By: Patric Williamson
After touring with his Black Sabbath cover band “Zakk Sabbath,” Zakk Wylde and his band Black Label Society have returned to release their newest album “Grimmest Hits” and it sure lives up to the name. Wylde infused his world class guitars skills, which he has honed over his career by playing for the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, with his impeccable singing voice to create an album that puts every other modern rock band to shame. With guitar solos the likes of which haven’t been seen since Eddie Van Halen was setting fire to the rock category with “Eruption”, Wylde shreds his way past the competition and demonstrates why he is considered by many to be one of the best guitarists of all time. From the very first track Black Label Society shatters expectations, laying down riffs comparable to those Rob Zombie made in his prime with “Trampled Down Below” leading with its heavy bass slapping and “Grim” melody. “Seasons of Falter” and “Disbelief” have Black Sabbath’s finger prints all over them, taking inspiration from the prince of darkness himself, the tracks groove as if though Tony Iommi ripped them straight from his book of riffs and hand delivered them to BLS.
“The Betrayal” has one of the most addicting yet simple riffs within the album, transitioning between three choruses while also finding time to open up an impressive shredding guitar solo half way through.
“All That Once Shined” should be considered a song in its own genre, taking the guitar power of 80s hair metal at times, the strong bass backing of a blues song and meshing in his own personal blend of ”Nordic Aggression.”
My personal favorite track off the album “Bury Your Sorrow” mixes southern rock and blues elements to create a match made in heaven for guitar junkies who need their fix. Just when the song seems like it has found a groove to stick to, Wylde changes the tempo and adds his own personal flair, resulting in a beautiful addition to an already amazing album.
“A Love Unreal” starts slow with an acoustic intro, only to be followed up by a barrage of in-your-face guitar playing. Evolving over time from a melodic groove fest into an adrenaline filled shred-fest with two battling guitar chords who duel for control of the song.
Even more impressively, Wylde demonstrates his versatility by adding in three slower tracks to the album which take the listener on an acoustic fueled roller-coaster ride. Throughout “The Only Words”, “The Day That Heaven Had Gone Away” and “Nothing Left to Say” Wylde creates a matrimony between Blues and Groove metal, resulting in a rock ballad love child which dares the listener not to lift a lighter into the sky as the band pours their souls into a five minute work of art. Not in recent memory has an artist been able to convey this sense of dread, longing and emotion through not only their vocal skill but also through the music they play, letting the guitar tell a story of its own and really hammer the point home.
If heart pounding, ear melting and expectation shattering guitar playing is something that is desirable to you then “Grimmest Hits” is the Holy Grail and Zakk Wylde is your messiah. Cramming six genres of rock and metal into one album sounds like a hot-mess of sounds competing to take over one another. However, Wylde manages to use them all perfectly to make sure each song sound unique from the next. More examples of Wylde’s skill on a guitar can be seen in Ozzy Osbourne’s “No More Tears” where Zakk takes center stage with his unrivaled emotion.
Overall the album was one of my favorite in recent memory, with superb technical guitar playing, exemplary vocal performances by Wylde and above and beyond writing/ composing.