I, like many of you, haven't really liked anything that Zakk Wylde has put out in the last fifteen years or so. That being said – I have always been enamored with his 1996 solo acoustic release Book Of Shadows. So when I saw he'd be putting out a sequel on eOne Music I couldn't help but to get a little excited. I'm happy to report that for those of us who fell in love with Book Of Shadows that the man with the striped guitar has done it again. Book Of Shadows II sees Wylde creating earthy and powerful music that speaks to the soul and proves that this is still the great artist that so many of us fell in love with back in the day. In fact – I might even go so far as to say that Book Of Shadows II in all of its Lynyrd Skynyrd worshipping glory, is a step beyond anything that he did with the prequel and hints a a bold new era in the history of this bearded rock and roll god.
In a way, it feels appropriate that Wylde should wait twenty years to release a sequel to Book Of Shadows. It proves that even though his career and playing is in a very different place now, he still can go back and use those same concepts that fueled him back in 1996. This is an album that reflects on the poignant beauty and frail melancholy of the human condition, things that don't really change over a mere twenty years. This record is timeless, its use of watery organs and subdued guitar sounds leads to beautiful and lush soundscapes that you can find yourself getting lost in for spin after spin. The guitar solos, as electrifying as they can be, are also surprisingly tasteful, rather than blurring into the bland pentatonic masturbation and pinch harmonic flash that defines so much of latter era Wylde, the solos here function as natural extensions on the song and help to further establish what this album is about. Simply put, Book Of Shadows II is one of the pinnacles of Wylde's impressive career.
It's strangely reassuring to hear Zakk Wylde playing on such a deeply emotive record in 2016. I feel like many of us so called 'true metalheads' have written him off, and I certainly never expected to hear another truly great album from the man – so it makes me very happy to report that this is a fabulous fucking record. Is it on the level of No More Tears? Probably not. But it's still a damn good listen, it's an album that emphasizes songwriting, gentle chord progressions and Zakk's trademark gruff vocals smoothing out just enough to make Book Of Shadows II perfect nighttime listening. Anthemic and beautiful, this is proof the dude still has a lot left in the tank – it makes me want to revisit other recent material from the man. Book Of Shadows II is a moment of redemption in a world that has turned against him. No matter what, this is Zakk motherfucking Wylde and he still knows how to kick some ass.