BLACK LABEL SOCIETY – The Blessed Hellride

When Ozzy Osbourne introduced the world to the then unknown Zakk Wylde in 1988, many were skeptical as to whether or not he could fill the shoes of his legendary predecessors, Randy Rhoades and Jake E. Lee. But the opening power chords of “Miracle Man” quickly silenced critics and established Zakk as new guitar hero for the masses. Now fifteen years later, with no less than eight studio albums, four live albums and thousands of live performances under his belt, Zakk returns with his latest creation under the BLACK LABEL SOCIETY moniker, The Blessed Hellride. “Stoned and Drunk” sets the tone for the album with plenty of thick, crunchy riffs and whammy-bar shredding, which is complimented by the pounding drumming of former CROWBAR skin-basher, Craig Nunenmacher. This continues throughout the albums next three tracks, including the catchy “Still Born” (which features backing vocals from metal’s godfather, Ozzy). Zakk provides no shortage of metallic crunch, southern rock, and fretboard noodling which helps keep the album’s momentum rolling. The title track, in contrast, offers some soulful vocals & country-tinged acoustics with a strong, solid back beat from Nunenmacher. It provides a brief intermission before the next driving riff-festival, “Funeral Bell.” Lyrically, Zakk sticks with topics that are familiar to him such as drinking, ass-kicking, war, and even more drinking and ass-kicking to the extent that the listener feels as if he’s being beaten by a bunch of drunken rednecks at a bar room brawl in the deep south. He manages to retain a sound that combines AC/DC‘s brilliant riff-rock, PANTERA and METALLICA‘s captain-crunch metal with LYNYRD SKYNYRD and the ALLMAN BROTHERS’ bluesy, acoustic southern rock. On the downside, The Blessed Hellride isn’t that much different from it’s predecessor, 1919 Eternal, and as such offers very few surprises. So those of you that hated BLACK LABEL SOCIETY before, won’t likely be won over. But the bottom line is that Zakk probably wouldn’t have it any other way. (Spitfire Records)

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