Master Shake said it better than I ever could:
“Hey, Zakk MILD, let’s kick it up a notch!”
I can’t sit here and dump on Zakk Wylde too much. The man is a metal legend for a reason, having served as Ozzy’s right-hand man for what’s seemed like an eternity in addition to the shredtastic work that he’s done with Black Label Society. But there are no lifetime achievements in music (except for actual Lifetime Achievement awards, but I’m not talking about those), so the legendary guitarist doesn’t get a pass for the listless and repetitive Grimmest Hits.
Grimmest Hits isn’t necessarily a bad album, and maybe the reason I was so disappointed because I was expecting too much. After all, Señor Wylde has been cranking out amazing rock hits for the better part of 30 years, so he’s probably past the point of expanding and changing his sound. The record is what it is: a collection of southern rock and blues-themed dad-rock jams that will make even the pudgiest and baldest of middle-aged men feel like they could still throw on the denim jacket and smoke cigs in the boy’s bathroom. In the ever-changing and ever-growing modern metal landscape, though? This album is a dinosaur.
Sure, there are a few fun guitar riffs, and even a couple very Wylde-ian solos for good measure, but they actually muddy up the feel of the album more than anything. The bulk of the record is populated by twangy southern rock stylings and more than a few tracks that fully step into Country territory. The few tracks that call back to the Wylde of old stand out like an amputated thumb against this bizarre backdrop, making for an uneven, unbalanced listen that never gains an inch of footing.
And then there’s the vocals. I would never say they’ve been Black Label Society’s strongest point, but they’ve never quite reached the lows that they do here. Wylde sounds disinterested for the majority of the album, almost like doing an Ozzy impression at 60% was good enough to get by on. It’s a fitting and unfortunate coincidence that the closing track to the album (at least the third pseudo-power ballad by my count) is title “Nothing Left to Say”, because it sounds like Wylde ran out of steam about two tracks into recording.
Grimmest Hits is a misnomer, as this album is neither grim nor full of hits. It’s a decent listen for one spin, but ultimately forgettable, serving no greater purpose than to remind you that Zakk Wylde, and Black Label Society, used to be really, really fucking good. So go spin some of their older stuff (I’ve got “Stillborn” on right now) and just forget this album released this week.
“Trampled Down Below”, “A Love Unreal”, “Illusions of Peace”