Friday, June 21, 2024

Archive Review: Black Label Society's Hangover Music, Vol. VI (2004)

Black Label Society's Hangover Music, Vol. VI
The epitome of the modern heavy metal guitarist, few log-splitters play with the speed, dexterity, and complexity of Zakk Wylde. Chosen in 1987 by rock legend Ozzy Osbourne to handle his six-string chores, the 19-year-old Wylde followed in the footsteps of acclaimed players like Randy Rhoads and Jake E. Lee, earning a reputation as a skilled instrumentalist while touring and recording with Ozzy. Wylde formed Black Label Society in 1998, the band conceived of as both a collaborative effort of like-minded hard rockers and as a vehicle for Wylde’s artistic vision.

As a showcase for his immense talents, Black Label Society has excelled beyond even the chainsaw guitarist’s expectations. Each album has shown Wylde evolving and growing as a musician; with Hangover Music, Vol. VI, he has taken a major step in defining himself as a legacy artist in the game for the long haul. Whereas previous BLS albums like Blessed Hellride successfully blended heavy metal chops with Southern rock aesthetics, Hangover Music takes the hybrid a step further, revealing more of Wylde’s personality and relying less on his trademark six-string pyrotechnics and more on solid musicianship and songwriting.

Backed by former Crowbar drummer Craig Numenmacher and a revolving cast of musicians including former White Lion bassist James LoMenzo, Wylde covers a lot of stylistic ground on Hangover Music, Vol. VI. “Crazy Or High” is reminiscent of late ‘70s Black Sabbath and “Queen of Sorrow” is a guitar-driven dirge that features Wylde’s tortured vocals and monster riffs. “Steppin Stone” is an atmospheric rocker long on grandeur while “Layne” is a somber tribute to the late Alice In Chains frontman Layne Staley.

Adding piano to his instrumental palette, Wylde brings a previously unrevealed artistry to the acoustic-based “Woman Don’t Cry” or his inspired cover of the classic rock gem “Whiter Shade of Pale.” While there is nothing to alienate long-time fans here – there is enough string shredding to satisfy even the most die-hard headbanger – Wylde is quietly breaking new ground and taking his music to heights that few critics ever suspected he’d reach. (Spitfire Records, released 2004)

Review originally published by the Community Free Press, 2004

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