Zakk Wylde Explains Unusual Bending Technique and Specific Pentatonic Licks He Used on Last BLS Album

Released on November 26, 2021, Black Label Society’s “Doom Crew Inc.” brought 12 new tracks. Nonetheless, there’s the classic old Zakk Wylde style that we’re all used to, including his wild bends, aggressive vibratos, pinch harmonics, as well as speedy pentatonic licks. Of course, there’s also no shortage of heavy groovy riffage on “Doom Crew Inc.” which now remains a crucial part of the band’s style.

Recently, Zakk Wylde sat down with Guitar World to discuss the album, his playing, as well as a few other topics. When asked about the solo in “You Made Me Want to Live” and the bends that catch more than one string, similar to those in Ozzy Osbourne’s “No More Tears,” he replied:

“That’s a big Gary Moore thing, at least to my ears. He’d do those big bends and catch an extra string to add to the emotion. It definitely sounds very angry! Everything he played was rooted from the pentatonic scale and chromatics, but it came down to his interpretation of the blues and the aggression he put into it. That’s the beautiful thing about guitar. From Paul Kossoff to David Gilmour, everyone’s personality is in their phrasing.”

Black Label Society - You Made Me Want To Live (Lyrics)

Of course, that wasn’t the only interesting trick up his sleeve that Zakk used on the record. In particular, the long-time Ozzy guitarist discussed the album’s “End of Days” and the solo that climaxes in a “pentatonic run in six.” When the interviewer compared it to Joe Bonamassa and Eric Johnson, just “with more distortion,” Zakk explained:

“I learned all of that from players like John McLaughlin and Frank Marino. When I first listened to [jazz fusion pioneers] Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jan Hammer and Jerry Goodman would be doubling what John McLaughlin was doing. That stuff felt like true pentatonic insanity to me. Hearing Eric Johnson and Bonamassa doing it came quite a while after for me, but I’m glad I discovered their pentatonic goodness!”

You can check out the song in the embedded player below, with the solo starting at 3:27.

Black Label Society - End of Days (Official Music Video)

Concerning the difficulty of performing these licks, Zakk said:

“It’s just a matter of repetition. You have to keep doing a little bit more and more, starting slow and building up speed. It’s just like laying bricks – one day you wake up and you just have it. I would just alternate pick pentatonic scales up and down. But really it all depends on what kind of sound you’re going for.”

“For example, Allan Holdsworth was trying to sound like a sax, so playing legato helped get him that sound. If he played more like Steve Morse, with every note picked and lots of staccato, it wouldn’t have had that fluid sax feel. Guys like Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin tend to pick every note because that’s the sound they’re looking for. Techniques are just different colors you can use…”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons