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Another Step Foward - 95%

mike584, February 18th, 2004

Since the release of 1999's Sonic Brew, Black Label Society has been Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde's platform to demonstrate how real metal should sound. Aside from Pantera's Dimebag Darrell, Zakk is perhaps the premier guitar god of the last decade and a half. He also is one of the most gifted guitarists to ever pick up the instrument in a world where similar sounding rap-metal riffs and senseless lyrics reign supreme.
It appears to me that with every Black Label album that's released, Zakk improves his back-breaking riffs and his squealing, pinch harmonic fueled, Eddie Van Halen like guitar solos. And solos are rare gems in todays rock world. Zakk reached his peak with Black Labels previous release, 1919 Eternal(the title is a tribute to his father, a WW II veteran). The production quality, song writing, and Zakk's singing voice had all improved greatly, as the riffs on the album were originally written for use on Ozzy Osbourne's Down To Earth album.
With The Blessed Hellride, Zakk has improved yet again. This is even better than 1919 Eternal as it is the most melodic, musical and mature metal record I've heard in years. Zakk even mixes musical styles here. The down to earth title track is acoustic guitar driven with a clean guitar solo. And if that isn't enough, "Dead Meadow" is somewhat of a return to his Book of Shadows days with the use of a piano and a voice Zakk hasn't used since the first Black Label record. It's just nothing short of amazing. But the album still crushes with Sabbath-esque guitar riffs, just listen to "Suffering Overdue" and "Final Sollution". The album even features the single "Stillborn", a song about dead love which features, Ozzy, Zakk's mentor on backing Vocals. As a matter fact, Zakk's voice has gotten so much clearer, that if you listen to Final Solution and We Live No More, you'll think Ozzy's singing. This is a classic record for Zakk. Let's hope it just gets better from here. SDMF!!