Tuesday 9 January 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Black Label Society - "Grimmest Hits"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 19/01/2018
Label: Spinefarm Records |
Entertainment One

“Grimmest Hits” is a Sabbath-esque listen with bluesy inflections and is chock full of riffs and solos.

“Grimmest Hits” CD//DD track listing:

01. Trampled Down Below
02. Seasons Of Falter
03. The Betrayal
04. All That Once Shined
05. The Only Words
06. Room Of Nightmares
07. A Love Unreal
08. Disbelief
09. The Day That Heaven Had Gone Away
10. Illusions Of Peace
11. Bury Your Sorrow
12. Nothing Left To Say

The Revew:

After 2014's “Catacombs of the Black Vatican, I was interested to see what Zakk and BLS would do next. The short answer was that they would tour and then... disappear for a while. BLS are now back with “Grimmest Hits” and my first impressions are that this is a step back towards riffs and more exciting writing. “COTBV” lacked memorable tunes and was rather too laid back for my tastes- although it was a polished and melodic album. Bearing in mind that I absolutely love “Sonic Brew”, “1919 Eternal” and “Order of The Black”, it is pleasing to hear something more akin to those albums rather than the lacklustre “Shot to Hell” or “Mafia”.

Opener “Trampled Below” is a foot stamper- very Sabbathy- and sets out the record's stall via big grooves and riffs and melodic vocals while “Seasons of Falter” is much mellower, but is a finely crafted song with a  pretty great central riff (think Sabbath again). Wylde has toned down his Ozzy-isms, vocally, and is back further towards how he sounded on earlier albums, but the riffs on the album really are very much in the vein of classic Ozzy-era Sabbath; as might be expected considering Wylde's recent foray in the live arena with his very own tribute, Zakk Sabbath. There is plenty of bluesy feel to the riffage of “The Betrayal”- it would have fit right in on Pride and Glory- so the album starts to take shape: bluesy, hard rocking stylings with a heavy Sabbath influence- this is not the full on metal fest of “Order of The Black”, but is much weightier than “Catacombs...”

Wylde delivers a fine vocal on “All That Once Shined”, and more melodic hard rock as the track progresses. As ever, the guitar work is fantastic (if you like pinch harmonics and blazing leads- not so much of the former on this offering, mind, but plenty of the latter). There is a lovely bluesy break in the middle of the song, too- fantastic! The first ballad is “The Only Words”, but it is a good one and light years away from the sombre (and dull) offerings of mid period albums. Again, it is closer to “Pride and Glory” than “Hangover Music”, by way of comparison.

The head gets nodding again for “Room of Nightmares”- still not warp speed or all out aggression, but good solid heavy riffs abound with a solid groove and a focused playing time. “A Love Unreal” starts acoustic and elegant, but mutates quickly after that brief intro into a swaggering riff and then melodic chorus- shades of “Sonic Brew” in the middle section spring to mind, too. The opening to “Disbelief” is pure Iommi and the main riff is too! A cracking track, not without some light and dynamics, this possibly represents where Wylde is at these days; hard rocking, but not frantically so.  The Day That Heaven Had Gone Away” employs a similarly one paced approach but is much less interesting as the second of the album's ballads- great solo, of course.

“Illusions of Peace” puts the pedal to the metal effectively and uses a stop start motif which becomes a swaggering groove- prime BLS- with a Led Zep influence: the track is a corker. “Bury Your Sorrow” has a swinging feel and an off kilter riff, offering something different again. There are strong hooks on this one and it is weighty as well. Again, things switch down a gear for “Nothing Left To Say”, a conventional piece of soft rock, essentially, but a likeable one and closer to Wylde's “Book Of Shadows” releases than his usual BLS output. It makes for a question mark of a closing statement instead of an exclamation point and is a well crafted track. Not the incendiary pyrotechnics I was expecting the record to close with, but so be it. Wylde is now over 50 years old- the changes make sense, I think.

At 55 minutes, the album is perhaps a little over long- the easiest solution for me would be to cut a couple of ballads, of course! This is much stronger than “...Vatican, which although I reviewed it fairly positively at the time just lacked staying power and memorable tunes. “Grimmest Hits” is a much more focused effort and rocks hard enough to keep fans like me happy and has enough melody to entice fans of less extreme metal fare. It is a Sabbath-esque listen with bluesy inflections and is chock full of riffs and solos. Zakk's back!

“Grimmest Hits” is available here

Band info: facebook