There’s no question Zakk Wylde can shred and rock as hard as anyone, which has been evident throughout his career with Ozzy Osbourne and Black Label Society. However, he has never been afraid to display his mellower side. Albums like 2004‘s Hangover Music Vol. VI and 2013‘s Unblackened are among those that take a more acoustic and laid-back approach.

That’s also the case with Wylde’s second solo album, Book of Shadows II, which comes 20 years after Book of Shadows. Instead of heavy rock and metal, Book of Shadows II is influenced by southern rock, country, blues and Americana.

Plenty of acoustic guitar can be heard throughout the album, but Wylde also plugs in from time to time, especially during solos. The mood of the album is reserved and introspective, though the tempo varies. The bluesy “Lost Prayer” has some pep in its step, while the subdued “Useless Apologies” meanders at a slower pace.

Wylde’s vocal style works well with this style of music. He doesn’t have a ton of range, but he voice has a lot of character. If you compare his vocals here with the first Book of Shadows, he better incorporates subtle textural and dynamic elements into his singing now, giving it more emotional heft.

In addition to guitar, keyboards add a different flavor to some of the tracks such as “Eyes of Burden” and “The King.” One of the dangers of an album like this is that it could descend into melancholia, especially with song titles like “Darkest Hour” and “Sorrowed Regret." However, there are rousing and uplifting tunes on the disc, as well.

While the album runs quite long with 14 songs clocking in at more than an hour, Wylde did a really nice job with the song order. A country flavored song will be followed by a different influenced track like blues or Southern rock. There’s still plenty of continuity, but it helps avoid monotony.

Whether he’s unplugged or fully electric, Wylde’s guitar skills are never in doubt, and that’s definitely the case on Book of Shadows II. Certainly not a party album, it’s one better enjoyed kicking back, mellowing out and letting the emotions wash over you.

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