Written by Johnny Papan
ICONIC AXEMAN RIFFS ON NEW MUSIC WITH BLACK LABEL SOCIETY, OZZY OSBOURNE AND MORE
It’s hard to believe it’s already been 30+ years since guitar icon Zakk Wylde stepped into the shoes of iconic shredder Randy Rhodes, taking over as Ozzy Osbourne’s lead guitarist and co-songwriter. After debuting on Osbourne’s No Rest for the Wicked in 1988, Wylde quickly ascended as one of metal music’s most influential guitarists, inspiring future generations of young string slayers.
Though nobody can deny that sultry solos are a popular trait of a great guitarist, there is often a less-acknowledged tool fundamental to an axeman’s arsenal. A tool that even Wylde himself says should never be under-thought.
“In this genre of music, it's always the riff,” Wylde says as he drives down the roads of Ohio for Black Label Society’s show in Cleveland later tonight. “Whether you hear ‘A Whole Lotta Love’, ‘Into the Void’, ‘Smoke on the Water’, ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ or ‘Mississippi Queen’, it's always the riff that draws you in. For me, once you have a riff it pretty much dictates where the song is going to go.”
Black Label Society just dropped their latest record, Doom Crew, Inc, which is everything you’d expect, amplified. Though it contains some of Wylde’s heaviest riffs and deepest lyrics, he still doesn’t shy away from making wise-cracks at his own expense.
“I like it all. I like the lyrics to ‘Toxic Diarrhea’ and then I also like the lyrics to ‘Suicide Messiah’. It's like a New York City deli of lyrics. We have a bit of everything in there,” he says. “We were originally gonna call [the record] Shiny Happy People but R.E.M. beat us to it.”
Wylde’s signature comedic stylings come out full flex in the band’s music video for “Set You Free”, which he claims is an exact recreation of his 1985 high school prom; including the scene where “the guy is getting his dong ripped off.”
Aside from the recent release of Doom Crew, Inc., Wylde will once again be ripping riffs on the upcoming Ozzy Osbourne record, their first studio collaboration since 2007’s Black Rain. Wylde confirms that other appearances on the record include Tony Iommi, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck.
At this point, Wylde has done it all. He’s worked with some of music’s most legendary icons, toured the world and collaborated with his personal heroes. He was a student of the game and inspired many of his own. Many guitarists wonder what the riff was that made Wylde pick up a guitar. What song lit that spark that made him realize this is what he was meant to do? We asked and he answered.
“‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ by Britney Spears.”
Doom Crew, Inc. is available everywhere.