Thursday, March 31, 2016

Pride and Glory - Machine Gun Man

I have held the belief that for the past several years that Zakk Wylde is the greatest active guitarist in the world. There are a lot of guitar players who can play quickly but fast twitching fingers are only a useful talent if you have something worthwhile to play. I have seen a lot of guitar solos that while physically impressive are unfortunately meaningless sound. I have seen a lot of Zakk Wylde guitar solos and while seemingly impossibly impressive are almost always a journey to metal music mystery and highly entertaining to say the least.

I really like Zakk Wylde, and there are a lot of reasons to like him, but a major reason I really appreciate Zakk and all that he does is because he has come to my home town many times to perform live. I live in one of the largest cities in Canada but that does not say much, a lot of bands do not come here or they come here rarely. If you are going to tour North America it makes more sense to focus on the United States, they have ten times the population and significantly less land to transverse from metropolis to metropolis, so mostly Canada get a few shows typically in the east and Vancouver, while most of the country gets ignored. I have seen the Black Label Society (BLS) four times in the past six years, and I missed them once in that time. I have also seen “an evening with Zakk Wylde” where Zakk did a whole acoustic set. Also many years ago I saw Zakk play with Ossy Osbourne, and while this last example does not help make the point I am attempting to make, I just wanted to mention it because it was awesome.

The point is I am forever grateful that the Black Label Society and Zakk Wylde for coming to Calgary so often, but even more impressive, and perhaps a little crazy, is the sort of Canadian tours Zakk puts together, he does shows in places like Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. Good luck getting any other metal bands to come through your home town if you don’t live in one of the larger cities, except maybe Megadeth, they tour Canada impressively.

As we all know Zakk got his first real experience as a rock star playing lead guitar for Ozzy Osbourne. In 1994, a full year before departing from his job with Ozzy and moving on to his solo career and BLS, Zakk produced his first solo endeavour titled “Pride and Glory.” The intention at the time was to make Pride and Glory his permanent side project while working with Ozzy, and while the Pride and Glory label never saw the light of day after this first effort, this album is the grounds for the beginning of BLS, so in the scheme of Wylde’s music history it is a very important album.

Zakk before he grew his
viking beard.
Nowadays we are all familiar with Zakk shredding guitar with intense metal songs like “Funeral Bell” and “Suicide Messiah” but the Pride and Glory album was much more acoustic, it is still metal, but it is not the heavier style we have come to appreciate with Ozzy and BLS. A lot of my favorite songs by Zakk come from this first album, including “Machine Gun Man.”

“Machine Gun Man” is a song about a man lost without war. I always imagine Zakk is singing about a soldier who returned home and cannot find purpose or meaning anymore, so he takes to the bottle and soaks in the hate and pain he experienced in his wartime. Zakk is no angel on the mic, but he has soul and he conveys the struggle effectively; more importantly is the great guitar in “Machine Gun Man.” The intro is very memorable, as is every bridge and the outro, the solos are great, and especially live, speaking of which, the only time I have ever heard “Machine Gun Man” live was during evening with Zakk Wylde acoustic set when he came through Calgary.

Of all the Zakk Wylde songs to exist I have always wanted to hear “Machine Gun Man” and “Way Beyond Empty” live, and I finally got to here “Machine Gun Man” live during the before mentioned show, still waiting to hear “Way Beyond Empty,” I guess it is good to have goals. The evening with Zakk Wylde was stripped down and simple, it was just Zakk playing guitar and singing with an assist from a rhythm guitarist and nothing more. Zakk broke into “Machine Gun Man” fairly early on in the show, song three or four, if I remember correctly, and after taking us through the verses and the chorus he broke into a guitar solo, a very long guitar solo. Zakk produced a wild range of pleasing sounds in that time, but I found my ear drifting to the sounds of the rhythm guitar, and my eyes watching the hands of the unnamed guitarist on stage. I never fully appreciated the background rhythm guitar of “Machine Gun Man” until that moment, the young man kept the pace while Wylde, well went wild, and it was such a soothing repetition of music. It was one of my fondest memories of any concert really, it was an interest point I was noticing about the song as a whole, all the little extra things the ear can miss, combined with the unique individualized solo Zakk was taking us on. It was a good time.

Naturally most people who read this never needed me to tell them Zakk is a great guitarist or how good of a song “Machine Gun Man” is, but I try to keep certain of pace of production on these reviews and with limited time available to me, at this point in time, I thought I would share this “Machine Gun Man” moment, and I wish you all similar metal moments in your lives.

- King of Braves

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