Black Label Society Dig Deep + Unearth Massive Riffs on ‘Grimmest Hits’ – Album Review
It’s been a full three decades since the teenage Jeffrey Wielandt, best known as Zakk Wylde, was plucked from New Jersey as the young six-string stud who would succeed Jake E. Lee and continue Ozzy Osbourne’s streak of landing otherwordly guitar players. He had a banner 2017, having toured with Zakk Sabbath, rejoining Ozzy's band and playing on the Experience Hendrix tour. Now, he’s returned his focus to his leather-clad Black Label Society with Grimmest Hits, the band’s 10th studio album.
Throughout the years, Wylde has proudly and often declared his reverence for the guitar gods who helped shape and subsequently reshape heavy music since the late ‘60s, anointing them all with religious prefixes like "Father Tony Iommi," "Saint Randy Rhoads," "Pontiff Jimmy Page" and so on. He’s constantly talking about his musical “soup"; the "ingredients" are the aforementioned legends, among many others. Grimmest Hits draws heavily from that soup, as Black Label Society takes cues from their idols, unabashedly riding mammoth Iommian, metal/blues riffs across 12 dense songs that make up one of the strongest albums in the collective's 20-year discography.
“Trampled Down Below” is an ominous opening track with a moody introduction and driving bass line that sets the tone for the record, and sets the "grim" mood. Even when BLS get their darkest (“The Betrayal,” “Disbelief” and the doom-wrecker “All That Once Shined”) they manage to combine that lyrical dread with dynamic, anthemic songs (which have never been in short supply across their nine previous LPs).
Surprisingly, things get darkest on the three acoustic-driven songs: “The Only Words,” “The Day That Heaven Had Gone Away” and the aptly-titled closer, “Nothing Left to Say” all showcase Wylde’s adoration for rock’s gentler side, but what should be tender moments are starkly morose, maintaining the album’s lyrical ethos. “A Love Unreal,” however, manages to nurse some these verbal wounds, offering a glimpse of reprieve just over half way through the record.
There's a lot of Sabbath worship present on Grimmest Hits, but that's not a knock on the band. Since the release of the first six Black Sabbath albums, but given that Father Iommi seems to have retired, who better than the guy who leads Zakk Sabbath, the guy who plays those riffs in Ozzy Osbourne's band, to keep that flame ignited?
If you’re after riffs you can milk for days, then Grimmest Hits is a Wisconsin purebred prize dairy cow.
Black Label Society's Grimmest Hits + Meanest Riffs With Zakk Wylde