Before the Ozzy gig, Jeffrey Wielandt (aka Zakk Wylde) was just another guitarist among thousands of guitarists that worked day jobs, gave guitar lessons to make extra cash and spent their nights playing the local bar scene. In Zakk’s case, his night gig was a band called “Zyris”. And it was after a “Zyris” performance at a club in Sayreville, New Jersey that got the attention of a person called Dave Feld.
Feld asked Zakk to put together a demo tape with some press photos and he will try his best to get his friend Mark Weiss (fresh from just doing a Ozzy shoot), to hand it over to the Osbourne camp.
Eventually the tape found its way to the Osbourne camp and an audition was organised in L.A. Present at the audition were drummer Randy Castillo and bassist Phil Soussan.
In the end it came down to Wylde and one other candidate, a guitarist named Jimi Bell who had worked previously with Joan Jett. Bell would go on to play with Geezer Butler’s solo band and, more recently, design the Shredneck guitar practice tool.
Before the Ozzman audition, Zakk had already changed the spelling of his last name from Wielandt to Wylant as no one could ever pronounce the original. The Zack part came after his wife mentioned that it would be a cool name if they have a kid. The final piece of the name came after a drinking session with Ozzy, and hearing a song from Kim Wilde, the British Pop Singer.
It’s 1987. Ozzy, Zakk, Phil Soussan and Randy Castillo had just begun writing songs for the “No Rest for the Wicked” album in Brighton, England. In the end, “Miracle Man” is credited to Zakk Wylde, Ozzy Osbourne and Bob Daisley.
The riff. A metal classic. Taking its cues from Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady”, Zakk did what any metal player would do. Add some fast F# pedal point 16th notes, give it some distortion, give it some attitude and the rest is history. Make sure that you pay attention to the Aeolian/Pentatonic lead break.
“Breaking All The Rules”
This is Zakk Wylde referencing a lot of Lynch’isms and Rhoads’isms. As a fan, it is a damn good listen.
It’s the chicken picking licks merged with the traditional pentatonic licks that shatter this song out of the stratosphere. The song works because it’s structure is not the usual pop format.
Coming into the “No More Tears” sessions Ozzy’s piece d’ resistance was still the “Blizzard Of Ozz” album and it was an album that came from a band firing on all cylinders. While the albums that came after still sold a million plus, it was purely because we liked a few songs. Until 1991’s “No More Tears”. I was blown away. There is no filler and each track is killer.
“No More Tears” gave Zakk Wylde a career and Ozzy another re-birth.
Musically, it is a great opener, from the Jewelry Box intro, to the groovy verses and the heaviness of the chorus. It’s like a Big Top, Step-Right-In Circus opener. And Ozzy’s voice was the ringmaster. Step right in if you are brave. And the drumming from the departed Castillo is just powerful.
It’s written by Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde and Randy Castillo with a sinister lyrical theme that borders on the uncomfortable. But hey, if anyone can get away with it, it’s Ozzy and maybe Alice Copper.
“I Don’t Want To Change The World”
It was the lead-off single and it more or less summed up what it was to be a metal head.
I don’t want to change the world
I don’t want the world to change me
Just leave us be. Don’t try to change us. The song is written by Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde, Randy Castillo and Lemmy Kilmister. And Lemmy delivered the killer lyrics;
Tell me I’m a sinner I got news for you
I spoke to God this morning and he don’t like you
Musically, the song takes its structure from the Randy Rhoads classic “I Don’t Know” even all the way down to the slow interlude. Zakk was very good at referencing Randy and he did it tastefully.
“Mama, I’m Coming Home”
Only Zakk Wylde could have written the music to this song. It has all of his trademarks over it. The Southern Rock intro, the pinch harmonics, pentatonic runs. You name it, this song has it. And yes, this song is way ahead of its time. Hell, all of those country artists that crossed over with Rock songs had a perfect template right here.
The song is written by Zakk Wylde, Lemmy Kilmister and Ozzy Osbourne. Legend has it that the term “Mama” is a nickname that Ozzy has for Sharon.
Times have changed and times are strange
Here I come, but I ain’t the same
It’s another metal head classic written by Zakk Wylde, Lemmy Kilmister, Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Castillo.
I always knew what I wanted to be
I knew for sure, I knew for sure
All we wanted was our music and we wanted it loud.
I gotta keep rocking cause it makes me crazy
It makes me crazy who needs to be cool
Being a metal head is all about being uncool. That is why so many genres started to appear. When metal became mainstream and cool, other more extreme genres started to appear so that people could be uncool again.
“No More Tears”
“No More Tears” has a song writer committee all over it. Listed on the credits are Zakk Wylde, Randy Castillo, Ozzy Osbourne, Mike Inez and producer John Purdell.
The bass intro just gets the groove happening and it sucks you in. Again another song that only Zakk Wylde could have written over one hell of a bass riff.
It’s got that Black Sabbath down tuned grunt. CHECK.
It’s got slide guitar. CHECK.
It’s got a descending chromatic riff in the Chorus. CHECK
It’s got a melodic lead break just before a wicked Pentatonic lead break. CHECK
And at seven minutes long, there is no filler. Every second counts.
The light in the window is a crack in the sky
Then the riff.
A stairway to darkness in the blink of an eye
Then the riff.
A levee of tears to learn she’ll never be coming back
Then the riff.
The song is written by Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde and Randy Castillo. It’s the Randy Rhoads “Goodbye To Romance” reference that grabs me in the PRE-CHORUS.
And what about the chorus?
Whoa – Who turned off the lights ?
Whoa – A shadow in the night
Whoa – It wasn’t meant to be
I can’t take this alone
Don’t leave me on my own tonight
As popular as Ozzy is, the reason why we love him is because of his flaws. A tragic hero.
Shattered dreams lay next to broken glass
I wonder if tonight will be my last
I need an angel who can rescue me
To save me from my mental symphony
Yep, the morning after a rampage.
Legend has it that Killerwatt bassist Terry Nails wrote the bass riff that kicks the song off. Nails was one of the bassists on the “No More Tears” sessions and he is uncredited for his role is shaping some of the songs on the album. In the end “Hellraiser” is listed as being written by Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde and Lemmy Kilmister.
With the song sitting at number 7 on the track list, only the real fans would have gone this deep in. And it is another great track. It shows just how good “No More Tears” is as an album.
I’m living on an endless road
Around the world for rock and roll
This is what every aspiring musician wanted to do. Travel around the world, playing the music that they created, getting up to mischief and just living the life. It was never about the money, but about the lifestyle.
Walking out on another stage
Another town, another place
Motorhead also did their own version, however you need to be fan of Lemmy’s voice to appreciate it.
People keep telling me it’s bad for my health
But kicking back don’t make it
Don’t know how people could have bought the stories of Ozzy’s retirement. He more or less states that he just can’t kick back.
“Time After Time”
A ballad. Not as good as “Road To Nowhere” or “Mama, I’m Coming Home”, but still a worthy addition. It is written by Zakk Wylde and Ozzy Osbourne.
Day after day
I watched love fade away
I wanted love to stay
Yep, what one desires in love doesn’t mean that the other desires the same.
It is written by Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde and Randy Castillo.
I don’t need no doctor
But I need something to kill the pain
Don’t know what I’m after
But the pressure driving me insane
The life of an addict is summed up right there. Finding issues and fires were fires and issues do not exist.
It is another song written by Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde and Randy Castillo.
Never forsaking what a dreamer needs to know
Rules meant for breaking and the seeds I have to sow
Riding on a train that I can’t control
No one else to blame and I can’t let go
Don’t forget what you want to be, because if you do, you are going to be on a train that you can’t control. And there will be no one to blame.
“Road To Nowhere”
Another ballad and at song number 11, the quality is still there. It’s better than “Mama I’m Coming Home”. The song is written by Osbourne, Wylde and Castillo.
The wreckage of my past keeps haunting me
It just won’t leave me alone
I still find it all a mystery
Could it be a dream?
One part of the legacy of Ozz will be the drunkenness. The bat, the dove, the Alamo, the line of ants and the rest. In other words, the wreckage of the past just keeps on coming back. The other will the music.
“Pride And Glory” is Zakk’s most underrated work. The self-titled debut came out in 1994 and it was way ahead of its time. Hell, Kid Rock made the style of merging Country, Southern Rock and Metal into a multi-million dollar business. People said that Zakk Wylde was crazy to leave Ozzy. They said to him that he could have played arenas forever, instead he is going to be playing small clubs from now on. But those people just didn’t understand. Zakk Wylde is in the business to play the god damn guitar.
Pride and Glory’s musical equation was one for the mathematicians’. This is what happens when the Allman Brothers, Black Sabbath, Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Al DiMeola, Randy Rhoads, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Cream and the Marshall Tucker Band are all added and multiplied and divided together.
“Horse Called War”
The groove and that riff are heavy as hell and the title was perfect. The track could have been done on a Ozzy record, hell it could have appeared on a Metallica record as it’s got a real thrash rhythm.
And that solo was recorded all live. Yep, there is no backing rhythm guitar track. It’s just Zakk, James and Brian.
If the end be a comin’
I soon be a bummin’
All you Jesus freaks I hope you’re wrong
I’ve got so much left to live for
“Harvester Of Pain”
Again, it’s got a killer groove and a great nod to some tasty southern rock in the verses and the chorus just rocks it out of the ballpark.
Every day’s a living hell
The reaper be weaving his spell
Sergeant take me aside
Tell me son, Peace ain’t what we’re here to sell…
War is not pretty, but you know what, neither is the six-o-clock news.
“The Chosen One”
It’s got that Dazed and Confused feel, and as is the norm with Zakk, he keeps the Southern Rock grooves rooted in Black Sabbath grooves. Checkout the strings from Paul Buckmaster in the Chorus. The song also pays tribute to Zakk’s father.
So glad I got to know you papa
I’m so glad I was the Chosen One
“Cry Me A River”
If Kings Of Leon recorded the song it would have been a hit. Hell the vocal line sounds like Kings Of Leon and it is almost 10 years before they broke through. It’s very Creedence and the solo starts out as a pedal steel lick that Zakk borrowed from Jerry Donahue of The Hellecasters. And then the song develops into a country metal tour de force. And it was the oldest song to be included on the album, written back in 1990.
Tell me now girl
Where have all the good times gone?
How many times have we said those same words throughout your life.
“Found A Friend”
Road To Nowhere Part II. A great song.
And no one said it was gonna be easy
I found out that ain’t no damn lie
Brilliant. You know when I was young my father kept on telling me that life is never easy. But back when I was young I was bullet proof. No one could tell me any different. Fast forward to now, I’m with a job, a mortgage and a family to support, I can tell you that life is not easy. It is beautiful, but never easy.
A great piano ballad in remembrance of Zakk’s mother and a real testament to the talent of Zakk Wylde. He is a fantastic guitar player that has a great knack for riffing and soloing and he is also a very competent piano player. Check out his acoustic solo as well. Brilliant.
Ossmosis was next. It was a troubled album with a lot of changes. Ozzy was working with Steve Vai at one stage, then with other hit maker writers and then with Zakk Wylde back in the fold. Michael Wagener was first hired to produce.
“Perry Mason”, “See You on the Other Side”, “Tomorrow”, “Old LA Tonight”, “Aimee”, “Living with the Enemy” and “Slow Burn” got the Wagener treatment. Of these tracks, both “Aimee” and “Living with the Enemy” have been released as B-Side singles. The track “Slow Burn” has never been released. The label initially wanted the new album to sound exactly like “No More Tears” however they then changed their mind and they wanted the album to sound like “Soundgarden”. In came Michael Beinhorn.
Musically, the song is brilliant. Lyrically it is terrible. It is credited to Zakk Wylde, John Purdell and Ozzy Osbourne. The song is packed with plenty of Zakkisms from the bends over the bass riff in the intro/chorus to that shredelicious lead break.
“See You on the Other Side”
Another gem that Zakk and Ozzy co-wrote with Lemmy Kilmister. How good is that simple syncopated bass drum/bass intro and then Zakk cuts in with a G to Em to C arpeggios.
This is the birth of Black Label Society right here. It’s heavy, it’s aggressive and its violent. And it’s written by Zakk Wylde, Geezer Butler and Ozzy Osbourne.
Your Appetite For Power
Subvert Your Every Hour
But Every Time The Mighty Fall
Lyrics that ring true today.
“Old L.A. Tonight”
Another world-class ballad. It is another Wylde, Purdell and Osbourne composition. The pentatonic lead breaks from Zakk kill it.
Tell Me Where We’re Going
I’m So Afraid ‘Cos I Don’t Know
What’s Going On With My Life
Yep, when you are young you don’t care about the future. As you get older you start to care.
“Throwin It All Away”
“Book Of Shadows” tried but it didn’t get out of second gear except for “Throwin It All Away” which is about the passing of Shannon Hood from Blind Melon.
“The Rose Petalled Garden”
1999 saw the release of “Sonic Brew” and the arrival of Black Label Society. It was one of the heaviest and most hostile record ever made. And it shredded, just when Nu-Metal made it even more uncool to shred.
“All For You”
A year later, “Stronger Than Death” came to be. It was a violent album and “All For You” got the violence started.
Also from the STD album.
We’ve washed your brain and cleansed your soul
Till’ nothing’s all you need to know
Hand over your will and then you’ll see
Now get on your knees and worship me
It looks like the Miracle Man or Metallica’s “Leper Messiah” got out of his cell and is back to his old tricks of getting
“Bleed for Me”
1919 Eternal came in 2002 and it is one of my favourite Black Label Society releases. And what a story behind the making of it. Like how some of the songs came from the “Down To Earth” sessions or how the original title of the album was Deathcore WarMachine Eternal. Or how the album is dedicated to Zakk’s father, who passed away before the release of the album. 1919 was the year his father was born and Zakk described his fathers credo of strength and determination as the basis for Black Label Society. Then there his fathers story of being raised in an orphanage, going off to fight in World War 2, coming back from war, getting married, raising a family and then outliving his wife.
By now the Black Label Society tours became campaigns. Recruitment drives. There was no such thing as fans as all of the fans became chapter members. When BLS went out on stage, the venue resembled a clubhouse. They made it their own.
The lyrics say it all. Zakk’s bleeding for you and you are bleeding for him.
“Lords of Destruction”
By track 2, it was clear that 1919 Eternal was a more pissed off and angrier album than the last two albums. Musically, it was a revolution against the Nu Metal movement led by Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park. “Lords Of Destruction” has two classic lyrical lines.
Peace is a word that no one cares of knowing
Death is the drug of choice amongst the masses
“Bridge to Cross”
Another Black Label motto that life is just another bridge to cross. You ask no questions. Whatever work it is you gotta do, you gotta do it.
Just think about the bridges Zakk needed to cross. He got dropped from Geffen. Then he tried to play nice, kiss ass and secure a deal with Interscope. They wanted him to drop the denim and leather, wear shorts and get a haircut. Just the fact that Black Label Society exists is a testament to the bridges that needed to be crossed.
And what about the emotive lead break.
It’s the Tool like groove that got me hooked. While other songs like “Mass Murder Machine”, “Genocide Junkies” and “Graveyard Disciples” had great intros or a great groove, “Beserkers” has it all.
Drinkin’, pukin’, pissin’, and fightin’
Startin’ all over again
It’s comedy. Like the fictitious band Bad News and their song, “Warrior”.
“Raping, rooting, looting and a shooting”
“The Blessed Hellride” came a year later in 2003 and it looked like Zakk went out riding that horse called war again.
Horsemen rolls, tomorrow’s fading fast
Make damn sure, aint nothings gonna last
It’s got Ozzy Osbourne guesting. Bet ya that you can’t differentiate between Zakk’s vocal style and Ozzy’s. And what a F#m groove that Zakk locks down.
“Fire It Up”
“Mafia” came in 2005 and it is one of the band’s most commercially successful releases. And what about this little beauty. It’s like Cream on peptides and steroids.
“In This River”
The track “In This River” was written before the death of Zakk Wylde’s friend and fellow guitarist Dimebag Darrell, but it has since been dedicated to him
“Shot to Hell” is one hell of an underrated album. After the successful sales of “Mafia” a bigger label came knocking in Roadrunner Records. Coming out in 2006, it was the band’s first (and only) record to have been released by Roadrunner.
“Hell Is High”
This is the offspring of “Paranoid” and “No More Tears”.
Great 2 minute piano intro and then it goes into a Tool like groove.
“Faith Is Blind”
Chaotic and heavy.
“Blood Is Thicker Than Water”
Beatles like vibe.
“Lead Me to Your Door”
Reminds me of Queen’s “The Show Must Go On”.
“Not Going Away”
By the time “Black Rain” came out in 2007, you can tell that Zakk’s style and abilities had far outgrown the Ozzman. Written by Zakk Wylde, Kevin Churko and Ozzy Osbourne. Again the BLS style swampy groove is prominent.
Get out of my way
There’s nothing you can do to change what I say
“I Don’t Wanna Stop”
Another song written by Zakk Wylde, Kevin Churko and Ozzy Osbourne.
All my life I’ve been over the top
I don’t know what I’m doing
All I know is I don’t wanna stop
What does the Chorus sound like?
The song is written by the normal trio of Osbourne, Wylde and Churko. It starts of like a Zakkified version of “Rock N Roll Aint Noise Pollution”. During the verse riffs, it sounds like the “Facing Hell” intro. Then the Chorus references the “No More Tears” chorus.
I see the death and the disaster
There is no happy ever after
The time has come
“Order of the Black” came out in 2010 and this should have been the opening track. Instead it was track number 8 on the album and it is one damn good album. The song is fast and groovy and how good is that ode to “Diary Of A Madman” that comes in at the 2.20 minute mark.
“War of Heaven”
It comes right after “Godspeed Hellbound”. It shows the depth of the album were some of the best tracks appear very late.
It’s track 2. The song has Black Sabbath influences all over it. Hell, Zakk does Ozzy and Black Sabbath better than Ozzy and Black Sabbath. How good is that “Children of The Grave” section and lead break.
“Parade of the Dead”
It comes after “Overlord” and it has a violent bastard riff that reminds me of “Immigrant Song” from Led Zeppelin.
I always dig a piano style ballad from the Zakkster and man for some reason I can’t shake the Coldplay resemblance.
“My Dying Time”
“Catacombs of the Black Vatican” was written in 25 days. And “My Dying Time” sums up the 25 credo. It is groove heavy and very jam like. The lead breaks again take the song to a whole new level, from the calculated harmonies to the pure shred abandonment that comes in between. Plus the song sounds references the musical feel of “Stillborn”.
“Angel of Mercy”
It’s one of the best ballads Zakk has recorded and it’s the solo that takes it into the stratosphere. It is thematic, and it builds dramatically. Back in the Nineties, people looked down on artists who worked out their solos. Well they should listen to the worked out solo on “Angel Of Mercy”. The intro is like a “Stairway”-type thing with a bend, A minor pentatonics, and then some Al Di Meola scales. All of them are written. I can play any one of them for you note-for-note, back-to-back.
“Damn the Flood”
High energy blues boogie that breaks down into a half-time groove just before Wylde takes the best solo.
The drum groove sets it up and Zakk starts to reference “Would” from Alice In Chains and then it goes into a “Heaven And Hell” style riff. Brilliant.