Except for bender-induced stupors, Zakk Wylde must never sleep. The most prolific of old-school metal's hard-partying cavemen, Wylde records and tours as Ozzy Osbourne's go-to guitarist and plays almost every instrument on his Black Label Society releases, which he churns out almost as quickly as he slams down shots.
On Mafia, Wylde found time for an Alice in Chains face-lift, and the album bears the unmistakable marks of the operation: Drowsy post-anesthetic harmonies decorate gloomy dirges, while surgical scarring renders the vocalist temporarily unable to sing out of both sides of his mouth. Ozzy influenced AIC, so Mafia feels like a postmodern project, an idolized artist interpreting the sounds his work inspired. This reverent treatment occasionally produces refreshing records, e.g., David Bowie appropriating Nine Inch Nails, Johnny Cash tapping Danzig or Wylde exhuming Layne Staley.
Wylde stretches his voice, supplementing his snarl with upper-octave yowls and grave, gritty tones. He alters his axe attack, shrouding songs in a wah-wah haze. When even the piano ballads sound solid, Wylde is definitely going through changes.