Black Label Society
Hangover Music Vol. VI
Hangover Music Vol. VI is aptly titled. This is the disc to throw on after all of the amateur partiers have headed home, and you are left with your real friends, crashed all over the living room, mellowing out and working to solve all of the world’s problems while waiting for the sun to rise. And, of course, for us older folks, when your wife has gone to bed after admonishing to turn the music down or else. Not satisfied to repeat his past, Zakk Wylde forgoes another acoustic-only set, a la Book of Shadows, for a mellower than usual BLS album that combines electric and acoustic in an original sound to be savored.
From the opening mid-tempo riffs of “Crazy or High” to the moody orchestral sounding closer, “Fear,” this album keeps you guessing. “House of Doom” is a perfect example of this dual-identity, starting slow and smooth, with a crushing chorus that will definitely serve to get people interested in the album if marketed properly as a single. A lot of comparisons will be made to Alice in Chains’ Jar of Flies, so it seems poetic that Wylde includes a tribute to their former singer on “Layne,” another highlight. However, the piano and vocal cover of “Whiter Shade of Pale” may be my favorite track on the album. It’s just Zakk by himself, sounding as rough as he ever has, giving us a very emotional and unique interpretation of this classic.
Showcasing his heavy metal influences has never been a problem on past albums, but this time Wylde merges those influences with his others. Among them you can pick out Elton John, Queen, The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd and Cat Stevens. Wylde’s voice sounds even more like a whiskey-soaked Greg Allman crossed with a Harley-Davidson exhaust. You think his voice is totally gone after a few of these songs, and then he surprises you with a tender opening like “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” or “Won’t Find it Here.” He’s joined by a bevy of Black Label Society chapter members with pedigrees that include Alice in Chains, Crowbar and Helmet. While all of the members provide an excellent rhythm section, Wylde continues to be the star, as it seems like the songs are always waiting for either his voice or guitar before they shine.
What doesn’t work on Hangover Music? Well, some of the riffs tend to be overused, and the lyrics on a few songs go beyond stripped-down to borderline simplistic and repetitive. If I heard Wylde shout out “Yeah” one more time during “Damage is Done,” I might have stopped the disc right then and there. The same can be said of the refrain of the title on “Woman Don’t You Cry.” Also, I would have appreciated more of a showcase for Wylde’s classical guitar training, but it only shows up a few times in the spotlight, most notably on the flamenco-inspired “Takillya (Estabon)” instrumental.
However, even with those minor flaws, Hangover Music is a gem of a find, with much more good than bad. Unlike other bands that think doing an unplugged set is something revolutionary, Black Label Society has released an album that truly does try something new. They probably won’t get much airplay, and very little press, but then again, isn’t that what happens to most good music? Pick up Hangover Music Vol. VI and keep it handy for those early morning after-parties, and any other time you want to mellow out some.