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I’ve been a fan of Zakk Wylde since I first heard him on Ozzy’s No Rest For The Wicked. While I did enjoy his work in Ozzy’s band I knew that Ozzy’s hard on for ballads and inconsistent song writing held back Zakk Wylde’s potential for creating some kickass Metal. I remember when I first heard “Mother Mary” and “Born To Lose” from Sonic Brew… at first I didn’t realize who it was but the thick guitar sound and hard rock based riffs really caught my attention. When I found out that it was Zakk Wylde’s own band I was very excited and once I picked up Sonic Brew, I was not disappointed.
Sonic Brew, simply stated, is laced with alcohol induced, heavy riffage that has both blues and hard rock roots. The overall sound is undeniably metal, but this type of Metal should appeal to hard rock fans as well. In-between the riffs are plenty of solos, Zakk Wylde style of course. If you liked Wylde’s solos in Ozzy, then you’ll love them here, however, if you didn’t like them before, I’m not sure that Sonic Brew will change your mind, even though they do fit very well with the music. Many people have complained about Wylde’s vocals, though I don’t see any major problems with them. The gruff style keeps with the theme induced by the music and some excellent melodies and hooks are found in most songs, especially on the chorus of “Hey You (Batch Of Lies)”.
Most tracks are up-tempo rockers, but some slower songs appear. The slower songs are semi-successful, certainly “Spoke In The Wheel” is a lot more enjoyable than almost all of Ozzy’s ballads, mostly thanks to Wylde’s competent acoustic ability, also clearly displayed in the instrumental “T.A.Z.”. Even though all the songs have well defined riffs most follow a very similar song structure that is a little too typical and doesn’t offer a lot of surprises. While only a minor drawback, it also can’t be overlooked.
The production is also a main highlight on Sonic Brew. As mentioned, the guitars are very thick and have a quite the buzz to them, as does the bass. The result can best be described as “full-bodied” as stated by Wylde himself in the linear notes. Speaking of the linear notes, they are enjoyable to read as Wylde gives a, usually funny, description of each song. He tries his best to relate each song to some form of beer related topic, and he mostly succeeds. The booklet is humorous, to say the least. Overall, this CD perhaps won’t appeal to everyone, as I know many listeners have issue with the vocals. My only complaint with the vocals is that Wylde uses a vocal effects that gives his voice a little distortion just a little too often for my tastes. Other than that, and the all-too-common song structures, Sonic Brew is a mostly varied, but always enjoyable CD that is a nice change of pace from more typical speedy, brutal, and or necro Metal. As a bonus, there is a solid rendition of Ozzy's "No More Tears" on certain releases.
Song Hightlights: Born To Lose, Mother Mary, Low Down, Hey You (Batch Of Lies), The Rose Petalled Garden, Bored To Tears, World Of Trouble, and No More Tears