Black Label Society – Hangover Music Vol. 6 – Review

Black Label Society

Hangover Music Vol. 6 (Spitfire)
by Brian Varney

Hangover Music Vol. 6 is the fifth Black Label Society studio recording (there’s also a live album, which accounts for the “Vol. 6” in the title), and though some are better than others, you always pretty much know what you’re gonna get: Metal-damaged Southern rock loaded with guitar heroics and a few acoustic guitar and/or piano-driven ballad tracks to add a little variety and give the listener a breather from the manic shredding and pinch harmonics.

There have been two instances where entire discs have been devoted to the mellower side of Zakk – his solo album, Book of Shadows, and the bonus five-song EP that came with the live BLS album I mentioned earlier. Lots of BLS fans, myself included, dig the slow moments more than any others, and this album was definitely made with that contingent in mind. As the title implies, this is the album to play the morning after a wild night out, the morning where your whole body is revolting against your attempts at normal living.

This is not to say that Hangover Music Vol. 6 is a singer-songwriter album. Yes, there’s a lot more acoustic instrumentation than you’d expect to hear on a BLS album, but the full band plays on most of the songs, and Zakk plays more than his share of electric guitar, so don’t expect a full-on namby-pamby sensitivity course. The kinds of songs you should expect are more or less comparable to the ballads on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s studio albums, songs like “All I Can Do Is Write About It” or “Every Mother’s Son.”

In any case, if you like the quieter moments on previous BLS releases, you’ll probably like Hangover Music Vol. 6. I’ve always enjoyed those quiet moments, but I wasn’t sure how well Zakk would fare on an entire album devoted to the style. While there’s no single song quite as good as “Like a Bird,” the highpoint of the live album’s bonus disc, the overall result is of pretty high quality. The only real misstep is the cover of Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale,” where Zakk’s wildly overwrought Gregg Allman imitation attempts to perform some sort of emotional supercharge on what was originally quite an understated song. It just doesn’t work. More than anything, the vocals feel inappropriate. There are a few other instances of overzealous vocalizing to be had (“Once More,” for instance), where Zakk seems to be trying to wring every last bit of emotional gravity from a song when no more is left, but these blemishes are not enough to diminish the good things this album has to offer.
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