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Black Label Society - Kings of Damnation Review

by Zane Ewton

Zakk Wylde emerged from nowhere to become another in the long line of legendary guitarists to play alongside Ozzy Osborne. Zakk can probably be credited for saving Ozzy from the trappings of hair metal, even if he personally had hair as high as anyone else at the time.

Time can definitely change a man and Zakk Wylde has morphed from 80's axe slinger to heavy metal's resident Viking warrior. You can find him any given night tearing up bars (both musically and alcoholically) with Black Label Society or tearing up arenas with Ozzy. He has carved a niche with his band/drinking club that has an image and sound forged in sheer brutality.

Kings of Damnation is the first Wylde compilation with tracks from every stage of his post-Ozzy career, from 1994's Pride and Glory to last year's Hangover Music, Vol. 1, the disc demonstrates a range of styles and spotlights Wylde's talents as one of the premier guitar players of our time. Ten years seems to be the prerequisite time for a band to release a greatest hits disc but few bands have been as prolific as Wylde who has consistently released discs almost every year.

After moving on from Ozzy's band, Wylde formed the power trio Pride and Glory and released a self-titled album of heavy southern rock charm. The record is an underappreciated gem, represented by the tracks "Losing Your Mind" and "Horse Called War". Pride and Glory disbanded after the one record and Wylde moved on to the solo acoustic Book of Shadows. This record showcased Wylde's outstanding acoustic skills, offering up a wide range of emotions and depth.

After almost joining a crumbling Guns 'n Roses, Wylde formed the Black Label Society and released a debut album that would set the blueprints for each one to follow. A BLS album is basically carnage put to a drum beat. Never including less that 10 tracks, Wylde purposely makes BLS riffs as simple and destructive as possible, a smorgasbord of sludgy metal. The debut was a meandering but exciting set that is underutilized here with only one track, "Bored to Tears".

With each record the BLS brand becomes more focused and song oriented. There are some killer songs on every release and many of the best don't get their due here, but the tracks that are included are the cream of the crop. Fans may find contention with the exclusion of some favorites but that is to be expected.

The one anomaly under the BLS banner is the mostly acoustic Hangover Music. The two best tracks from that disc are included here, "Crazy or High" and "House of Doom". Scattered throughout this compilation are the short instrumentals from each album, basically a reason for Wylde to show off how fast his fingers can move across the neck of a guitar.

Every "hits" compilation needs a selling point. Kings of Damnation offers up two tasty cuts that Wylde must have been saving for a very special occasion. "Doomsday, Inc." and "SDMF" are prime slabs of what BLS does best. Besides the crime of omitting this year's Mafia, Kings of Damnation is a strong overview of Wylde's post-Ozzy years. With each release Black Label Society scores with improved songs and simply a better, focused album. Wylde gets better with every record which bodes well for the future of real guitar players impacting heavy metal.

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