The cunningly titled ‘Grimmest Hits’ is not a ‘best of’, it’s not even a ‘best of’ with a few new tracks tacked on to help persuade fans to shell out again. ‘Grimmest Hits’ is the brand new studio album from Black Label Society, and fans of the previous nine will know what to expect. A heady mix of Southern Rock, Blues and naturally, Black Sabbath is the order of the day from Zakk Wylde and John DeServio, along with ‘newer’ blood brothers Dario Lorina and Jeff Fabb. At times it’s frantic, with the beefy slabs of riffs that you would expect from Wylde, but then on the flip side, you have the mellower moments that you would also expect from Wylde. If you dig ‘Hangover Music Vol.VI’, Wylde’s solo album ‘Book Of Shadows’ or the last Black Label Society album ‘Catacombs Of The Black Vatican’, you will find much on ‘Grimmest Hits’ to satisfy the soul. If you dropped by to check out what all the fuss is about, then you will also find much to enjoy.
Wylde’s larger-than-life viking berserker/biker persona almost overshadows his guitar playing, and to this day he remains one of the most respected, yet underrated, players around. This is a guitar album first and foremost. The riffs will make your head spin, and bassist DeServio delivers his trusty John Paul Jones-esque performance (especially on the blues stomp of ‘Bury Your Sorrow’). Opener, ‘Trampled Down Below’, gets the party started with a soft middle eastern intro that soon changes pace as the band crash in with a wall of noise. The trademark pained vocals from Wylde are ever-present, as are the blistering solos. Just as the song is coming down, and seemingly meandering through to a peaceful place, Wylde lets fly and peels off a stunning solo. ‘Seasons Of Falter’ has a groove that sizzles and a solo to match, ‘The Betrayal’ has a mighty blues-infused intro which grows into a fine slice of sludge that constantly changes pace. ‘All That Once Shined’ bows down in front of the Black Sabbath altar, the groove swirling around until the drums kick the song on. Mighty fine stuff indeed. ‘Room Of Nightmares’ and ‘Illusions Of Peace’ are classic Black Label Society, the missing link between Alice In Chains and Sabbath? Maybe yeah, maybe not… but they certainly are potent.
The lighter side of Black Label Society breaks free from the relentless riffs on a few occasions. ‘The Only Words’ is so laid back that it is practically horizontal, the guitar work subtle and never forceful… the sledgehammer taking a breather for a while. ‘The Day That Heaven Had Gone Away’ is a show-stopping six minutes of Southern hospitality that is too good to be called a ‘power-ballad’, or indeed anything with the word ‘ballad’ in it. It’s Skynyrd, but Skynyrd done in 2018. As for closing track ‘Nothing Left To Say’… the achingly haunting vocal performance from the big man is the perfect way to round off the tenth studio album from Black Label Society.
Available now on Spinefarm Records.
Review: Dave Stott