Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Zakk & Company Hit Bullseye With New Record

This month, Berzerker extraordinaire (and guitar god) Zakk Wylde and his band Black Label Society released the long-awaited album Order of the Black--their latest since 2006's Shot to Hell. Fresh off of the Ozzfest stage, Black Label will soon be embarking upon their "Berzerkus" tour, which Wylde (and fans alike) have been blazing Twitter and other online social networks to promote.

Order's first single "Parade of the Dead" hit radio in June. Like the title suggests, the creates imagery of zombies and the undead. It's fast paced, heavy, and a good choice as the album's first single. A second single, "Crazy Horse" was also released in June. It is Order of the Black's opening track, and I fell in love with it on first listen when radio host Eddie Trunk played it on his Q104 show. "Crazy Horse" sets this album up to be a 21st Century heavy metal masterpiece. Zakk's guitar solo is fantastic. It is fast, crisp, and clear.

Placed in between those two tracks is "Overlord"--a strong and heavy number with outrageous roaring riffs. The chorus is memorable, and the very end of the song, Zakk (being the jokester that he is) repeatedly sings "she is my overlord" in a very comical voice.

Order of the Black contains four ballads--two of which are "Time Waits for No One" and "Shallow Grave." "Time Waits for No One" has similar sound to Black Label Society's previous ballads. It is a beautiful, piano-heavy song about accepting how we cannot change time and that we only have a finite amount of time on Earth. The song's line that begins with "no final curtain call" is the total "lighter moment" that rock fans have been awaiting for years.

On the other hand, "Shallow Grave" blew me away because of how unique it is. It has the same intense and emotional lyrics as Black Label's other ballads, but it features an interesting change in musical style. As my friend and metal enthusiast (the infamous @JohnRiot of Twitter) best described it, the band "really out Coldplayed Coldplay" with this one. When if first heard it, I did noticed that it had sort of a somber alt rock feel to it. The pace, the tone, and some of the instrumentation of it were much like a Coldplay or Snow Patrol song. The lyrics about mourning the physical and/or emotional death of oneself fit this type of music very well. This song is without a doubt in my top three from Order of the Black.

"Godspeed Hellbound" is another one of my favorite rockers from Order of the Black. The guitar and drums are extremely fast, and it's great for cranking up even louder than it already is. This is an energetic and anthemic song that is fun to drive or exercise to--much like "Fire it Up" from their 2005 release Mafia.

Despite Zakk's recent publicized health issues, fans would never be able to detect any weakness upon listening to this album . His playing is still impeccable, and the powerful vocals he is known for are even better and more soulful than ever.
And even though I have vehemently expressed my disappointment for Zakk leaving Ozzy Osbourne's band, I can honestly say this may have been the best thing to ever happen to Black Label Society. Zakk has been able to fully concentrate on creating and promoting a wonderful, sincere, and well-crafted album with his exceptionally talented bandmates Nick Catanese (rhythm guitar), John DeServio (bass), and Will Hunt (drums). Order of the Black has the potential to be the summer's--or even the year's--best heavy metal album.
Order of the Black has currently been released through E1 Music in the United States, Road Runner Records in Europe, and Riot Entertainment in Austrailia and New Zealand.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New Rush Tracks from Upcoming Release

Toronto rockers Rush have released two brand new tracks this summer from their forthcoming album Clockwork Angels. The album itself isn't slated for release until spring of next year, but the band has given fans new material to tide them over until then.

A 5-and-a-half minute single, "Caravan," is a really grooving and bass-heavy track with a catchy riff. The chorus of "I can't stop thinking big/I can't stop thinking big" is simple, yet memorable. The solo toward the end of the track is quite an impressive jam is well.

The single's B-side "BU2B" (because we all know Rush likes to letter and number songs) is a track I actually fancy a bit more than "Caravan" because of its slightly heavier heavier sound and faster pace. I think it sounds a lot like late '70s or early '80s Rush, so I'm a bit partial to it. I've heard "BU2B" on satellite radio a few times, and I think this song will really catch on with the rock audience and longtime Rush fans.

Both tracks are a nice sneak peek into the future Clockwork Angels album. If the rest of the songs are just as great as "Caravan" and "BU2B," which I have no doubt, Rush will have one of the biggest hard rock albums of 2011.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Monday, August 02, 2010

New Ozzy is Definitely Something to Scream About

The self-proclaimed "Prince of Darkness" Ozzy Osbourne has released his tenth studio album of original solo material entitled Scream. Not only is this a major milestone in his career, it is also his first album since 1988 not to feature guitarist Zakk Wylde who left the band last July.

For the greater part of my life, it has always been Ozzy and Zakk--Zakk and Ozzy. I was hesitant to accept any substitute for Zakk, but now that I have heard Scream, I can confidently say Ozzy picked the right guy to join his band. That guy would be guitarist Gus G.

The debut single from Scream is appropriately titled "Let Me Hear You Scream." This track is fun and energetic and reminiscent of the lead single "I Don't Wanna Stop" from Ozzy's 2007 album Black Rain. This song debuted on an April episode of CSI: New York and has gained heavy airplay on both satellite and terrestrial hard rock radio. "Let Me Hear You Scream" is extremely catchy, and it has that "classic" Ozzy feel to it--especially between the first verse and the chorus. Very impressive!

The album's opening track "Let It Die" gave me mixed feelings at first. Immediately after purchasing Scream, I put the CD in my car stereo, cranked it the hell up, and heard some killer riffs. However, I was pretty much disappointed when I heard the verse that followed one minute in. It was monotone, repetitive, and the rhyming was all kinds of cheesy. The scream in the middle of the verse, sounded AWESOME though. Other than those verses I'm not too crazy about (especially the opening one), the song as a whole isn't bad. It features some mad guitar from Gus G., the chorus is memorable, and it sounds very current for modern hard rock radio.

"Soul Sucker" is the song that almost ended up as the album's title track. Originally, Ozzy was going to call it Soul Sucka, but many fans were not thrilled about it. I was one of those fans, and I just thought the name did not suit an Ozzy Osbourne album at all! After much protest, Ozzy (and I'm sure Sharon was involved) had a contest for fans to re-name the album. Scream, obviously, was the name that prevailed with.

Although Soul Sucka didn't sit well with fans as an album title, the song "Soul Sucker" is a favorite track of mine and my metal loving friends. The beginning is very heavy, and some interesting guitar and vocal effects create the sound of "Soul, soul sucker/Soul, soul sucker" before the first verse begins. The lyrics are great, the song stands out as one of the better ones on the album, and it should go down as a fan favorite from the modern era of Ozzy Osbourne albums.

The following track "Diggin' Me Down" begins with a slow, eerily beautiful "Mr. Crowley" or "Diary of a Madman" feel, then it completely rocks out. The playing of Ozzy's new drummer on this song, Tommy Clufetos, is powerful and impeccable. The religious themed lyrics focus on questioning Jesus Christ as the son of God and waiting for his return. Plus, I just love the fact that Ozzy sings the word "sanctimonious." (Yeah, I have a thing for the use of big words in rock songs.) But as great as I think Gus played in this song, I can hear him try really hard to channel the Zakk Wylde magic--in this song more than I can in the others. I can totally imagine Zakk playing that solo, so hearing Gus try to "play Zakk" makes it sound more contrived than it should.

A real hidden gem in the middle of the album is "Fearless." I absolutely love the high energy of this track and the empowering lyrics about having no regrets and not being a follower. I think this song would make a fantastic theme song for one of the World Wrestling Entertainment TV shows or pay-per-views. (Sorry... I had to shamelessly plug my other love in life. But it is true, that song would be perfect for that.)

"Time" is one of two ballads from Scream, and I think it is actually much better than the other one, "Life Won't Wait," that seems to be getting all the attention and airplay. The chorus of "Time" seems so heartfelt and true to me--"This life fading away/This life ticking like a time bomb/Ready to blow your tortured mind." This song really grabbed me for some reason, and it is my absolute favorite from the entire album.

There really isn't a bad song on Scream, and I will gladly play the whole thing from start to finish. That's something you can't say about many albums from this era of picking and choosing individual songs to download. And despite this being the first "Zakk-less" Ozzy studio album recorded in my lifetime, I can say that I have warmed up to the idea of having Gus G. as a permanent fixture in Ozzy's band. If he hadn't been an obviously talented guitarist with the vibrant modern hard rock sound, Ozzy wouldn't have chosen him. I honestly believe the die-hard Ozzy and Zakk fans should really can and should to terms with this big change after hearing all the outstanding songs from Scream.