Sound — 9
It's been four years since Black Label Society released an album, and for some it has been a long time; no less for Zakk Wylde who in that time has seen his life change in regards to his personal health and musical prowess as the right hand man of Ozzy Osbourne. Fortunately, neither of these factors has played a damaging role in what can only be described as the mighty re-birthing of arguably one of the greatest guitarists and musicians of our generation. In Order of the Black, there is a healthy balance and chemistry between the two creative sides which have characterised Black Label Society for over a decade; one is the embodiment of the band which is of pure brutality and the other is the opposite, wherein the musical style drifts elegantly through ballads of retrospect and insight. However, it is also worth note that on this album (like others) there is a welcome instalment of what Zakk Wylde can also produce on an acoustic guitar with the same fundamental ideas he portrays on his electric guitar with the track, Chupacabra'. The album begins as emphatically as you would expect with a title such as Crazy Horse', which follows with the typically domineering style that is incorporated within Overlord', these songs are certainly a welcome throw back to albums such as 1919 Eternal and Stronger than Death. The album continues to impress with the blistering guitar work contained within Parade of the dead' and then takes a refreshing U-turn by slowing the pace entirely with the track Darkest Days', this formula continues throughout and it would seem that there is no middle ground within this structure, which could be considered one of it's downfalls in that there is no compromise between the musical styles within a song. The album itself is extremely well produced; there is a beautiful distinction between each instrument and vocal track, giving it a sense of purpose and musical direction that is often over looked, especially in the case of Shallow Grave', where there is a rich tapestry of wonderfully created harmonies and every note having a defining effect on how the song feels. A critique of this album would be that the album is following a set routine and doesn't stray too far in the way these songs are created, there is nothing that pulls away from the expected especially in terms of the guitar solo's - but then one could also look at this and see that it is also a positive. As they say if it ain't broke, don't fix it'.
Lyrics — 6
Lyrically, Zakk Wylde has always added either a note of sentiment or hidden meaning within his songs; the latter of which often leaves the listener taking their own theories or ideals. The unfortunate truth in his case, however, is that many listeners may feel his talents lie with his guitar and piano, and at times it's not hard to see why as some songs amble on recycling topics that have been of interest in his previous work. His true genius shines through primarily in the softer songs where there is a deeper emphasis on the lyrical input such as in Time Waits for No One'. There is no fault with the correlation between the music and lyrics because they are crafted for their purpose and serve the song well, the themes themselves keep within the typical parameters of the band and revolve around the familiar sentiments of previous albums and so it would seem as though the evolution in this aspect of his song writing has not really changed.
Overall Impression — 8
There is definitely a good vibe from this album that hasn't been felt for a long time, whether this has anything to do with Black Label Society being Zakk Wylde's priority now is a speculative argument, but with this showing it might not be far from the truth. The problem with this band is that they never take a step in to the un-chartered; this is a double edged blade in that it is satisfactory for some people but in others they feel they should expect more from someone who could deliver more. I personally feel that Zakk Wylde's guitar playing is more explosive and dynamic than it has been for a while, the guitar work has the sense of refinement you would expect and the songs are generally structured rather well. I wouldn't go as far to say this could be considered album of the year but nonetheless it is still a brilliant album and would be welcomed in many people's CD collection.