Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society is back with a new record, following the “Catacombs of the Black Vatican”. Personally, I think that the first two records of the band are the band’s best records to-date, with unmatchable inspiration, “bad-asserie”, creativity and that awesome feeling that always derives from the genuine figure of the one and only Zakk Wylde. However, this fact doesn’t mean that Zakk must stop writing and producing records, just because the old ones are too damn good to be followed. Each Black Label Society record is a personal testimony, a signature memorandum, another authentic piece of art and music from the bearded pentatonic master. “Grimmest Hits” is no exception to this rule. It kicks ass and it is a menace when you listen to its tunes.

Every note, every tune, every emotion caused by “Grimmest Hits” gets you to the bone and makes wanna move to its grinding riffs, charismatic lyrics and generally by its groove and flow. Zakk just never rests; he always puts himself into a songwriting orgasm, where we know what is coming and what to expect, but he makes it in an awesome way, his way. He has always been true to his roots, his inspirations, varying from Black Sabbath to Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Frank Marino and southern rock, blending all these and providing us with pure/trademark/unique Zakk Wylde tunes like no other. John DeServio, Dario Lorina and Jeff Fabb are his valuable companions, who constitute a very solid and compact quartet ready to kick ass and leave you with an amazing feeling all the way from track number one till the end. Make no mistake: BLS play their way, in an uncompromising style which stands out and both pleases fans but also make others question Zakk’s “rednex”/southern format. You can never be liked by everyone. You can never sound pleasant to all ears. You can never be welcome everywhere. But, no one can deny your own personal signature in music throughout all those years, from the moment you did that demos with Ozzy, until now, that you are on the verge to write music and play again with “The Boss”. Heaviness, melodies, mellow moments and pentatonics are all over in this album, with the ‘misleading’ title, that someone could initially think that it is a ‘Greatest Hits’ album, but, hell no, it is not! We’ve got 12 great new songs coming straight out of “the Vatican”, Zakk’s bunker in Southern California.

“Grimmest Hits” is another personal testimonial of Zakk, drawing inspiration and glorifying all the ones who deeply stimulated him throughout the years. It is a massive record with his own raw heaviness, but also having the mellow moments we love on his songs and records throughout his career. “Lord Iommi”, “Pontiff Page” or “The Dark Knight Blackmore” make Zakk write records like “Grimmest Hits”, which is according to him “a box of cracker jacks”. We can’t disagree but enjoy the new record with a jack (or not) on our hand.

♦ 8/10

Antonis Mantzavinos