Black Label Society

REVIEW: Zakk Wylde – Book of Shadows (reissue)

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ZAKK WYLDE – Book of Shadows (1996, 1999 Spitfire reissue with bonus tracks)

There are many albums in my collection that I have bought more than once, just because I love them so much. Kiss Alive for example I’ve owned on LP and CD every time its been reissued. Likewise, Book of Shadows. When this album was issued with the 3 bonus tracks on an extra CD, I made sure I added it to my collection, because this is such an amazing collection of songs and I needed more.

Book of Shadows, Zakk’s second album outside Ozzy (Pride And Glory being the first) was a departure. Every song is largely acoustic, and electric guitar is usually only heard distantly in the mix, or in some of the solos. Instead of shredding, this album is driven by Zakk’s soulful voice, electrifying lyrics (very underrated!) and songwriting excellence.

I recall playing this for Tom and T-Rev when I first picked it up.  Tom’s immediate first reaction was, “This sounds like Hootie and the Blowfish.” The reason for that is Zakk’s deep voice, and the fact that these are mostly mellow acoustic songs. However a few more minutes in, and it was clear that this was a Zakk album. Especially when that first electric guitar solo kicked in. By the time the albums ends on the electric, grinding, Sabbathy-outro to “I Thank You Child”, we had been thoroughly blown away.

Zakk’s lyrics run the gamut from philosophical to funny. “The Things You Do”, for example, seems to be about an ex-girlfriend and contains the lyric, “How do you do the things you do? You make Satan look like Christ, you know it’s true.” Elsewhere, “Way Beyond Empty” is a powerful, mournful song with a chorus so good that it will not let you go. I also enjoyed “Throwin’ It All Away” for its drama and orchestration.  The three bonus tracks are just as good as anything else on the album, particularly “The Color Green”, an indictment of modern greed.  Lyrically the bonus tracks are more topical than the album in general.  They are “Evil Ways”, “The Color Green”, and “Peddlers of Death”.  A vastly different re-recorded version of “Peddlers of Death” later appeared on Black Label Society’s debut album Sonic Brew.

If you are a Zakk fan, obviously this purchase is a must. If you’re not a Zakk fan but you happen to stumble upon this review, do what you can to hear it.  I’m firmly convinced that if Book of Shadows had a larger overall awareness, it could have been a hit album with multiple successful singles.

Band lineup:
Zakk Wylde – lead vocals, guitars, piano
Joe Vitale – drums, keyboards
James Lomenzo – bass

5/5 stars

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