It’s been twenty years since the first ‘Book of Shadows’ but like its predecessor, volume II is quite the departure from Zakk Wylde’s normal scorching style. Forget the heavyweight shredding and mind-blowing fast-fingered solos, what you get here is a gorgeous slice of reflective country rock.
’Autumn Changes’ kicks things off in a suitably laid-back vibe, with lazy acoustic strumming and light orchestration. However, Wylde being the guitar hero that he is, manages to rock the understated solo. This sets the tone for a chilled-out, slightly melancholic collection of folk-tinged tunes with superbly executed guitar breaks that makes for a really nice album.
’Tears of December’ is a beautiful slice of melancholy, perfectly suited to Wylde’s understated gravelly voice, which he stretches a little more on the upbeat blues rock of Lost Prayer. Like the romantic ’Lay Me Down’ and the really downbeat ’The Levee’, ’Darkest Hour’ pulls hard on the heartstrings, but it never becomes cliché and contains another absolutely superb solo.
There are very few upbeat moments; ’Eyes of Burden’ has a lighter feel to it but is something of an exception. Most of the tracks are on the dark side, but to be frank, I wouldn’t have it any other way. ’Sleeping Dogs’ is all killer, the soulful blues of ’Forgotten Memory’ is pure emotion, while the rich melody of ’Sorrowed Regret’ actually offers a sense of hope.
At fourteen tracks the record is maybe a little too long, ’Harbors of Pity’ for instance could have been left for B-sides or bonus material, and although some of the melodies sound familiar, Zakk proves himself a more than capable singer-songwriter on this extremely likeable, richly textured introspective record. One to play on your way home after a gig when you need something chilled.
‘Book of Shadows II’ by Zakk Wylde is out now on Spinefarm Records.
Words by Edward Layland (@EdwardLayland)