Guitar heroes in rock and metal have grown fewer by the year since the axe-slingers of the ‘80s took Eddie Van Halen-style shredding to the point of overkill and were largely washed away by the minimalism of grunge. It’s yet to be determined whether anyone will emerge in the future that will achieve the same prominence and accolades of a Slash, Sambora or Van Halen (besides his son, perhaps), but in the meantime there’s still a couple shredders kicking around that managed to survive the abyss of the ‘90s and are still highly regarded and successful today. One of those, of course is Zakk Wylde, best known for his work with Ozzy Osbourne and secondarily as the leader of his own project Black Label Society. While he won’t be on the follow-up to Ordinary Man but will return live with Ozzy in 2023 (or whenever the tour happens), we do have a new BLS album to get into called Doom Crew Inc.; some new stuff, some old stuff but probably good stuff nevertheless.
True to form, the album opens up with a solid dose of the retro Sabbath flavour BLS has made their trademark on the tracks “Set You Free” and “Destroy & Conquer”. Zakk turns the heavy up even more on “You Made Me Want To Live” then dials back into balladry on “Forever and a Day”, moving the knob up to 6 on “End of Days” and circling back to the Master of Reality vibes on “Ruins”. “Forsaken” is another cold shot of Harley metal, sharply contrasted by the emotional piano reprieve “Love Reign Down” and complimented by the Down-esque “Gospel of Lies”. From there we get the somewhat standard-issue “Shelter Me” (not to be confused with the Cinderella song), the Sab-tastic “Gather All My Sins”, and the closer “Farewell Ballad”, 6 minutes and 40 seconds worth of proof why you can’t just dismiss Zakk Wylde as a soulless shredder. “Farewell” has been around for a while as evidenced by a video of Wylde playing it in 2006, though it shows no signs of age in comparison to the rest of the songs and is a no-brainer as a closer on this or any BLS album for that matter.
Content and composition-wise, Doom Crew Inc. is nothing different from what we’ve come to expect from Zakk and Black Label Society: Pure, undeviating, unadulterated heavy metal largely made in the vein of the man that brought both Zakk, and the metal genre years before to the world. While we can only speculate on when Zakk will tour with Ozzy and if he will record with him again, we can say with certainty that when it comes to BLS, their eleventh LP lives up to expectations and is another quality addition to their catalogue. If Zakk maintains his talents and keeps inspiring people long enough, maybe we’ll get our next solid crop of guitar heroes after all.