Sunday, August 15, 2010

Black Label Society: Order of the Black (2010) Review

I have been a huge fan of Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society for the last eight years. The first three albums--Sonic Brew, Stronger Than Death and 1919 Eternal--are amazing pieces of ultra-heavy biker metal with amazing solos. This is the stuff that made me love the band. Then, they released The Blessed Hellride, which is a solid album, but also heralded the beginning of a shift to a more mainstream sound. The following three releases haven't been worth the money I spent on them.

The band released its first new album in four years yesterday: Order of the Black. I'm always optimistic about Zakk, so I went ahead and got it.

I can't say I'm disappointed.

Sadly, it's not a return to form. "Overlord" and "War of Heaven" are a bit heavier, but on the whole this is definitely the post-Hellride sound. On the other hand, the music is more memorable and interesting than anything on the past three releases. As you might expect, Wylde's amazing guitar skills show through a few times (like "Southern Dissolution"), but not as much as they did on the early albums. With great tracks like "Godspeed Hellbound", the former Ozzy shredder can get away without putting out another Sonic Brew.

There are several ballads, which, though none of them are as good as "Rust" or "Spoke in the Wheel", are at least nowhere near as awful as "She Deserves a Free Ride (Val's Song)". "January" almost sounds like it could have been on Book of Shadows.

The Verdict: Well, it's no return to form, but it's a marked improvement over the last three albums, and might be almost as good as The Blessed Hellride. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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