The name Zakk Sabbath tells you all you need to know about this album: it’s Zakk Wylde indulging his Black Sabbath obsession by recreating their debut album. The title is a node to Vertigo Records, the label who released Sabbath’s debut in the UK. It’s a note for note remake to a certain extent; Wylde let’s loose during the solo sections, but for the most part, it sticks pretty close to the original. Wylde also handles the vocals and does his usual vintage Ozzy impression which for once serves the music well.
Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society) is backed on this by Blasko (Ozzy Osbourne, ex-Rob Zombie, Ex Danzig) on bass and Joey Castillo (The Bronx, ex-QOTSA, ex-Eagles of Death Metal, ex-Danzig, etc) on drums. The band manages to inject new life in this classic despite staying very faithful to the original. But if you’ve ever thought “Hey, what’s missing from ‘Black Sabbath’ is pinch harmonics”, then Wylde is your man of course, although I must say he restrained himself for the most part.
On my first listen, I must admit I thought this was completely useless. It felt like a vanity project that would only appeal to die hard Zakk Wylde fans. But upon subsequent spins, I’ve come around to appreciate it’s qualities. The sound is definitely sharper than Sabbath’s debut record for one, and Wylde certainly brings a bite to the soloing that stands out from Tony Iommi’s more cerebral approach. The fact that the music still sounds fresh in 2020, 50 years after its release, is a testament to how important this record is. It’s a respectful tribute that walks a fine line between note-for-note copy and re-imagining, and it works very well. While most cover albums in my collection usually fall out of rotation quickly, I can see myself listening to this version over the original from time to time. It’s a fresh take on a timeless classic, and it treats it with enough reverence to accept the things they changed. ‘Black Sabbath’ got a make over for its birthday, and it sounds great.