Zakk Wylde released Book of Shadows II via Spinefarm Records on April 8th. It’s his first solo release in twenty years, and is the follow up to his classic Book of Shadows album. The album was recorded and produced at Wylde’s home studio, The Black Vatican.
Wylde has previously released two Black Label Society albums of quieter, more introspective material, The Song Remains Not the Same in 2011 and 2013’s Unblackened, a live acoustic album recorded in LA, but Book of Shadows II is a real labour of love. It’s a thoughtful, searching album, with a vocal ranging from melted chocolate to crushed gravel and guitar work that runs the gamut from sublime to even more sublime. It is at times quite mournful, both lyrically and musically, but also sometimes uplifting. I’m not the biggest fan of acoustic albums, I have a tendency to get bored, but in this case there’s some electric guitar thrown in there as well and the juxtaposition of the two, along with Zakk’s incredible vocal is more than enough to capture the attention.
From opener Autumn Changes it’s clear this is no Black Label Society. Everything is quieter, softer, including the man himself it seems, as he opens his heart to the listener. There is an essence of pride and glory about Book of Shadows II, it has twenty years more living behind it and this is a different man from the one who made the original Book. Lay Me Down is where things first start to get electric, with a solo that really wakes things up.
Lost Prayer is where Zakk really starts to push the vocal a little and shows the power he has. Some of the softness disappears and he gets more forceful and the lyrics become more positive, “I may be blind but I’ll find my way.” This continues in Darkest Hour, which contains a stunning guitar solo, reinforcing the fact that Zakk Wylde is probably one of the best performers of his generation, and grossly under-rated. The solos continue, with The Levee and Eyes of Burden of particular note. With titles like Harbors of Pity and Sorrowed Regret you’d really expect a depressing album, but in fact the vocal is so mesmerising and the lyrics so relatable that it rarely occurs to you to be sad, in fact you end up carried away on a wave of guitar and can only appreciate the beauty of what you’re listening to. The first single taken from the album is Sleeping Dogs, which really sums up the album in a nutshell. Great voice, quiet start, introspective, growing into a wailing guitar solo. Thoughtful lyrics (“I gave you the last word, and that’s the last thing you’ll take from me,”) that really give the listener a look into the mind of Zakk. The album closes with The King, which is my featured track. (see below) I had no idea what to expect from Book of Shadows II but it really is a work of complete mastery.
Featured Track: The King. When the metal shackles of the Black Label Society chapter are removed, Zakk Wylde always delivers emotional, thoughtful and unforgettable pieces of musical beauty, and this is one of those. From the piano to the pure silk of his vocal this is a track that will touch even the most hardened of souls. When the electric guitar solo kicks in three quarters of the way through it speaks every bit as clearly as the lyric. This track is quite simply incredible.
- Autumn Changes
- Tears of December
- Lay me Down
- Lost Prayer
- Darkest Hour
- The Levee
- Eyes of Burden
- Forgotten Memory
- Yesterday’s Tears
- Harbors of Pity
- Sorrowed Regret
- Useless Apologies
- Sleeping Dogs
- The King
- Tears of December (CD Only bonus track)
- Lost Prayer (CD Only bonus track)