no hangover!
Spitfire Records, , , ; http://www.spitfirerecords.com