The hard and soft of rock

Guitarist Zakk Wylde goes heavy with Generation Axe tour at Taft

By Alan Sculley

The 20-year gap between Zakk Wylde’s two solo albums, Book of Shadows and the newly released Book of Shadows II has to hold some kind of record for longest time between a first album and its sequel.

Wylde himself knows he has at least made history by beating out one of rock’s most legendary albums in the longest awaited category.

Chinese Democracy took 15 years to make,” Wylde says, referring to the 2008 Guns ‘N Roses album that was a decade and a half in the making. “We could have right after the 16th year, we could have made Book of Shadows II. But I said, ‘Why stop here?’ We’ve already gone 16 years. We beat Chinese Democracy. Let’s just go another four years. This way, we secure the record because who the f–k else can go 20 years between records—Richard Branson—and be unemployed and not making money?”

In case you haven’t guessed, Wylde was joking in bringing up Chinese Democracy in this early April phone interview. But it has literally been 20 years since Wylde last made a solo album. Instead of continuing in the laid back, largely acoustic style of the 1996 album Book of Shadows, the guitarist/singer instead formed a hard-rocking new band, Black Label Society, and hadn’t felt the need to do anything solo ever since—even if fans kept asking when he’d make another album like Book of Shadows.

Finally, the timing to do another solo album just seemed right.

After touring behind the heavy rocking 2014 album, Catacombs of the Vatican, Black Label Society did a short unplugged run, billed as the “Unblackened” tour, to support a DVD of the same name.

It was only then that Wylde started thinking about the whole Book of Shadows thing.

“It felt great doing the mellow stuff, taking a break from the heavy stuff,” Wylde says. “So I was like, you know what, I’m like f–k it, why don’t we make another one of those records?”

The first Book of Shadows album was done at a point where it was less than clear where Wylde’s career would take him musically. He had already gained notice as Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist and songwriting collaborator on the Black Sabbath frontman’s solo albums, No Rest for the Wicked (1988) and No More Tears (1991).

During a break between Osbourne projects, Wylde had started his own career as a frontman, forming the Southern rock tinged band Pride & Glory, which released its self-titled album in 1994. That album failed to connect, and Wylde wasn’t sure what to do next.

“I mean, we had done Pride & Glory and then I was kind of at a crossroads,” Wylde says, noting that things with his record label were getting dodgy. “So it was just like what’s the point in even making another Pride & Glory record? But I had all of these acoustic songs lying around. They said contractually I just had to do one more record. So I said, ‘Well then, I’ll just go in and make these songs’ … But I didn’t know if I was going end up just being Joe singer-songwriter guy at that point.”

Instead, Black Label Society happened, and that band will remain Wylde’s first priority. Book of Shadows II, though, suggests the occasional foray into mellower, primarily acoustic music would be worthwhile, too.

Easy-going, melodic mid-tempo tunes like “Lay Me Down,” “Darkest Hour” and “Forgotten Memory” set the tone, but there are enough shades of difference in sound and instrumentation to give the album flow. For instance, “Autumn Changes” and “Yesterday’s Tears” are lush and full-sounding, where the ballads “The Levee,” “Useless Apologies” and “Tears of December” are more spare. Many of the songs have a bluesy accent, but Wylde’s affinity for soul shows up in “Lost Prayer” and “The King.”

“The constant that’s between the first one and this one is my love for this kind of music, whether it’s the Stones doing ‘Wild Horses’ and ‘Let It Loose’ and stuff like that, and then you’ve got the Eagles, you’ve got Elton John, you’ve got Neil Young, the Band, Creedence, Bad Company, the Allman Brothers, Skynyrd,” Wylde says. “And I love Sam Cooke and I love Percy Sledge and all that music as well.”

There will be a solo tour soon, but Wylde is currently busy joining forces with fellow guitar aces Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Nuno Bettencourt and Tosin Abasi on the “Generation Axe” tour, which runs into early May. It’s a chance for fans to see these virtuosos perform individually and together in various combinations throughout the evening.

“Everybody gets up there and gets maybe 25 minutes of doing their own thing,” Wylde says. “Then they get joined by one of the guys. Then we jam together, we come out together and we end it together. Then in between, obviously everybody comes up, and it’s like a passing of the baton. It’s definitely cool, man, for sure.”

Zakk Wylde performs in Generation Axe Monday, April 25 at the Taft Theatre, 317 E. Fifth St. in Cincinnati. Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Nuno Bettencourt and Tosin Abasi will also perform. Show starts at 7 p.m., doors at 6 p.m. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit
Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at

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Alan Sculley
Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at

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