Though the concept of a musician becoming a “guitar god” — a guitarist who not only has a strong fan base, but is also almost universally revered by his or her peers -— may seem like something that only happened decades ago, with players like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan rightfully earning such distinction, there are plenty of contemporary players that have attained “god-like” status in the music community. One of today’s indisputable guitar gods is Zakk Wylde, the hard-rocking, Jersey-born six-string slinger who’s been in the spotlight for more than a quarter century now.
A couple of years after graduating high school, Wylde sent an audition tape to Ozzy Osbourne, whose earlier guitarist, the late Randy Rhoads, was a humungous influence on Wylde as he learned his craft. The day after his in-person audition for Ozzy, he got the call telling him he was in the band. Wylde’s distinct style made him an instant fan favorite and “guitarist’s guitarist.”
Wylde became a frequent presence in Osbourne’s band, though his tenure was often on-again, off-again. The guitarist never remained idle when he wasn’t playing with Ozzy — along with solo shows and his side-band Pride & Glory, Wylde auditioned for Guns N’ Roses and even did a one-off fill-in gig with The Allman Brothers.
After a solo acoustic album during one of his “off-again” periods with Ozzy, Wylde teamed up with drummer Phil Ondich to record. The resulting album, 1998’s Sonic Brew (remixed and released stateside in 1999), became the debut for what would become Wylde’s longtime band, Black Label Society, showcasing Wylde’s deft melding of Metal, Blues and Southern Rock influences.
Though he continued his sporadic appearances with Ozzy through the 2000s, Black Label Society (and its rotating cast of players) has become Wylde’s main focus, releasing eight studio albums since Sonic Brew, including this year’s Catacombs of the Black Vatican. The album, which debuted at No. 5 on Billboard’s album charts, was well-received by fans and critics, who noted Wylde’s improving vocal skills on the LP.
But for fans who haven’t heard Catacombs yet, don’t expect too much of a departure. Describing the new album, Wylde jokingly told Guitar World magazine, “it’s basically all of the songs we used on the other nine records, except they’ve got different titles now.”
BLACK LABEL SOCIETY with WOVENWAR play Bogart's at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 17. Tickets here .