Zakk Wylde isn’t a guy with much time on his hands, with Black Label Society being his main stay in recent years, his recent ventures into the World of guitar manufacture, and now his recent return as the six string wizard for the boss, Ozzy. You’d think with all this going on that it would be hard to find the time to write new material without taking a break somewhere, but then that’s not Zakks style.
Grimmest Hits is just that, a release of twelve grim, doom laden monsters. I’ve bled Black Label through and through for the best part of almost twenty years, so as always I’ve sat in high anticipation of new releases, but always with a hint of trepidation. As the years went by, the sound slowly evolved, but the release of Order of the Black really brought back the old BLS I loved. Catacombs of the Black Vatican took me a while to get into, but it eventually did grow on me, so when Grimmest Hits was announced I was a little unsure what to expect.
The two released tracks ‘All That Once Shined’ and ‘Room of Nightmares’ are a great inkling into what to expect, the album doesn’t seem to change much from them, my biggest surprise on the album being the lack of piano ballads, there are none. In some ways this is a bit of a disappointment, Hangover Music Vol. VI being one of my favourite studio releases of theirs, it doesn’t bring much in the way of brutal riff mastery found on Sonic Brew, Stronger Than Death, 1919 Eternal and those few tracks on Order of the Black.
Starting easy with ‘Trampled Down’ it soon kicks into its main riff with an unexpected time signature, it soon makes its mark on you with its catchy hooks and Zakks haunting singing. A cracking start that opens the doors into ‘Seasons of Falter’, another instant marker, simplicity in its tracking, it shows it doesn’t take much to make a good song, a fist pumping, beer swigging song from start to finish, but if that's a beer drinking track, The Betrayal takes it up a notch to hitting the shots and top shelf, sounding very familiar like something from the Shot to Hell album.
‘The Only Words’ takes our first venture into the more gentle side, very easy listening, it isn’t a Black Label album without a few, and it plays beautifully before hitting into the already released ‘Room of Nightmares’. One of the best and heavier tracks of the album follows on with some true greatness, ‘A Love Unreal’, crushing riffs, thoughtful soaring vocals, and a solo that wrecks through it all with emotion and character rather than sheer speed. A tough track to follow, but ‘Disbelief’ hits just as hard and reminds me somewhat of The Blessed Hellride era. ‘The Day That Heaven Had Gone Away’ returns to that more gentle side with its southern blues soaked essence, with yet another emotive driven solo.
‘Illusions of Peace’ showcases some impressive riff majesty yet again, that catchy feel from the openers returns strong, with the penultimate ‘Bury Your Sorrow’ borrowing the same feel as the opener. ‘Nothing Left to Say’ closes out with another calm track, this touches the sounds of his solo work recently done on Book of Shadows II.
All in all, there is little in the way of stand out tracks, but each one is as good as the previous. Gone seem to be some of the typical signature BLS moments, there is little in the way of pinch harmonics throughout, I mention little of any songs solo, simply because it is what we’ve all come to expect over the past twenty years of Black Label Society, looking at it as a whole, its a strong, impressive album not much like many of the others, but not far from any either. As a BLS fan, I do love it though, it didn’t take long to accept it for what it is, you could say there is something in the coffee, but what else do you expect from the outcome of something named Valhalla Java Odinforce Blend? If that doesn’t tweak the manroot, then nothing will!
Photo Credit: Justin Reich