When Zakk Wylde last released a solo album, I was only three years old and his music wouldn’t be found in my mother’s Madonna, and Celine Dion laden CD collection. However, in my early teenage years, I would stumble upon Book of Shadows (1996) rooting through my older cousin’s CDs. This would be one of my favourite albums growing up, and was more than likely the catalyst for my fondness of Wylde, Black Label Society, and anything else he touched. Though I didn’t have to wait this long like some, twenty years later the sequel to Wylde’s solo album is upon us. Book of Shadows II was released in early April (2016) and though it’s not his heaviest work, it’s something you’ll be happy you waited for.
If you’re a fan of B.L.S. (Black Label Society) or the work done with Ozzy Osbourne, and aren’t familiar with Zakk Wylde’s solo work, then you’re going to be taken back by the sound of this record; you won’t be head banging, instead, you’ll find yourself swaying side to side. Autumn Changes, kicks off the record, and with the sounds of a Hammond organ, Wyldes guitar and his timeless vocals, you get a sense immediately for a southern rock inspiration, and the album progresses you pick up on some blues and country inspiration, like in the song, Yesterday’s Tears. Though there isn’t any mind blowing drum solos, or complex fills, drummer Jeff Fabb does well in aiding the vibe of each song, allowing for a more sentimental feel within each track.
As Book of Shadows II continues, you begin to feel the raw emotion that Wylde has put into the record. However you interpret Wylde’s lyrics, you hear the stories about difficult choices and growing from past mistakes or events in life that can open the door to nostalgia for the listener. Wylde sticks mostly to his acoustic guitar on the album, and reserves his electric axe mostly for solos which gives tracks an interesting contrast, and reminds you that the guy can shred in any atmosphere, and showcases his expertise guitar skills, especially in the tunes Darkest Hour and Eyes of Burden.
The album contains fourteen tracks, however if you were to purchase the Bonus Track Edition, you would find the song, Sleeping Dogs at the very end of the record, but this time accompanied by the vocals of Slipknot/Stone Sour singer Corey Taylor. Being a huge Slipknot and Stone Sour fan, I was excited to see what twist would have been made to the tune, but found it was a carbon copy of the same song I heard only five minutes earlier, only adding Taylor’s vocals to some verses and clipping where Wylde’s were in the original. I enjoyed the song, but would have liked to have heard something done differently with the track that could have complimented and utilized the powerful vocals of Corey Taylor.
The slower more affectionate jams allow you to really kick back, and enjoy a side of Zakk Wylde that isn’t as pronounced as his heavier, metal inspired music. Though the music does show different inspirations throughout Book Of Shadows II, there is still continuity and I would have liked to hear a bit more diversity within the album. The formula Wylde has used is impactful, and resonates with the listeners, due to the expression of the heart-felt lyrics, and the slower more intimate vibe of the music. I found that the heavy usage of an organ throughout this record, can give you the feeling that you’re listening to songs from A Book of Hymns for The Church of Zakk Wylde (that might get me out of bed on Sunday), but does allow for a very unique listen and compliments the tone the of the record. If you were a fan of Book Of Shadows (1996) and still are two decades later, Book Of Shadows II is a great addition to the classic and will fit comfortably in your collection.