ZAKK WYLDE – BOOK OF SHADOWS II (2016)
Release Date: 8th April 2016
℗ 2016 Wind-up Records / Caroline Australia
- Mother E
- Nothing In My Hands
- Pride Flag
- City Of Blinding Riots
- Take Me To Heaven
- Welcome To The Suck (Destiny Not Luck)
- Head Of Fire
- Kid Blue From The Short Bus, Drunk Bunk
- Your Bullets
- Under The Tongue
- (Can’t She See) Head of Fire, Pt. 2
The music of Zakk and the exterior portrayed to we mere mortals, I have always thought more akin to Bragi, rather than Odin or Thor, and in contemporary form, again stepped down from Valhalla to be welcomed and celebrated by the 9 world’s inhabitants. Well our world anyway, and his poetry on this occasion made manifest in The Book Of Shadows II. But Norse Mythological alignment aside, Zakk Wylde latest release has been eagerly anticipated and the wait is well worth it…all 20 years wait. The result for many, particularly those who have held Book Of Shadows next their heart since 1996, will find The Book Of Shadows II, their number one album of all-time.
The opener Autumn Shadows sets the scene to perfection in calm acoustic accompaniment and melancholic pathos, gently peppered with sprinklings of southern style. And in suitably Zakk panache, we don’t need to wait beyond the opener to hear his sensation solos made manifest in soulful serenade, rather than his usual metal force of fury.
The Tears Of December carries on the aforementioned sentiments sensationally, but when joined with the tremendous country stylings of Lay Me Down, I find myself wistfully swept back to an image of a Zakk circa 1987. Sitting in the darkness of a deserted arena, propped against a Marshall stack taking time out from the Ozzy madness, and creatively embracing a yang to his yin. Perhaps similar sentiments of those days emerge from his soul, but one does wonder which of these tremendous tunes have been bouncing around inside Zakk since those days. Only one person really know how far back in time these gems take Zakk and speculation as to which tunes and melodies were not suitably distilled back in 1996, become irrelevant. The cumulative experiences and life observations penned musically by this creative genius, would presumably be difficult for him to date. During this track we find ourselves mystified by a hauntingly beautiful solo as Zakk manages to cohesively ‘speak’ the music, translated through guitar in a tremendously unique instrumental vernacular. The emotional range, some expressed and some implied, but more importantly inferred in this symbiosis between song and solo are so tremendous, I am truly stunned.
Lost Prayer is delivered with such emotion and power by Zakk, but in a sensationally retrained manner. Perhaps that statement would only make sense to followers of Zakk’s more metal focussed malevolent delivery, but one listen and you will have a clearer picture. And perhaps this very experience is unique to Zakk’s creative capabilities, and mere words will always leave me bereft of accurate description. In a perfect example of homogenisation, we hear solos also increasing in intensity and sentiment, matching the lyrics and overall delivery beautifully. Brilliance.
Darkest Hour is, all considered is a personal journey between Zakk and the individual listener, therefore any comment I could offer would be utterly presumptuous, and ultimately superfluous.
The mid sequence selection provide a welcome realisation that every one of these emotive tracks possess unique qualities. Some more subtle than others, but to each, a journey all their own. From the depths of anguish in The Levee to the strength and determination imparted with Yesterday’s Tears, all naturally are a tales unto to themselves. The most remarkable facet is the manner in which the solos become an integral component of each journey, each emotion, rather than a mere formal component of song structure.
Sorrowed Regret is among my personal favourites on a collection rendering my useless to select just one, but I think it’s safe to say that this is where most metalliers will find solace in the bridge between Book Of Shadows II and Zakk Wylde in BLS flight. It’s truly incredible how the keyboard finale returns you safely from a slightly grittier track, back to the spirit of this collection. Should that statement create a belief that Sorrowed Regret is out of place, nothing could be further from the truth. I know I will not be alone in natural desire to apply meaning to one’s own existence and even temptation choose recourse to emotional deluge, in accompaniment to by Sleeping Dogs. Those who have listened to the endless queue of consolers with the ready lines of ‘time heals all’ and ‘it will get easier’ will perhaps find far more solace in this track. Perhaps.
Violin and piano accompaniment to Zakk Wylde’s magnificent voice opening The King fits the entire collection so very well, to the point of almost escaping notice. The contemporarily critical attention to track sequence becomes evident yet again. The manner in which modern music is enjoyed, more as a complete cohesive collection rather than a package hits and fillers, becomes so evident on this tremendous work. Just as you have become comfortable with the instrumental sections and wonderful vocal delivery, lulling you into a relaxed sensation that this could be any number of life’s most celebrated vocal protagonists, an incredible solo brings about the realization that this is indeed Zakk. These sentiment are repeated and profoundly highlighted with the bonus tracks of Tears Of December and Lost Tears in alternative accompaniment, which for me personally, complete the collection sensationally.
This album is every ounce as magnificent as Book Of Shadows, but as listeners will appreciate, is blessed with the benefit of passing years and accumulation of inspiration. But there is one incredible and unique element to this remarkable collection which proliferates ones enjoyment immensely. An element gleaned from the album compounding its relevance to, but elevated standing above the former. The almost subliminal sensation, but ultimate realisation that Zakk has been there right beside you for twenty years, creating the soundtrack to the most profound of life’s events.