One’s appreciation for the new Black Label Society album definitely depends on expectations. Or, more to the point, on whether the listener is willing to accept that for some time now, Zakk Wylde is more interested in paying tribute to the music he grew up with, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.

For his purpose, ‘Grimmest Hits’ works brilliantly. Great, warm, mid 70s production, with the bass pretty forward in the mix to make things even blusier. Furthermore, Zakk’s guitars lose some of their metallic edge to gain in expression and weight. Father Page, his holiness Mr. Blackmore and his majesty Mr. Iommi will smile upon hearing the riff in ‘Betrayal’, the intro to ‘A Love Unreal’ or the solo in ‘Disbelief’. It’s just that even these songs won’t stay glued in the listener’s mind for long, as is the rule with recent BLS releases. It goes without saying that this observation wouldn’t keep me from going to see them along with Corrosion of Conformity in their current tour, where two ‘Vikings’ are sharing the stage.