In 25 words or less: This album displays the other musical side and a showcase for the songwriting abilities of one of the most defining guitar players in metal of the last 20+ years…
In keeping with his prolific tradition, in the year following their killer release, Order Of The Black, Zakk Wylde and his Black Label Society return with The Song Remains Not The Same, an offering of unplugged versions of tracks from Order Of The Black, as well as other tracks recorded during these sessions. In that unwieldy first sentence of mine, the important word is “unplugged”, which is the format in which these songs have been recreated so to speak, albeit with some electric guitar solos. I for one eat these types of albums up alive, taking them as the opportunity to see another musical side of an artist, or to really strip back songs to their bare bones and maybe even hear them interpreted in a totally different way. With this context in mind, this album delivered in spades on my own personal expectations.
The album kicks off with Overlord which in it’s unplugged format has a far less menacing tone, instead taking on an almost Alice In Chains type somberness with the vocals and guitar riff, but for the best part, the song retains a similar structure to the original. Parade Of The Dead is the type of song I was hoping to hear on this album, gone are the crushing guitar riffs of the original and instead replaced with piano and strings. A good song is a good song, as the saying goes and along with the previous track, Riders Of The Damned in it’s more musically subtle form serves as a reminder that underneath the usual avalanche of guitars, Zakk Wylde really can write a killer song. Darkest Days features as a largely identical version as on Order Of The Black, but if anything it’s more acoustic guitar based. We do however have a second version on this album featuring a duet with country music singer John Rich (Lonestar, Big & Rich), but perhaps second time around it could have been entirely sung by Rich, just to offer up a complete variation.
The second half of the album turns to covers, including a rendition of Simon & Garfunkles Bridge Over Troubled Waters, which us Aussies will already be familiar as it was a bonus on our version of Order Of The Black. No doubt probably a concept many may struggle to comprehend…Zakk Wylde doing Simon & Garfunkle, but it’s great to get that insight into some of Zakk’s true musical influences. My first introduction to the Blind Faith classic, Can’t Find My Way Home, actually came from the House Of Lords version in the early 90’s which in true House Of Lords of fashion (a band I absolutely love I must add) was pomp personified. Zakk’s version keeping in theme with this album is anything but, in fact a word to describe this version for me is haunting. An amazing vocal performance and a nice restrained guitar solo to outro the song which I felt was building into a grand ending, but we will leave that to House Of Lords’s version! Ending the album is an instrumental acoustic guitar version of The First Noel which the boys released last Christmas.
The Song Remains Not The Same serves as an intriguing companion piece to the Order Of The Black and therefore an essential addition to the Black Label Society collection. However, above all it displays the other musical side and a showcase of the songwriting abilities of one of the most influential guitar players in metal of the last 20+ years.
2. Parade of the Dead
3. Riders of the Damned
4. Darkest Days
5. Juniors Eyes
7. Bridge Over Troubled Water
8. Can’t Find My Way Home
9. Darkest Days (John Rich album version)
10. The First Noel
Released: Out Now
Label: Riot! Entertainment
Producer: Zakk Wylde
Check it out if you like: Black Label Society & Zakk Wylde