BRINGING METAL TO THE CHILDREN
(The Complete Berserker’s Guide To World Tour Domination)
Zakk Wylde (with Eric Hendrikx)
William Morrow (Harper Collins)
ZAKK WYLDE IS A BELOVED FIGURE IN HARD MUSIC.
Born Jeffrey Phillip Wielandt, Zakk was a 19 year-old Jersey boy who was plucked from obscurity in 1987 to become the new sideman to Ozzy Osbourne. He quickly set himself apart from other guitarists with his signature use of harmonics and squeals amidst dense chords and frenzied leads. He wrote great riffs and could seemingly play anything as well as if not better than anyone Ozzy had worked with before. Between gigs with Ozzy he cultivated a following with his early solo efforts before starting Black Label Society, a monster rock band with an ever-changing lineup that blended hard rock, blues and southern boogie into a ferocious sound that became synonymous a hard-drinking, hard-partying, head-banging lifestyle. Black Label Society became a movement of sorts: a sound and identity, with fanatics sporting clothes (and merchandise) to resemble band members.
As the band grew, so did Zakk’s profile. In an era consumed with pop and bereft of guitar icons and rock gods, Zakk Wylde is the last true rock star. Larger than life and more chatty than a group of teenage girls, the persona of Zakk Wylde spilled out into the world through countless appearances in music magazines, instruction videos and video games. Cameos in film and television, along with constant touring, only expanded his audience, as people fell in love with his manic joking and self-deprecating humor. He was also fond of the occasional beer and frequently enjoyed himself in the public eye. He was popular with concert promoters as his band raised the sales on beer concessions from venue to venue: his concerts were less musical exhibitions than full-on house parties. And beneath the redneck biker-Viking exterior was a regular guy who married his high-school sweetheart and is a proud father of three.
BUT INSTEAD OF GETTING A BUDWEISER COMMERCIAL, HE WROTE A BOOK. Giving Zakk Wylde a book deal is like giving car keys to a kangaroo. He doesn’t need it to get where he’s going and it’s only going to slow him down anyway. Yet somehow, Zakk and his collaborator manage to capture most of what’s cool about listening to Zakk in interviews. Unlike straight forward rise-and-fall, rags-to-riches biographies and autobiographies (i.e., “The Dirt” and “Crazy From The Heat”), this is part philosophy, part tour diary and part bar stories. Very much like Zakk Wylde (and sort of like Garrison Keilor and Tucker Max discussing The Rat Pack).
And very much like Zakk the book is written in a disjointed manner, jumping around a lot, moving from narrator to narrator, which can be confounding. While Zakk handles the bulk of the story telling, Eric Hendrikx chimes in, as do many familiars in the Black Label commonwealth. This is the largest obstacle in “Bringing Metal To The Children,” and for those not indoctrinated into the BLS canon, parts of it might fall flat. Also, Zakk is entirely too fascinated with scatological humor.
What’s really terrific about Zakk’s book is Zakk. His personality is never muted and his sense of humor remains strong and intact – he is at his entertaining best throughout. His tale, “My Run-In With Satanism” stands out as the finest example of Zakk talking about his crazy life. Like a father regaling his children of glory days and admonishing them on the dangers of life as experienced by Zakk himself, the book frequently pleases. Tales of the road and debauchery blend seamlessly with advice about music and social behavior. Zakk rarely lets down his guard, which he may not be ready to do yet, and this leaves room for a sequel or proper telling of his story one day. “Bringing Metal To The Children” may not find itself standing on a bookshelf alongside such epic must-reads as “Hammer of the Gods,” “Catch A Fire” and “No One Here Gets Out Alive,” but as an introduction to Black Label it is as necessary as any of the band’s music, and as Zakk might say, would make a great bathroom read. Also, there’s lots of pictures. The audio book, if it is ever released, should be spectacular.