Review by Tobias on March 25, 2005.
The true child of Ozz has returned with his heavy doomed out biker metal ready to rock the shit out of anyone who happens to walk close enough. While the previous Black Label Society album, Hangover Music, Vol. VI was designed to give you enjoyment after a long night of whiskey and blistering guitars, Mafia is brought to fire you up.
Frontman Zakk Wylde is an undisputed rock star. And as much as he can shred a fetboard with his distinctive style to thrill masses of beer swillin’, pot smokin’, bearded and tattooed metalheads, he also has an incredible knack for paying homage to those who have helped him grow musically. Ozzy himself is an obvious influence in the vocal styles, and while the New Jersey native exudes southern flavor, most likely picked up from one-time project-mates Lynyrd Skynyrd. In the slow track, “In this River,” Zakk’s classic rock sensibility shines through with what might be a tip of the hat to some of Bruce Springsteen’s most intelligently written pieces. No doubt many influences are buried in that particular song.
BLS never fails to kick ass. They’ve done it again here and while Mafia may not be the crowning achievement from this band, it is unmistakably BLS material with BLS attitude all over it. And while there is nothing shocking enough to send a sensation like a red hot poker up your ass, it is often an album like this with it’s refined and gentle depths underlying the hard rocking that will grow on you and find its way back to your speakers repeatedly.
It isn’t a hard thing to accept and fully enjoy BLS’ Rock Intuition, but in truth, his vocal performance could sour people to him right off the bat. While it isn’t as much a bitter wine as the voice of Neil Young or even Ozzy for that matter, it is unusual. But even his vocal performance ranges enough to make the casual listener wonder if they’ve swapped out singers on different tracks. Of course to anyone paying attention, the vocal dynamics involved from a singular source would be much more obvious.
All in all, Mafia is a dependably kickass record. Tracks such as “Suicide Messiah” and “Say What You Will” get you rolling with heaviness eliciting horn raising and head banging; a great time not to be missed.
Categorical Rating Breakdown
Rating: 8.2 out of 10