Upon hearing the title Grimmest Hits, you could be mistaken for thinking this was a hits or singles collection instead of a studio album, but no, it is the name of the latest release by Black Label Society.
I have always had a mixed relationship with Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society. I think we can all agree that Zakk is a very talented guitar player, but he isn’t always the most consistent songwriter, as reflected in the somewhat mixed bag that is his discography. So my excitement for a new Black Label Society album wasn’t particularly high, especially given the letdown of the band’s last album Catacombs of the Black Vatican.
Grimmest Hits is a vast improvement over that album and is the most focused and streamlined Black Label Society and Zakk himself have written in well over a decade. There is barely an inch of fat on this album, which is refreshing, because it sometimes seems like instrumentation and guitar solos often overtake the songs themselves, almost like the struggle is there to write a song around a solo or riff rather than the other way around.
Trampled Down Below, Sons of Falter, and The Betrayal are a hat trick right from the get go that kicks the door down, with big brass balls and more swagger than Connor Mcgregor on a good day. Trampled Down Below rolls in like a freight train coming off the tracks and is a strong opener, Sons of Falter settles in nicely and chugs along at a pace that’ll keep your head nodding along and The Betrayal throws in the album’s first face melting solo as its centrepiece.
Continuing on, All That Once Shined may be one of the best songs Black Sabbath never wrote. It’s a slower number that sets the tone for the middle of the album, which sees Zakk Wylde in a more reflective mood. All That Once Shined and The Only Words show the softer side of the band that we have grown accustomed to, and shares an opening riff with Champagne Supernova by Oasis.
Room of Nightmares has a real latter day Alice in Chains vibe to it, so much so I can almost see Jerry Cantrell tapping Zakk on the shoulder for a word. It is the shortest song on the album, but also the punchiest and most hook laden. The blues orientated closer of Nothing Left to Say is one of the best songs that Zakk Wylde has ever written and is a beautiful way to end the album, but hopefully the title isn’t indicative of Black Label Society’s future.
Grimmest Hits was a pleasant surprise, as it shows a band reinvingorated and firing on all cyclinders. This is the most consistent and sincere album Black Label Society has written in a long time and will appeal to the bands older fans and should hopefully also help attract a new one in the process.
Grimmest Hits is out now.