While Black Label Society is committed to stripping everything down on Unblackened, a shredding soloist like Zakk Wylde can’t be expected to completely unplug.
Review by David Feltman
It’s always a gamble for hard rock bands to dial back the volume and take a crack at a more acoustic set, especially when the band is as heavy as Black Label Society. Notice I said “more acoustic.” While Black Label Society is committed to stripping everything down on Unblackened, a shredding soloist like Zakk Wylde, known for his squealing pinched harmonics, can’t be expected to completely unplug.
The double album, recorded live at Club Nokia, sheds new light on the band’s back catalogue. The result isn’t as drastically different as, say, Patrick Wolf’s own acoustic revisions on Sundark and Riverlight. The songs are a little more jam based due to the live renditions, but they are more or less structurally and sonically intact. Pulling the songs out of the studio and giving them a softer touch does, however, put the focus on Wylde’s languid blues licks and resonant tenor. The project is eerily reminiscent of Alice in Chain’s Unplugged album, and shows that Wylde and Jerry Cantrell have more in common as musicians than just the hair and a beard.
Unblackened ultimately doesn’t do enough different and the handful of “bonus tracks,” like the cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone,” will only make it an insta-buy for die-hard completionists. But the extensive track list does make this an ideal “best of” for newbies and lazy fans. Unless you’ve always wished Black Label was a little softer and a little bluesier, you might be better served dusting off Order of the Black.