Rhythm & Views

Black Label Society

Hard rock's hellraising, beer-drinking axe-man is back!

With a back-to-basics feel, Mafia is the new release from the brotherhood known as Black Label Society. Zakk Wylde and crew have managed to produce their most mature sounding album--which quickly follows 2004's Hangover Music, Vol. 6, a much relaxed effort full of road tunes.

"Fire It Up" kicks off the BLS stomp with Wylde introducing the track with a Peter Frampton-esque talk-box solo. Wylde's talk-box play corresponds with the track's main, down-tuned chug riff. "Face your fear, accept your war, it is what it is," declares Wylde in a song about our current military situation before ripping into his signature guitar wails and solo.

The maturity in BLS' sound is greatly attributed to Wylde's continually improving vocal work. This being his band's seventh release in less than a decade, Wylde manages to sing and harmonize a la Ozzy Osbourne during the early Black Sabbath days ... on steroids.

Wylde's dedication to becoming an acclaimed guitarist like his heroes Randy Rhodes and Eddie Van Halen are apparent on Mafia, but his guitar work isn't his only musical standout on the album. "In This River" and "Dirt on the Grave"--a song newly dedicated to "Dimebag" Darrell--are ballads that showcase Wylde's piano and acoustic guitar talents.

Wylde's crew fuels the backbone on Mafia. Drummer Craig Nunenmacher pounds away with a real simplistic style, with rapid double-bass beats coming out of nowhere, as on "Suicide Messiah." Bassist James LoMenzo adds a heavy groove to the new tracks, completing the bombastic rhythm section.

Mature with a steel-toed kick to the groin ...

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