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The idealistic intention behind any solo album (in the case of this review, specifically of a solo effort from a member of an established band) is to create songs unique to the individual’s particular muse, rather than emulate the sound of the group from which they’ve received their notoriety, proceeding to merely add their own spin to things. It is in this sense that Ozzy Osbourne’s solo material is a success (idealistically) because he created material that did not sound like Black Sabbath rehashed. Inversely, Rob Halford’s solo material is not because his songs sound more like an extension of Judas Priest’s Painkiller album than his own personal direction (though one could of course argue that perhaps that sound was indeed his own expression, I find that rather unlikely considering the similarities between the two projects). Though the departure might not always be accepted by fans (a number of which would probably prefer a release that doesn’t challenge their viewpoint on a given artist’s creative potential i.e. Halford’s unadventurous solo outings), I retain my notion that a solo album that defies expectations based on an artist’s previous output has lived up to the ideals of what a solo album is supposed to be, regardless of whether I actually enjoy the material or not. If there’s clear integrity behind the music, the least it deserves is respect.
This brings me to the topic at hand: Zakk Wylde’s only solo album Book of Shadows. As the previous reviews have stated, it sounds nothing like his material from Black Label Society or Ozzy Osbourne. In fact, the best label I can apply to Book of Shadows is “alternative southern rock.” The first impression I got upon listening to album opener “Between Heaven and Hell” was of classic American folk rockers like Neil Young and Tom Petty (the song is acoustic and features a nice harmonica hook), but with a modern sheen to it that calls to mind groups like Counting Crows or Days of the New. Most of the album is acoustic, with piano and violin accompaniments from time to time, while Zakk swoons overtop (the Counting Crows comparison definitely applies to his voice; he sounds just like that guy) in a manner that’s surprisingly emotive for the singer of BLS. And why shouldn’t he? This is a sad album, consisting of mellow songs composed from loneliness and heartbreak, and Zakk proves he’s just the man to provide the soundtrack to your depression. Fuck that emo bullshit that plagues the radio these days, THIS is emotional music done properly.
Now while most of the album is acoustic rock, there are still distorted guitars that arise from time to time, enabling Zakk to add a little edge to the balladry and wrench tears from passerby with his outstanding solo work. This is where the alternative label comes into play, as the occasional distortion elevates this out of Counting Crows territory and into the realm of grunge/alternative rock (this album did come out in ’95 after all). Tracks like “1,000,000 Miles Away” work a vibe that channels Our Lady Peace and Pearl Jam, even calling to mind Oleander at points (though they existed later and probably never heard of this). And the super heavy palm-muted chords in “I Thank You Child” literally come out of nowhere, as the song is only acoustic, piano and vox up to that point.
Now I’m generally open-minded, have a soft spot for certain quality 90’s alternative bands, and love Tom Petty, so this album is not just listenable for me, but fairly enjoyable. I’m not inflating its score any higher because it’s not that great; there are plenty of better albums in this style floating around out there, including some from the artists mentioned above. But Zakk Wylde gets a newfound respect from me that he has duly earned. He put out material that he wanted to put out without giving a shit whether his fans would enjoy it or not. That is artistic integrity and I declare it good.
Recommended for the open-minded listener with the fair warning for any uninitiated Wylde fanboys expecting 78 minutes of pretentious wankery and sludgy down-tuned metal not to get their hopes up and limit the man’s potential to guitar hero clichés and monotonous riff recycling.
I can totally agree with the last reviewer of this album...what on earth is this doing on Metal Archives, this is totally not metal in the least bit. Although this is Zakk Wylde doing some of his best work ever, I can hear no metal songs. If your in any certain mood (down, depressed, or happy) this album will please you very much. It's got to be the most emotional music Zakk has ever done or will do. I loved his Pride and Glory album and though that is totally different from Book of Shadows, I'd have to say I'd take this album over Pride. Zakk's Vocals are very soulful, and there's not a bad moment on here, as some of the songs are almost in the vein of soft rock/bluegrass music although I'm not a fan of these genre's much, Zakk belts out these songs like no one else, and you'd all just have to experiance it for yourself. No one has ever done anything like this, and yes this is the mainman from Black Label Society and the Guitarist from Ozzy for christsake. I couldn't believe what I was hearing coming from my speaker when i popped this in because I was expecting heavy metal stuff. All the songs are different and have variance, and could you'll find yourself drinking to this, singing to this, and um...making out to this. My friends I suggest not leaving from home without this, because I would be hella upset if ya did. If any of you would listen and though this is not metal, I highly recommend this album, and suggest taking a listen to one of my fave albums of all time.
Best Tracks: All of Them
Holy shit! What is this album doing on the Metal Archives?!? This ain't metal in any aspect! The only reason I can see that this is here is because Zakk is the one behind the music, and there ain't no one more metal than Zakk...kinda contridictory, don't you think?
Well, now that that's off my chest, this is one incredibly good album. I'm not sure what everyone out there would think of this if they heard it, but damn, Zakk is one emotional dude. Sold My Soul is a song that really can bring a tear to your eye, with its brilliant acoustic guitar work and soulful vocals. It makes you wonder just how the fuck Zakk could do that and then move on to BLS a couple years later and leave barely a trace of acoustic music. Too Numb To Cry is yet another song that Zakk proves he can sing, with layers of his next to mournful voice penetrating the very soul of anyone who has a shred of emotion in them.
This is definitely and album to put on when you are feeling depressed or upset for any reason whatsoever. You can feel everything that went into this album because it is so simply moving. Put this one on for your girlfriends or wives and they're sure to appreciate metal just a little more (that is if they don't already), cuz this is something no one has done since or before, and probably ever will.