Sound: Zakk Wylde and his Black Label Society have done it again on their new album, "The Song Remains Not The Same". This album is (almost) entirely acoustic and it shows us a new side of BLS. While there are no completely original songs on this album the acoustic remixes and covers of other songs are brilliant. It is a real treat to hear Black Label Society in a whole new setting. The guitar is soft, but not always sweet, the piano is amazingly sad, the rhythm sections is solid, the transition lighter drumming is handled well and is a highlight of the album. Zakk's vocals are deep and powerful as usual and his lyrics are extremely varied. The guitar work on this album is very interesting as it goes back to some of Zakk's acoustic roots.
When I hear the guitar work on this album I think of Zakk's first ever solo album, "The Book Of Shadows". That album, much like this one, shows a lighter side of the heavy metal viking. The guitar here is mostly chord based and there are few real solos. When I first heard that BLS was making an acoustic album I had hoped that there would still be metal solos, much like in "The Book Of Shadows". Unfortunately it is not like that, the guitar is completely acoustic and gets rid of almost all of the solos. The notable exceptions are "Can't Find My Way" which features a brilliant guitar solo. The other good solo is found in the instrumental of "The First Noel" which features a brilliant acoustic part. There is some new guitar work on the remixed tracks as some of the BLS songs have be changed to better fit an acoustic setting. In general the guitar work on this album is simple but beautiful and the two solos are works of art.
The keyboards on this album occasionally replace the guitars as the lead instrument. This creates a great effect to the general feel of the album and makes everything a lot more somber. Personally I am touched by the sadness and sobriety found in the piano here. It is simply filled with emotion and gives you a good sense of what BLS must be feeling when they recorded this record. In short, this record features some of the most emotional piano work that I have heard in a long time.
The rhythm section is very light and preserves the atmosphere of the music very well. The bass has a much smaller part on album than on previous releases. I find this to be unfortunate because sometimes a good bassist can shine in an acoustic atmosphere. However, where the bass falls the drums rule. The reworking of the drum tracks is excellent and gives a great feel to the music. I particularly like the percussion in Overlord and Riders of the Damned. Of course on some tracks the drums are left out, however this is okay because the drums wouldn't be able to fit in. Overall the rhythm instruments are diminished on this record but when they get their chance to shine they are excellent. // 8
Lyrics: The vocals on this album are classic Zakk, they are often powerful and aggressive however Zakk occasionally steps back and provides calmer vocals like in the track "Helpless". This record helps to show the sheer range of Zakk's vocals by demonstrating some of the lightest stuff that he has ever recorded. The lyrics on this record are often tinged with sadness, for example the track "Bridge Over Troubled Water" is one of the most somber pieces of music ever recorded. All in all this album shows some great vocals from Zakk because it shows the sheer variety of music that he can do. // 8
Overall Impression: Overall this is a great album. You could very easily describe it as Black Label Society's "Led Zeppelin III". There are plenty of great acoustic tracks and they show off the eclectic range of music that BLS is willing to record. The guitar is pretty simple and sticks to acoustic roots and it captures the atmosphere of this album perfectly. The keyboards are somber and provide a really beautiful feel to the music. The rhythm section is not used as much but when it is used it is well done and captures the flavor of this album. Finally the vocals and lyrics are both very somber and Zakk uses this album as an opportunity to show off his range. To finish, this is a killer album with some brilliant songs that are totally worth a listen. // 9