In case this wasn’t clear by now, Zakk Wylde really, really loves rock n’ roll. He has rarely strayed in his thirty-five-year career, pumping out riffs and solos with assembly-line efficiency. Wylde‘s view of the rock n’ roll life crystallized into Black Label Society, his most prolific band. Eleven albums and two decades later, nothing has changed. One look at the Iron Cross album art of Doom Crew Inc. tells you everything you need to know. This is a Black Label Society record. Expect more of the same.
Actually, Doom Crew Inc. finds Black Label Society in a slower mood than normal. Lead single “Set You Free” channels early Black Sabbath with its Iommian hook and sing-along chorus. Wylde pulls out yet another masterful guitar solo, while his tone approaches Alice In Chains levels of squelchy goodness. The lyrics lean into Wylde‘s mostly untapped Christian side. There’s little doubt who he is talking about when he says “Take my hand, walk with me.”
But is there such a thing as too familiar? It’s hard to pick out moments on Doom Crew Inc. that stand from the rest of Black Label Society‘s music. Wylde has carved himself into such a deep rut that it seems unlikely he will ever come out of it. Even his acoustic efforts, or the ballads where he jumps on a piano to bellow out his country-style feelings, have begun to blend together. In essence, Doom Crew Inc. represents Wylde very much being himself without much deviation… which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s also nothing new.
Of course, there is never anything wrong with remaining the same. Most of Wylde‘s heroes, bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, AC/DC and Deep Purple, all made their names through consistency. But even those legends (of which Wylde is definitely one by now) had their stagnant spots. Doom Crew Inc. feels like Black Label Society‘s Ram It Down or Flick Of The Switch – not bad so much as it is unmemorable. It’s doubtful that any of the songs other than “Set You Free” will become concert setlist staples in future years.
This is in no way a criticism of Wylde‘s talent, both as a songwriter and a musician. Few people who ever picked up a six-string can compete with him once he gets going. On “Ruins” and “Destroy/Conquer,” we get a glimpse of the kid who charmed the Metal God Ozzy Osbourne himself, the same kid who became a centerpiece of some of the best metal albums of the ’90s and 2000s. It’s just not very different from what we’ve heard from him over the past ten years.
At their best, Black Label Society is one of metal’s finest acts. They are talented, energetic and a whole lot of fun, But at their worst, they can become unoriginal. Doom Crew Inc. is not a bad record, but it occupies a lower spot in Black Label Society‘s overall ranking. The jury definitely isn’t out on Wylde though. Judging by how he shreds, this guy has plenty of gas left in the tank. Most of all, he’s still having the time of his life. After 30 years, it’s hard to ask any more than that.