Opening proceedings with a quasi-Zeppelinesque acoustic intro which morphs into a mid-period Metallica riff, Black Label Society make it quite clear that there will be no compromise on new album Doom Crew Inc.

A cynic might take something else from such an opening gambit, but really, what’s the point of being a cynic when you can just wallow in a bit of unrestricted riff warfare instead?

On DCI Zakk Wylde and co-guitar conspiritor Dario Lorina wage a fair bit of said warfare, and you have to admit, on the likes of opener Set You Free and the utterly compelling End of Days, they make a righteous old noise and no mistake. Wylde has made a reasonably big deal of the freedom he’s given Lorina on this new record – this is not just a Zakk Wylde showcase anymore – and there’s a definite edge and, dare I say it, freshness, to the guitar playing on this album that can only have been borne out of healthy competition between the two six string protagonists.

That doesn’t mean this is an entirely new-look BLS, obvs, but it’s definitely put a breath of fresh air up the band’s clacker that is most welcome. As mentioned, End of Days is quite, quite superb – probably my fave BLS song ever, in fact – whilst the Southern rock infusions of Ruins and  Gather All My Sins might make long-term Zakk fans hanker after the long-lost Pride and Glory days…

There’s still a fair bit of bloated ballad action to contend with, although even here tracks like Love Reign Down and Farewell Ballad, despite being overlong and rather too maudlin for this reviewer’s tastes, rate among the best of their kind in the Black Label canon, meaning that, overall, this has to rate as one of the best Zakk Wylde records in a fair while and certainly one of the best he’s ever put out under the BLS banner. Happy days!

Doom Crew Inc. is out now.