Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Something Borrowed: "Snowblind," Black Label Society/Black Sabbath

It's rare that an artist creates a cover that transforms and transcends the original, but I think that's the case with Zakk Wylde's version of Sabbath's "Snowblind."

Wylde, who spent longer than any other guitarist as Ozzy Osbourne's main axe slinger, taking over on 1988's No Rest for the Wicked before being quietly pushed out before 2010's Scream, has always shown nothing but respect to his former boss and the almighty Black Sabbath. "Snowblind" is one of several Sabbath songs that he's recorded over the years, and he always does it with great reverence.

This one, though, has always struck me as a much better representation of the song's subject matter than the original. The Sabbath version is heavy, doomy and gloomy, but the BLS version takes that feeling to a new level. It opens with a dreary, slowed-down acoustic rendering of the original riff. The song is about being strung out and down, and Wylde's interpretation definitely nails that feeling.

Wylde has always been a highly underrated balladeer. His voice carries a depth of feeling and emotion on slower pieces that's fully felt on "Snowblind." His deep, weary moan and haggard delivery capture, I think, the essence of the song, playing on the utter hopelessness that the subject feels to overcome his addictions and the agonizing result of it.

Even the galloping bit where Sabbath goes heavier is given a slower, more tired and burned out feel on this version. It bears little resemblance to the original, yet I think it does a much better job of conveying the subject matter. It's one of those extremely rare instances where I prefer a cover to the original, though that version is pretty damned good, too.

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