Sound: You might recall that Black Label Society released Kings of Damnation a few years back, and that extensive compilation CD certainly was a well-rounded look at Zakk Wylde's history with the band. Fast forward a couple of years, and popularity increased tenfold with the band which as one might expect, necessitated another greatest-hits package. The new CD/DVD Skullage could have regurgitated much of the same type of thing we received in Kings of Damnation, but the diverse format and entertaining content makes this a must-have for BLS fans. While the CD portion touches upon BLS's biggest hits thus far (Fire It Up and Suicide Messiah are included in that mix), it's the DVD that is the standout. There's just something about seeing the burly, gritty Zakk Wylde in a dress all the while playing with Barbies that makes for a fascinating viewing experience.
There is a huge dose of humor in the DVD portion of Skullage, but music never takes a back seat. Live performances include Spoke in the Wheel (taken from Doom Troopin': European Invasion), as well as All For You, 13 Years of Grief, and Bleed For Me (Boozed, Broozed, & Broken-Boned), which are all clips showing the band in its element. The 10-minute Spoke In The Wheel was a wise choice to include, particularly because it covers the wide range of emotions that Wylde is now known to include in his songs. With the tune's mellow start, it's interesting to see the reaction of the audience. There are some individuals in the crowd whose attention spans can't take the slow sections, but Wylde wins them all over by the big electric finish and insanely good solo work.
Five music videos are featured on Skullage, and you'll find those same songs are also included on the greatest-hits audio side. While big hits like Stillborn and Fire It Up are always a great listen, it's unexpected material like BLS's acoustic selections that are the biggest highlights (in terms of the performances on the DVD). Selections from Slightly Amped (Live in Leigh Valley) demonstrate just how proficient Wylde and Nick Catanese are with the acoustic. Along with an amazing instrumental intro that starts it all off, unplugged selections include The Blessed Hellride and We Live No More. The term shredding applies just as much to the acoustic performance as any of their full-on concert performances, and in many ways the unplugged format accentuates the songwriting more so than usual.
If you were ever wondering what inspired such tracks as Doomsday Jesus or Fire It Up, Wylde explains it all in a segment called Welcome to the Compound. This section is 100 percent the highlight of the entire release, showing a whole other side to the Ozzy guitarist. Wylde has always seemed like a badass, but this is one burly man who has a keenly sharp wit. The clips do include some serious and touching moments (Wylde talks in length about his relationship with Dimebag Darrell), but the humor certainly makes up the majority of the content. If you ever wanted to see Wylde have a conversation with Barbie dolls and his famous Bullseye Gibson while sitting in his children's playhouse, now is your chance. // 9
Content: There is a huge variety of content on Skullage, and that's the main selling point. The CD is fairly straightforward in it's greatest-hit's approach, but it also includes the audio recordings of the Slightly Amped clips as a bonus. The DVD lets you revisit several live performances (electric and acoustic), features a good chunk of music videos, and has the interview aspect during Welcome to the Compound. Behind-the-scenes clips also include Wylde jamming at home in his guitar room, playing the piano, working out in his home gym, and even a little spiel about his love for Jesus. // 10
Production Quality: Because the DVD takes snippets from several different concerts, there is a distinct difference in the production quality with each one. Spoke in the Wheel, which was originally from 2006's Doom Troopin,' is beautifully shot and features several different camera angles. The clips taken from the Boozed, Broozed, & Broken-Boned DVD are top-notch in the audio category, but a little lackluster visually. That was released when the band was still gaining momentum in 2003, so it's completely understandable why they couldn't afford the best cinematographers quite yet. Even so, the music is not affected in any way and is high quality. // 8
Overall Impression: Because there is such a wide variety of material on Skullage, the DVD is exceptionally entertaining. The standard electric performances deliver all the pinch harmonics and jaw-dropping solos that you'd expect in a Wylde show, and the acoustic gig is even more astounding. When you add in Welcome to the Compound and the fact that Wylde is one fine comedic actor, it's hard to not come out smiling (and wanting to pick up your guitar) by the end of it all. // 9