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Black Label Society - 2003 The Blessed Hellride

Zakk Wylde - vocals, guitars, bass, piano
Craig Nunenmacher - drums
Ozzy Osbourne - background vocals on 'Stillborn'

Perhaps the most recognisable feature of Zakk Wylde as a musician and performer, apart from his exuberance and all out ability to kick some serious ass on stage, is his unmistakable guitar sound. It doesn't take long before that patented guitar squeal from hell shatters any nearby glass and leaves you in no doubt as to who's bludgeoning your ear drums. That's regardless of whether you're listening to Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk's excellent work on the 'Rock Star' soundtrack, or 'This Blessed Hellride', the new album from Black Label Society. Since his days with Ozzy I haven't given Zakk much time, particularly after having a very unsuccessful listening experience with his earlier Pride and Glory project. In life Zakk seems to be a pretty straight-up, no bullshit character and that is transferred into his music.

The Songs
BLS is a melting pot of Alice In Chains alternative metal, Godsmack modern metal and naturally some Ozzy thrown in there as well. While definitely in a more up-to-date vein, on 'Blessed Hellride' Zakk isn't afraid to let rip with stinging solo's, unlike many of todays so-called guitar heroes. However, before you get to the lead breaks it is survival of the fittest as there are some big, meaty riffs on the way. 'Doomsday Jesus' is brooding and angst filled. Ozzy makes an appearance doing backing vocals on 'Stillborn', an Alice In Chains style melodic rocker and a good choice for a single. Belying its title, 'The Blessed Hellride' is a soft, acoustic southern rock number and good change of pace. Though some might say the 'Funeral Bell' has rung for 80's style metal (I'm definitely not one of them), Zakk gives it an airing on this track with a chugging riff that could have fitted nicely on 'No Rest For The Wicked' or 'No More Tears'. Another track that sounds like it could have come from the King of Darkness's back catalogue is 'Destruction Overdrive', full of those trademark squeals. Zakk showcases a surprising versatility on 'Dead Meadow', a subtle ballad with much cleaner vocals. Wouldn't mind hearing him sing more often in that style as it works well.

In Summary
Though I would prefer to hear more of his playing in the style of the 'Rock Star' soundtrack, it ain't gonna happen!! I'm still stuck in the 80's and Zakk has moved on to the 21st Century. Thankfully he hasn't completely forgotten his roots, keeping older fans like myself happy with some sizzling soloing. On the other hand fans of the present style of metal should find more than enough to convince them to join The Blessed Hellride, and hear what a REAL guitarist should sound like!

Track Time: 45:05

Track Listing:
01. Stoned and Drunk
02. Doomsday Jesus
03. Stillborn
04. Suffering Overdue
05. The Blessed Hellride
06. Funeral Bell
07. Final Solution
08. Destruction Overdrive
09. Blackened Waters
10. We Live No More
11. Dead Meadow

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