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Ozzy Guitarist Crafts Own Heavy Metal Niche

Zakk Wylde tasted instant success when he became Ozzy Osbourne’s guitar player at age 20, but now he’s steadily coming out of his mentor’s shadow to ride the resurgence of heavy metal as a band leader.

His group, Black Label Society, has been building a dedicated following around the United States, releasing four studio albums of aggressive guitars and raw vocals.

The band’s first DVD, “Boozed, Broozed & Broken-Boned,” a performance filmed in Detroit last year, reached No. 3 on Billboard magazine’s music video chart in late August, behind Led Zeppelin and the Eagles.

“With Black Label I get to wear more hats,” Wylde said in a recent phone interview. “I’m more involved with the production, lyrics, melody and merchandise.”

The guitarist, born Jeffery Philip Wielandt, draws his inspiration from classic rockers like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and the Allman Brothers Band.

“Basically you take all the bands I love and throw them in a blender with some violence and some alcohol and you come up with Black Label Society,” he said.

Wylde is delighted that heavy metal is making a come back, getting more play on radio and cable television.

“What’s old is always new again,” he said. “Look at Judas Priest getting back together, I’ll definitely be buying tickets for that.”

But he acknowledged that older fans, while still attending shows, often don’t buy their old favorites’ new records.

“When you get older a lot of people just drop out of the music thing altogether,” Wylde said. “Most times, when you’re buying records you’re in school. The only things I had to worry about back in the day was when the next Black Sabbath record was going to come out, when they were going to tour and if my girlfriend broke up with me.”

Wylde, 36, has no plans to drop out of music himself. He will replace bassist Robert Trujillo, now in Metallica, with Mike Inez, who also played for Osbourne and Alice in Chains.

“I’m going to Europe with Ozzy, then we’ll do some shows in America, and after that I’ll fire up the Black Label again sometime around March next year,” Wylde said.

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