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For The Damned Will Roll - 85%

Twisted_Psychology, September 7th, 2011

Originally published at http://www.suite101.com

Not too long ago, there was a time when Black Label Society, led by Ozzy Osbourne axeman Zakk Wylde, was one of the most prolific bands in mainstream metal. From 1999 to 2006, the band would release a new album every year with hits like 1919 Eternal and The Blessed Hellride emerging from a fairly consistent discography.

But things have changed in the last four years as new albums gave way to a few greatest hits collections and Ozzy's Black Rain album in 2007. But with the announcements of Wylde's departure from the Osbourne camp last year, it was up in the air as to how a new Black Label album would sound with his newly found "freedom" as well as with the recruitment of former Evanescence drummer Will Hunt.

For the most part, you could say that this album is a representation of all the elements that Black Label Society have made famous over the course of their career. While there are some aesthetics on here that were particularly apparent on recent releases such as Mafia and Shot to Hell, this album seems to have more in common with the band's earliest efforts.

The production features a raw sound that hasn't been seen since 1919 Eternal and lacks most of the polish that was on recent efforts. There are also little touches spread throughout that recall older times with the flamenco instrumental Chucapabra in particular effectively conjuring memories of T.A.Z. and Speedball.

Of course, there are some recent elements kept around as Wylde continues to use every kind of chug, pitch harmonic, piano-driven ballad, and Ozzy impression that he can muster. Fortunately, the recently overused talk box seems to have been given a rest and is only prominent in the opening and closing segments of Overlord.

As with previous albums, the songs have been divided into the heavier riff-oriented tracks and the previously mentioned piano-driven ballads. Unsurprisingly, the heavier tracks often win out with the singles Crazy Horse and Parade Of The Dead serving as the album's most memorable songs. Also noteworthy are the more complex Godspeed Hellbound and Riders Of The Damned with the former featuring a melodic bridge that sounds like something Avenged Sevenfold would put in a song...

In contrast, the ballad songs show some nice variety but often feel thrown together and may come off as predictable. The major exception to this rule occurs with the particularly somber Shallow Grave but the closing January is also noteworthy for its acoustic guitar dominance and subdued vocals. If only they had made it a minute or two longer...

All in all, this is a pretty solid album with a refreshing sound in comparison to the last two releases but may actually be on their same level in terms of songwriting and overall quality. It will give plenty of fuel for the band's lovers and will not change any of the haters' opinions but ultimately isn't as good as the band's best efforts.

But for what it's worth, Wylde managed to put out an album that is noticeably better and more heartfelt than what his former boss released earlier this summer...

Highlights:
Crazy Horse, Parade of the Dead, Godspeed Hellbound, Shallow Grave, and Riders Of The Damned