Doom Troopin’ (A History) Part 1
I was reading a section in the most recent Metal Hammer magazine the other day. The section is called “Discs of Doom” and it’s kind of a series of question that the artist answers to by naming an album. The artist interviewed in this issue was Zakk Wylde, and one of the questions that was asked was “The album I’d want to be remembered for is…?”. For this, Zakk put an answer that I found interesting…
“For artists I love, it’s not a specific record, it’d be everything they did. For BLS [Black Label Society], it’d be Order of the Black but that’s the new one, so it’s the one I’m most excited about. Otherwise it’d be The Blessed Hellride or Mafia. Ozzy remembers an album if he had a good time making it, rather than if it did well.”
This really got me to thinking… what exactly has the impact of Zakk Wylde been? What WILL he be remembered for?
He, of course, was kind of an instant wonder-kid. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, he joined Ozzy Osbourne‘s band in 1987 after the departure of Jake E. Lee. Here’s an interview with Ozzy and Zakk from just after he joined the band circa late 1987/early 1988.
He would then make two-albums with Ozzy that would bring a new heaviness into his sound. 1988’s “No Rest for the Wicked” can definitely be viewed as the Ozzy album that truly returns the Prince of Darkness to the full-on, balls out Heavy Metal that he helped create with Black Sabbath in the 1970s, but that he hadn’t really been involved in creating since that band’s 1976 album “Sabotage”. Zakk was a huge factor in that return to heaviness, with a guitar technique that was closer to that of Tony Iommi than any previous Ozzy guitarist. And despite being instrumental in creating what was, at that time, THE heaviest record of Ozzy’s solo career, he was still able to maintain enough of the pop-metal sensibilities of his pre-decessors to not alienate fans of the previous record (1986’s “The Ultimate Sin”). In other words, he was able to weave the earth-shattering heaviness of “No Rest…” seemlessly into a back-catalog that, while undeniably heavy, was also built to be catchy and crowd-pleasing. For a guitarist new to the big-wide world of the Golden Age of Heavy Metal, this was an amazing feat.
And then of course came Zakk’s first full-on artistic triumph. 1991’s “No More Tears” was a masterpiece from start to finish. And it was a crowd-pleasing record without resorting to overt pop-metal overtones. The record, with Zakk’s guitar playing once again being a huge part of it’s deversity and depth, was perfectly positioned to please fans of Glam Metal (going through the beginning stages of it’s decline), Thrash Metal (nearing the end of it’s 7-year run of commercial acceptance as a genre), and the burgeoning Grunge scene (just barely beginning to pick up steam). The record had sex, drama, speed, and groove that just poured into the listener’s ears from the first moments of “Mr. Tinkertrain” all the way through to the dying strains of “Road to Nowhere”. What made it all the more impactful was that fact that it was a straight-up, no BS, HEAVY METAL RECORD! This was the moment when Zakk Wylde proved himself to be a world class guitarist, as it was the moment that he proved he could throw in just about every classic Metal and Hard Rock characteristic, plus his own penchant for southern rock grooves, and churn it all into a pile of mountainous riffs. No More Tears, in this writer’s opinion, sits just behind 1981’s “Diary of a Madman” (and just ahead of “The Ultimate Sin”) as a classic Ozzy Osbourne album.
Unfortunately, the tour supporting the album would end with Ozzy retiring from music (for about 4 or 5 years), putting Zakk’s musical career seemingly on ice for the time being. But no great mind can go unstimulated, and Zakk would have the first of his side-projects started soon after. That, along with Zakk’s involvement in Ozzy’s return to recording and touring, will be the topic of Doom Trooper Part 2.
(For more information on Zakk Wylde, visit ZakkWylde.com)
(For more information on Ozzy Osbourne, visit Ozzy.com)