Guitarist Zakk Wylde is well known and respected all around the world. He is regarded as one of metals most fierce and accomplished players. His larger than life personality and impressive body of work has won him accolades time and again, including best guitarist by both Metal Hammer and Revolver magazine. Through his years with Ozzy, Black Label Society, Pride & Glory and his solo project Book Of Shadows, he has built a reputation as one of the genre’s most intense and versatile players.
His newest offering “Unblackened,” finds the axeman stepping out of his comfort zone again, to further showcase his versatility as a performer and musician. The resulting album, commemorates a rare, one night only, acoustic performance at LA’s famed Club Nokia. It features Zakk prominently at a baby grand piano and includes a string section. It is available Sept. 24th via eOne Music in a variety of formats and contains a staggering 23 tracks spread over 2 cds. It is also loaded with bonus material.
The evening begins with the beautifuly understated version of “Losing Your Mind” from the Pride & Glory cd. It flows nicely into the southern rock twist on “The Blessed Hellride.” The soothing piano reditions of “Sold My Soul” and “Road Back Home” from the Book Of Shadows album show a quiet vulnerability. While the introspective take on “Spoke In The Wheel” features a breathtaking build reminiscent of “Layla” by Eric Clapton. “House Of Doom” and “Queen Of Sorrow” mesh that classic Black Label sound with the Foo Fighters.
The southern rock delivery of “Machine Gun Man” pays tribute to that classic Lynyrd Skynyrd sound and is one of the true highlights of the night. “Sweet Jesus” and “In This River” are a couple of heartwrenching ballads punctuated by those trademark Zakk solos. The super extended jam version of “Throwin’ It All Away” is by far, the best track on the cd and features some of Zakk’s best guitar work ever.
He continues to flex his nimble fingers on the Latin flavored vibe of “Takillya” and the Carlos Santana inspired “Won’t Find It Here.” Up next is a killer interpretation of “Rust” that could have been delivered by the Allman Brothers themselves. Followed by the fret frenzied bezerker action of “Speedball.” Acoustic or not, “I Thank You Child” is executed with unbelievable heaviness. The evening concludes with a mezmerizing pseudo/acoustic rendition of “Stillborn” that is almost unrecognizable from the original.
To further entice and tempt fans, there are six bonus tracks. “Loving Woman,” “Queen Of Sorrow,” “Won’t Find It Here” and “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” are all haunting unplugged depictions of previous classics reinvented. It also contains two revitalized cover songs, “Song For You” and “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone.” The latter of which, has a hysterically demented video companion.
Here’s the bottom line. This is a Black Label Society performance unlike any of it’s predecessors. It is not the primal, in your face, pummeling brutality live show your are used to or expecting. All the precision and power is there, but it is more focused, consise and reflective. It’s about time these songs were presented in the way they were always intended.
9 out of 10.