Zakk Wylde ‘Wasn’t Paying Attention’ to Grunge Revolution
Ozzy Osbourne's No More Tears arrived at a pivotal moment in rock history. The Prince of Darkness released his Top 10, quadruple platinum album on Sept. 17, 1991 — one week before Nirvana's Nevermind, which heralded a shift away from the bombastic hard rock that Osbourne spearheaded in the '80s toward the stripped-down grunge that defined the first half of the '90s.
Zakk Wylde, Osbourne’s longtime guitarist who played on No More Tears, didn't think much of the sea change at the time. "I really wasn't paying attention to any of it," he tells UCR. "I just lived in my own little bubble. I didn't see much of a change, as far as the whole musical landscape changing, until a couple of years into it. But, you know, everything goes in cycles."
Wylde, who made his debut with Osbourne on 1988's No Rest for the Wicked at 21 years old, also had a fondness for the extravagant hard rock that was approaching obsolescence by the time No More Tears came out. "Hair metal was awesome. The guitar playing and musicianship. I mean, just look at it," he says. "The mid-'70s, everyone's like, 'Oh, guitar can't go any further.' All of the sudden, King Edward [Van Halen] arrives and just blows the planet apart. And then, all of the sudden everyone is like, 'Well, that's the end of that. It can't go any further than this!' Then Yngwie [Malmsteen] comes out and it's just like, you’ve gotta be kidding me, man."
Before Nirvana reshaped rock music in their image, Wylde credits Guns N' Roses with stripping the genre back to its bare essentials with their seminal 1987 debut, Appetite for Destruction. "When GNR hit, Slash brought it all back," he says. "It just went all 360 [degrees] at that point. Slash is just coming out with booze, blues, slop and chops. Which is awesome. It's great guitar playing. Between 'Sweet Child O' Mine' and everything on that Appetite record is awesome. 'November Rain' and everything like that [from the Use Your Illusion albums]."
Wylde doesn't know if the grunge storm influenced Osbourne's post-No More Tears albums, such as 1995's Ozzmosis. On the contrary, he heard plenty of chart-topping '90s acts taking cues from Black Sabbath, namely Tony Iommi's thunderous, sludgy riffing and Osbourne's hypnotic vocal melodies. "When me and Geezer [Butler] were working on Ozzmosis, to me, what grunge is, when you listen to Soundgarden's 'Outshined' or anything, there's tons of Sabbath floating around in that soup," he explains. "Those are all Lord Iommi."
It’s the same deal on Doom Crew Inc., the new album from Wylde's Black Label Society, which comes out Nov. 26 and which the band is now supporting on a U.S. tour that runs through the end of November. “You listen to anything, [such as Doom Crew Inc. song] 'Destroy and Conquer,' I got that at the Lord Iommi swap meet,” the guitarist says. "He was sitting behind the toaster and I was like, 'How much for that riff?' He was like, 'I wrote that in '73. This one is eight bucks.'"