Sound — 10
I'll be the first to admit that I am a Zakk Wylde fan in general, but I think this is one of his 2 best CD's and a perfect buy for someone giving Black Label Society a try for the first time. He has a good blend of thundering rockers (Forever Down, You Must Be Blind, and Say What You Will) mixed with some soulful ballads (In This River and Dirt on the Grave). He changed his sound up a little using Moog Synth and Talk Box and the production and mixing on this are absolutely perfect, while still maintaining his raw attitude and characteristic blazing solos and pinched harmonics. For those curious, I think his self-titled Book Of Shadows is my other favorite. It showcases his voice and versatility with some beautiful acoustic blues/Southern rock (kind of Skynyrd'ish). These extremes show his musical depth.
Lyrics — 8
As others pointed out, Zakk tends to have a "doom and gloom" feeling to his music and lyrics, but they generallyy fit each other well. While not an overly deep/skilled writer, I think he has gotten better over the years and he clearly sings it like he feels it. I think his voice is an acquired taste and often sounds best when he tones it down for a ballad. On most of his albums I like the music, but it is hit or miss if I like the song/vocals in general this album is one of the exceptions. I saw him live on this tour in Minneapolis and his energy and sound translate well in a live setting.
Overall Impression — 10
This is just a fantastic, hard-rocking album. I've had it in my CD player almost constantly since I bought it when it came out and I think it will be a mainstay in my collection. I think "You Must Be Blind" and "Forever Down" are my two favorites just because they have an infectious driving rythmn to them. While his other CD's all have songs I like, this is the only CD that doesn't have anything on it I dislike. I hope that is just progression in his music and a sign of future things to come. I put his sound somewhat in the category of Metallica. I think he achieved on this CD what they should have achieved on St Anger, raw, heavy music, but well produced and mixed; the live intensity without the poor sound quality.