Zakk Wylde, the lead guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne’s solo band and Black Label Society, has released his second solo effort: “Book of Shadows II.” This album follows its predecessor from 1996 as a mostly acoustic album. While this album could have, and should have, been fantastic as Wylde has proven his musical prowess over his decades long career, the album is incredibly difficult to listen to from start to finish.
The main issue with “Book of Shadows II” is that every single song features a slow tempo, minor key, and melancholy lyrics for a depressing feel. While the lyrics and heavy use of minor keys would be fine on a different album, the slow pace of each song makes the 14 tracks drag on. The strength of this album is the use of Wylde’s guitar solos. In nearly every song, whether the song is acoustic or electric based, he adds an electric guitar solo. By the later tracks on the album these solos serve as a way to keep listeners from dozing off.
Because the songs are so similar, it is difficult to pick one track that stood out as the best of the album. That distinction has to go to the penultimate track, “Sleeping Dogs.” This song earns its place as best of the album due to its music video rather than the music itself. “Sleeping Dogs” video features witches performing rituals, but these images are juxtaposed with an innocuous, acoustic-based song. While this is a good song, by the thirteenth track this style has been so overdone that the quality of this particular track is marred.
The album begins with “Autumn Changes.” Wylde and the band sing in harmony, and this is a primarily acoustic track with the standard electric guitar solo overlaid onto the song. The song is hurt by the drums and cymbals being turned too loud for this soft track, and they overpower other elements of the track.
“Tears of December” is a rather generic acoustic track, and it almost sounds like a country song with the sad lyrics, slow guitar chords, and Wylde’s deep singing.
“Lay Me Down” has a heavy use of synthesizers, and occasionally vocal harmonization between Wylde and the rest of the band. The use of an organ and the lyrics featuring many references to water and repentance, give this track a Gospel feel. This is one of the only guitar solos on the album to feature distortion of the instrument, but this is juxtaposed with clean picking later in the solo as though to symbolize purification.
“Lost Prayer” features finger picking on an electric guitar at the beginning of the track that gives this a unique sound. Unfortunately, after that this track blends into the rest of the slow, sad tracks on the album. This track is also plagued with a heavy use of cymbals that clash with the mellow track.
“Darkest Hour” is one of the best tracks to nap to on this album. The generic lyrics are about standing with someone in a time of need, and there is nothing special about this track musically. “The Levee” is an acoustic track with Wylde singing in a sleepy voice. This is another great nap track as Wylde’s voice and the occasional vocal harmonies are very relaxing.
“Eyes of Burden” is a surprising addition to the album as it is a beautiful love song with a great mix of acoustic and electric guitars along with the organ. The solo does not quite fit the song and feels like it was added at the last second after the song was complete, but it is short so it barely affects the quality of this track.
The next track on the album, “Forgotten Memory,” would be another naptime track as it very mellow, but it features the out of place crashing cymbals. This is unfortunate as the lyrics are quite poetic, and the solo fits very well with the rest of the song unlike some of the other tracks.
“Yesterday’s Tears” is also a mellow track, but it has a heavy use of synthesizers.
“Harbors of Pity” starts with harmonized vocals in time with the start of the song, and it features a slow, marching beat to differentiate it from the other tracks. As the title implies, this is a very sad song, and the slow, mostly harmonized vocals lull listeners to sleep until the guitar solo. “Sorrowed Regrets” has a delicate acoustic guitar pick-up at the beginning. However, the song fades to quiet organ and lyrics in case anyone had not passed out by this point in the album. The guitar solo is the sloppiest on the album and felt like it had been added long after the song was complete.
“Useless Apologies” is a soft, delicate track with beautiful harmonies and a guitar solo that fits well with the rest of the track. On a livelier album, this track would have been a great way to break up heavier songs, but on this album this track can get lost in all the other mellow tracks.
The album ends with the ambient, organ heavy power ballad called “The King.” Wylde’s deep, soulful voice is great for a power ballad, and the song is a great finish to this album.
This album is tough to score as so many of the tracks such as “Sleeping Dogs,” “Eyes of Burden,” “Useless Apologies,” and “The King” would be great tracks when paired with louder, faster songs. However, the album must be reviewed as a whole, so because it is so difficult to listen to from start to finish due to the sad, slow songs that lull listeners into a nap, this album earns a 3/5. However, the aforementioned gems on this album should be given a listen as they are each solid tracks.