Zakk Wylde is best known as the former guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne and the founder of heavy metal band Black Label Society. But, there is a softer side to his tough exterior. His first solo album Book of Shadows was released in 1996 and he is back with a reflective follow up.
Sequels are usually regarded with apprehension and lowered expectations. However, Book of Shadows II is a mature continuation of Wylde’s acoustic folk sound. It would be unfair to compare the albums too closely, considering how much time has passed, but there are connections between the two bodies of work. The opening track ‘Autumn Changes’ foreshadows the gloom of winter to come, with soft guitars and earthy drumming as Wylde sings of nostalgia.
Upbeat tracks such as ‘Sleeping Dogs’ and ‘Lost Prayer’ provide a break from the sorrowful tone. The latter is an optimistic track about finding your way, underpinned by church organs and a clean guitar riff. Throughout the album, instrumentation is mainly acoustic guitar, piano, restrained drumming and the occasional electric guitar solo. The songs seem to follow a similar formula, which may be tiring for some listeners, but the consistency makes Book of Shadows II an easy listen.
Lyrically, there is plenty of emotion to be felt. As usual Wylde sings of grief, tears and the hardships of life: “The truth stands before you but you choose not to see,” he sings on ‘Harbours of Pity.’ His vocals are rich with depth and his familiar Southern croon. This album was recorded and produced at Wylde’s home studio, so that explains the warm and comforting feel it has. ‘The King’ ends on an even slower note with more delicate piano as Wylde sings about being there for someone dear to him.
Book of Shadows II is the kind of record you want to listen to by the fire on a cold winter’s day. While nothing like his previous ventures, his solo work is a collection of emotional acoustic folk driven songs that will satisfy Zakk Wylde fans and anyone who stumbles upon it.
Photo: Matthias Pfeil