Longtime Ozzy Osbourne sidekick Zakk Wylde probably wishes he hadn't hooked up with the Prince of Darkness at the height of the '80s hair-metal explosion, when names like Rikki Rockett were all the rage. Now that Wylde has made the transformation from Sunset Strip wanna-be to bearded, burly rocker, he probably hates introducing himself by his hair-metal moniker. But that's life when you build a career out of trend following and professional leeching.
On his fourth effort under the Black Label Society banner, Wylde churns out another forgettable batch of hard-rock dreck that's about as subtle as Anna Nicole Smith in a rest home for billionaires. Bill-and-Ted lighter-wavers such as "Stoned and Drunk" stagger woozily alongside self-important puzzlers like "Doomsday Jesus." On the title track, Wylde's bombastic vocals sound like a bad Collective Soul parody, but he spends most of the album aping Osbourne's trademark nose-clogged-with-cocaine whine. Wylde even squeezes an appearance out of Ozzy on "Stillborn," but he blatantly imitates him on forgettable tracks such as "Final Solution." As for the guitars, a BLS album wouldn't be complete without plenty of grinding rhythm patterns and screeching, whammy-bar masturbations.
Wylde claims not to have written any material prior to the Hellride sessions. This impromptu approach might work for a group of creative players, but Wylde's one-man show (he plays all of the instruments except drums) gives Hellride a feel so stiff and wooden, you'd think a puppet performed all the parts. Oh, yeah -- a puppet did.