Black Label Society
It's no secret that I'm a very big fan of Zakk Wylde. I've gotten to know him over the years, and more to the point, I've truly apprecated the music the guy creates. For many, they just love hearing him play guitar. I can see that. For me though, my go to moments are not the heavier albums like STONGER THAN DEATH or ORDER OF THE BLACK, but the stuff that strays from the heavy where Zakk just lets loose as a classic rocker. My favorite thing Wylde has done is his solo release BOOK OF SHADOWS, followed closely by BLS efforts HANGOVER MUSIC VOL. VI and THE SONG REMAINS NOT THE SAME. "Darkest Days" from THE SONG REMAINS NOT THE SAME is, by far, my favorite song he's ever done, based solely on the raw emotion he puts forth singing it acoustically. Wylde has returned with a very interesting live show called UNBLACKENED; a sort of acoustic show where he and Black Label Society rework a lot of songs from his entire career for a one night only performance. It's pretty good stuff.
Notice, I said "sort of acoustic". While this is definitely not the full on, in your face Black Label Society concert, it does feature a ton of electric guitar provided by Wylde. In fact, on songs like "Sold My Soul", the solo is even more fierce than it was when originally recorded. While Wylde is definitely good at being the metal world's bad ass biker dude, his career is littered with great music that proves he could be more than successful in more of a Gregg Allman world if he chose to. Listening to the live performance of songs like "Spoke In The Wheel" on UNBLACKENED, it's more than clear that he has true passion for this style of music. Other songs, like the reworked version of "The Blessed Hellride" just sparkle. The bigger sound on "House Of Doom" is definitely welcomed as well, giving the song even more power than it had when recorded for HANGOVER MUSIC.
That's not to say that it's all good. It's not. "Stillborn" reworked as a slow, plodding ballad is a giant mistake that should never be mentioned again. Additionally, the recording of the Bill Withers tune "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" is fairly unnecessary and useless; made even worse by the dumb tongue in cheek video that is now out there. "Queen Of Sorrow" also needed to be left alone, as the original version of it is far better than this heavier live version that is featured here and showcases one of Zakk's lazier vocal performances on the whole release.
PITRIFF RATING - 80/100 - This is definitely a solid effort that's brilliant at times. There are other times that aren't so brilliant, but overall this is a solid listen if you are a BLS or Zakk Wylde fan. This will fill the void nicely until a new BLS album is prepared.