Black Label Society - The Blessed Hellride
Spitfire Records
Groove Metal
11 songs (45:02)
Release year: 2003
Black Label Society, Spitfire Records
Reviewed by Crims

For the record, I’ve been a rather large fan of Zakk Wylde ever since I first heard his solo on Ozzy’s Perry Mason. I’m familiar with almost all of his work, in particular, his work with Ozzy and BLS. Every CD that Zakk does with BLS has a slightly different feel. Sonic Brew had a thick, full-bodied production, with alcohol themed lyrics. Not to mention catchy vocal lines and simple but effective song writing with killer riffs. Sronger Than Death had a cleaner, but still extremely heavy production and while not being quite as catchy from the vocal department, completely kicked ass music wise with even better riffs and more of a Black Sabbath and Cathedral feel to the music. Meanwhile, 1919 Eternal was a different animal. Zakk experimented a little more on this CD with catchier music, more stripped down riffs, a less thick and in-your-face production, and uncommon BLS rhythms. All three CD’s had their merits and all three were strong albums in my opinion. The Blessed Hellride continues some of the trends brought forth in 1919 Eternal but also brings back some of the aspects of Stronger Than Death.

While not quite as heavy as Stronger Than Death, The Blessed Hellride definitely has more chug than the previous offering. The music is more laid back than on pervious efforts as well, as many songs still take on a that Black Sabbath or Cathedral styled tempo that tends to be plodding but not any less interesting. Of course, there are a couple of faster songs such as Stoned And Drunk, which has more of a Metalized Hard Rock feel to it. Likewise, the solos are smoking; Zakk won’t be running out of good solos any time soon… though I know some will disagree. I for one really like his style and always have. However, the one major thing that has changed in the BLS camp are the vocals. Previously, Zakk employed a somewhat gruff style that usually had a touch of distortion to it. I know many listeners did not like Zakk’s singing; and I can see their point of view because granted, it was a bit rough around the edges, however, The Blessed Hellride clearly demonstrates that Zakk has improved his actual singing voice and he opts for a less distorted style that has a tone similar to Ozzy this time around. In fact, he almost sounds like a dead ringer for Ozzy every now and then (speaking of which, Ozzy turns out a surprisingly good performance as a guest vocalist on Stillborn). It will be up to you to decide whether this slight style change is a good thing or not, but I for one enjoy the style on the Sonic Brew and Stronger Than Death more.

All the songs are solid but not as many tracks stick out like they did on previous efforts. I can listen to Sonic Brew and Stronger Than Death repeatedly and not lose interest; this was not the case with The Blessed Hellride. I enjoyed it while I listened to it, but after a couple of spins I was finished, and I wasn’t running back to hear a chorus like on Hey You (Batch Of Lies) or the riffs on Counterfeit God. I was satisfied, which in a way was a good thing, but really good songs make me want more from the release. There are still a lot of highlights and I like how Zakk is still doing something just a little different, since we also hear some untypical guitar melodies and somewhat original arrangements at times, however, perhaps a CD every year is not working in Zakk’s favor. I would surmise that if he took a year off and really concentrated on writing quality riffs I would be completely ready and almost begging for a new release as opposed to saying to myself, “what the hell? Another CD already!?!”.

The main aspect about The Blessed Hellride is that this will still appeal to BLS fans and because BLS treads the line of Metal and Hard Rock every now and then, this should appeal to fans of guitar oriented Hard Rock as well, which you can’t really say about that many bands. By no means a bad CD, in the end The Blessed Hellride is at once pleasing but also a little disappointing. Regardless, the guitars still prevail more often than not and the Sabbath groove is still in fine form, which mixes nicely with the more upbeat Hard Rock side of the band.

Killing Songs :
Stoned And Drunk, Doomsday Jesus, Stillborn, Final Solution, Destruction Overdrive
Crims quoted 75 / 100
Aleksie quoted 95 / 100
Other albums by Black Label Society that we have reviewed:
Black Label Society - Grimmest Hits reviewed by Goat and quoted 78 / 100
Black Label Society - Catacombs of the Black Vatican reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Black Label Society - Order of the Black reviewed by Jake and quoted 69 / 100
Black Label Society - Skullage (CD/DVD) reviewed by Marty and quoted no quote
Black Label Society - Sonic Brew reviewed by Khelek and quoted 92 / 100
To see all 11 reviews click here
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