I just wanted to take a minute to mark out three full years since the passing of Ronnie James Dio. Short of thinking of every scumbag motherfucker still roaming the earth while he’s not and making myself angry, I’d rather not get lost in memorializing — everything’s been said and by people with better sentence structures than mine — but if heavy metal has a hall of immortals it’s only because Ronnie James Dio built it from the ground up. He remains, and will remain, much missed.
This clip of Dehumanizer-era Sabbath doing “Children of the Sea” is one of literally thousands out there, and if you find yourself lost among them and exploring one into the next into the next, I’m sure there are worse ways you could spend that time. Ronnie James Dio, 1942-2010.
Black Sabbath,”Children of the Sea” Live in Rio de Janeiro, 1992
During the coverage of the first day of Roadburn 2013, in talking about my general sucktitude at existence, I said that the first meal I’d eaten in a couple days made me feel, “like someone had just given me a piece of particleboard with macaroni glued onto it in the shape of the cover to Volume 4, and by that I mean ready to take on the world.”
Well, I got off the airplane yesterday, and The Patient Mrs. presented me with this:
That’s right. It’s the cover of Black Sabbath‘s Vol. 4, made of dried pasta. She glued the pieces to a slab of slate — so much more doom than particleboard — and gave it to me as a homecoming present upon my return from the Netherlands and the UK last night. Rare are the times when I’ve felt more like someone in the universe truly understands who I am as a human being.
I’ve engaged in no shortage of The Patient Mrs.-worship in this space over the years, but seriously, in the days to come when I need an example of how fucking awesome my wife is — when perhaps I’m explaining to somebody about the dynamic of our relationship — I feel like I have a new milestone to work from. It’ll go like this: “I’m a self-absorbed jerk who does nothing that isn’t completely about me, and she made me Macaroni Sabbath. I’m the luckiest man in the world.”
Yeah, I know I ain’t exactly pushing boundaries here by ending the week with Black Sabbath doing “Iron Man,” but this version — recorded in Montreux, Switzerland in 1970 — features one of the best Ozzy Osbourne lyric flubs I’ve ever heard, wherein the first part of the second verse becomes:
“Now he’s standing there Iron Man don’t you dare For he wants you to Iron Man I love you.”
Brilliant. Yesterday, I was sitting at my office being fucking miserable listening to the no-indoor-voice dumbassery that plays out with unfortunate regularity, and then it hit me: I’m leaving, and not only am I leaving, but I’m going record shopping. I hit up Sound Exchange on the quick and in addition to a used copy of the last C.O.C. record (jewel case version), I got Sabbath‘s Live at Montreux 1970 and immediately dug in. The mere act of purchasing a Sabbath show I didn’t already own, but in order to make sure I didn’t wind up disappointed, I looked the gig up on my phone at the shop and saw the A+ rating for the soundboard set, and well, my mind was made up for me. I’d been hoping to pick up Blues Creation‘s Demon and Eleven Children, but this was more than I could ask.
And sure, the show was recorded before Paranoid actually came out about a month later in September, but still, that lyric flub is great. Also interesting that “War Pigs” is here in its “Walpurgis” form. If you want to hear the whole show, the bass is low and the vocals are high — typical soundboard fare — but the audio is crisp and the version of “Fairies Wear Boots” is nothing short of incredible for Tony Iommi‘s solo alone. Dig it:
So after a week distinguished by little other than how shitty it was, finding Live at Montreux 1970 did much to restore my doomly spirit. Combined with the snow day I took today, not sleeping late but not going to the office either, I feel almost human. Not quite, but almost. Better than I was two days ago, in any case.
Should your own doomly spirits require restoration, I hope Sabbath does the trick, and I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Lots of good stuff to come next week — Devil to Pay review, Clutch interview, and so on — so please stay tuned. In the meantime, I’ll see you on the forum and back here Monday for more high-gain sentence structures.
It’s been a while since I’ve had a fully functional turntable, and by that I mean one that worked at all. Platters have been coming in for review for The Obelisk and I’ve managed to figure something out, either listening somewhere other than my office or whathaveyou, but really, it’s something that I’ve been missing up to this point. I tried several times to acquire a working one to no avail, until just this past week, Slevin rolled through with one he wasn’t using and set it up. Toss in a new cartridge, dust it off, and as you can see above, whamo, a working player of vinyl records.
Nifty, right? I traded him the busted Technics that formerly resided at the top of my office shelf system and he gave me this working Optimus, and since I don’t know the difference, I’m just happy to have one that actually can play an albums. I’ve had a pile of stuff here waiting to be written up or even just listened to, so at the end of last week, there was a bit of a binge in vinyl listening, one after another after another and so on. Can’t help it. Sometimes I get excited.
In the spirit of sharing, I thought I’d post the first five records I put on once I had the ability to do so. Needless to say, there have been several more since:
1. YOB, Demo
I haven’t asked to confirm, but I think this was actually the one that got Slevin on board for giving my pathetic ass in the first place. A couple weeks ago, I put up a rant, basically pissing and moaning at having bought myself the 2009 vinyl reissue of YOB‘s demo despite not being able to hear it, so when I finally could, it was the first thing I grabbed. Sure enough, the four tracks on the release — the three of the initial 2000 demo and one live track to close out side B recorded in 2005 — were as primitive as one would have to expect, way more Sleep-derived even than YOB‘s first full-length, but still a joy to hear after so long. Even as a curio, this one was worth the wait and since I’m planning on having this turntable for a while, I was glad I got to play this one first.
2. Asteroid, Move a Mountain 7″
Maybe this one was kind of obvious, since a review went up the other day, but wow, I was looking forward to hearing the latest from Asteroid. Aside from thinking they’re one of the best Swedish heavy rock acts going these days — balancing heavy psych jams with memorable songwriting and sounding so incredibly natural doing it as they do — I wanted to hear how they were developing with their new drummer and was glad to find that even on such a short, two-song release, they hadn’t lost that combination of structure and laid back exploration that has made both of their albums to date so much fun, indeed pushing it further on the B-side, “One Foot in the Grave,” which was some of their fastest material yet. I was already looking forward to their third full-length. Now even more so.
3. Mars Red Sky/Year of No Light, Green Rune White Totem
Mars Red Sky — whose new EP, Be My Guide, is due in April, in case you missed the news that just went up — were kind enough to send me a vinyl copy of their Green Rune White Totem collaboration with their countrymen black metal experimentalists Year of No Light, and I think it must have gotten lost in the shuffle around the time the hurricane hit, and then when I finally would’ve had the chance to hear it, there wasn’t a working record player to make it happen. I was bummed out, because although Green Run White Totem is up on the YuberToubes, I was dying to hear the real thing. The textures that Year of No Light bring to Mars Red Sky‘s rich, deep tonality make the 12-minute collaborative piece all the more fascinating, and the black and red vinyl give it a truly special feel. It’s one I’ll be returning to for sure, especially as Mars Red Sky get set for Desertfest next month and that aforementioned EP release.
4. Clutch, Strange Cousins from the West
The heartbreak of slightly ripping the sleeve when taking out the second of the two LPs in the special edition of Clutch‘s 2009 outing aide, Strange Cousins from the West was a listen a long time in the making. The packaging on the Weathermaker vinyl is astounding (and now ripped, god damn it) with foil and a six-panel gatefold, and when the first side of the first LP started, I swore up and down it was the wrong platter because it was “Freakonomics” instead of “Motherless Child.” Nope, just a different tracklisting than the CD. Given that this is an album with which I’ve spent significant time over the four years since its original release, it was probably the first one on this list that I could really get a sense for the difference the vinyl makes, the compression in the cymbals and warm pops, etc. Particularly in light of their new one (review here), it was cool to revisit Strange Cousins and hear the older material in a new light.
5. Black Sabbath, Dehumanizer
If I’m honest, I don’t even really know where this vinyl copy of Dehumanizer came from. Must have been a reissue that came through at some point, but it’s been in my office for a while now and so it was something of a matter of principle that it should get a play on initial run with the new turntable. The 1992 reunion album between Black Sabbath and vocalist Ronnie James Dio isn’t the best work of either party — and wow, that really came out on side B; I can’t even remember the last time I purposefully listened to “Too Late” or “Buried Alive,” and I named my dog after Dio — but for cuts like “I,” “Master of Insanity,” “Computer God” and “Sins of the Father,” Dehumanizer was well worth another visit. Now I just need to get a copy on tape and I’m all set.
Even though I have a working turntable in my possession, I don’t see myself going overboard as a vinyl collector or anything like that, but if someone’s got a 7″ for sale at a show or something is vinyl-only, at least I know I’ll be able to give it some due time without using someone else’s player or scrambling for a download. But mostly it’s just a review thing for stuff that comes in on LP. It’s not like I’m looking to start a vinyl library. Not like I’m already eying up Hypnos 69 splits on eBay or anything. Me? No way. Ha.
Posted in Features on January 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Last year was a monster. You might say I’m still catching up on reviews for records that came out in October. Yet here we stand in 2013. It’s a whole new year and that means instead of looking back at some of the best releases, it’s time to look ahead and nerd out at what’s to come. Frankly, either way is a good time, but with some of what’s included on this list, 2013 has the potential to be yet another incredible year for lovers of the heavy.
Across a range of genres and subgenres, there are bands big and small, known and unknown, getting ready to unleash debuts, follow-ups and catalog pieces that by the time December rolls around, will have defined the course of this year. It’s always great to hold an album in your hands, to put it on and listen to it for the first or 19th time, but part of the fun is the excitement beforehand too, and that’s where we’re at now.
Some of these I’ve heard, most I haven’t, and some are only vague announcements, but when I started out putting this list together, my plan was to keep it to 10 and I wound up with twice that many because there was just too much happening to ignore. The list is alphabetical because it doesn’t make any sense to me to rate albums that aren’t out yet, and I hope if you find something you’d like to add, you’ll please feel free to leave a comment below.
Thanks in advance for reading, and enjoy:
Acid King, TBA
We begin with only the basest of speculations. Would you believe me if I told you that 2013 makes it eight years since the heavier-than-your-heavy-pants San Francisco trio Acid King released their last album, III? Of course you wouldn’t believe me. You’d be like, “Dude, no way,” but it’s true. Eight friggin’ years. They’ve hinted all along at new material, toured Europe and played fests in the States like Fall into Darkness, but really, it’s time for something new on record. Even an EP. A single! I’ll take what I can get at this point, so long as it’s Lori S. riffing it.
Chances are, the above isn’t the final art for Argentinian Los Natas-offshoot Ararat‘s forthcoming III, but frontman Sergio Chotsourian has posted a few demos over the last several months and the logo image came from that. Either way, with as far as last year’s II(review here) went in expanding their sound, I can’t wait to hear the final versions of the tracks for the next one. They’re still flying under a lot of people’s radar, it seems, but Ararat are quickly becoming one of South America’s best heavy psych acts. Do yourself a favor and keep an eye out.
Brooklyn trio Bezoar‘s 2012 debut, Wyt Deth, might have been my favorite album that I never reviewed last year, and needless to say, that’s not a mistake I’m going to make twice. The new songs I’ve heard the three-piece play live have ruled and an alliance with engineer Stephen Conover (whose discography includes Rza and Method Man) is intriguing to say the least. I’m sure whatever Bezoar come out with, the performances from bassist/vocalist Sara Villard, guitarist Tyler Villard and drummer Justin Sherrell will be as hard to pin down as the debut was. It’s a record I’m already looking forward to being challenged by.
Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era
Due out April 9, Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s The Edge of an Era will mark the full-length debut for the ambitious trio (now based in L.A.) on Tee Pee Records following on the heels of the impressive The Storm Generation EP (review here). From the Scott Reeder production to the band’s engaging heavy psych/desert rock blend, this one seems bound to win Blaak Heat Shujaa a lot of new friends, and if the advance EP is anything to go by, The Edge of an Eracould prove to be aptly-titled indeed.
Black Pyramid, Adversarial
No release date yet, but so far as I know, Adversarial, which is Massachusetts doom rockers Black Pyramid‘s third album and first to be fronted by guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard, is recorded, mixed and mastered. Song titles include “Swing the Scimitar,” “Onyx and Obsidian,” “Issus,” “Bleed Out” and “Aphelion” (the latter was also released as a limited single in 2012 by Transubstans as a split with Odyssey), and having seen the band live with this lineup, expect no less than a beheading. Also watch for word from the recently announced side-project from Shepard and bassist Dave Gein, The Scimitar.
Black Sabbath, 13
There was a bit of a shitstorm this past weekend when the title of Black Sabbath‘s first Ozzy Osbourne-fronted album since 1978 was revealed in a press release. Nonetheless, 13is set for release in June and will feature Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine on drums in place of Bill Ward, who last year was engaged in a well-publicized contract dispute with the band. Bummer though that is and as crappy and generic a title as 13 makes — especially this year — let’s not forget that Heaven and Hell‘s The Devil You Know also had a crap title and it was awesome. I’m not sure if I’m willing to stake anticipation on the difference between the vocals of Ronnie James Dio circa 2010 and Ozzy Osbourne in 2013, or Rick Rubin‘s production, but hell, is Geezer Butler playing bass on it? Yes? Well, okay then, I’ll listen. The world can do a lot worse than that and another batch of Tony Iommi riffs, whatever else may be in store.
Clutch, Earth Rocker
It’s a ripper. With Earth Rocker, Clutch reunite with Blast Tyrant producer Machine and the results are a record varied enough to keep some of the recent blues elements of the past couple albums (“Gone Cold”) while also showcasing a reinvigorated love of straight-up heavy rock numbers on tracks like “Crucial Velocity,” “Book, Saddle & Go” and “Cyborg Betty.” Longtime Clutch fans can expect a bigger guitar sound from Tim Sult, killer layering and much personality from vocalist Neil Fallon and yet another stellar performance from the best rhythm section in American heavy, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster. No doubt in my mind it’ll prove one of the year’s best when 2013 is done. Once more unto the breach!
Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse
Last month, I hosted a Devil to Pay video premiere for the Indianapolis-based rockers’ new track, “This Train Won’t Stop,” from the 7″ single of the same name that precedes the release of their Ripple Music debut full-length (fourth overall), Fate is Your Muse. If the 575-plus Thee Facebook “Likes” are anything to go by, anticipation for the album is pretty high. Reasonably so. When I saw Devil to Pay at last year’s SHoD fest, the new material was killer and the band seemed more confident than ever before. Stoked to hear how that translates to a studio recording and how the band has grown since 2009′s Heavily Ever After.
Egypt, Become the Sun
Technically speaking, Become the Sun is the full-length debut from North Dakota doomers Egypt. The band released their self-titled demo through MeteorCity in 2009 (review here), were broken up at the time, and reassembled with a new guitarist for Become the Sun– which is the only album on this list to have already been reviewed. I don’t know about a physical release date, but it’s available now digitally through iTunes and other outlets, and however you do so, it’s worth tracking down to get the chance to listen to it. Underrated Midwestern riffing, hopefully with a CD/LP issue coming soon.
The Flying Eyes, TBA
Currently holed up in Lord Baltimore Studios with producer Rob Girardi, Baltimore’s The Flying Eyes are reportedly putting the finishing touches on the follow-up to 2011′s immersive Done So Wrong, an album full of young energy and old soul. Along with Blaak Heat Shujaa above, I consider these dudes to be right at the forefront of the next generation of American heavy psych and I’m excited to hear what kind of pastoral blues works its way into their tracks when the album finally gets released. They’re a band you’re probably going to hear a lot about this year, so be forewarned.
Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man
The melodicism of Boston-based Gozu‘s second Small Stone full-length, The Fury of a Patient Man (I swear I just typed “The Fury of a Patient Mrs.”) is no less striking than its album cover. I’ve had this one for a while, have gotten to know it pretty well and my plan is to review it next week, so keep an eye out for that, but for now, I’ll just say that the sophomore outing is a fitting answer to the potential of Gozu‘s 2010 debut, Locust Season (review here) and marks the beginning of what already looks like another strong year for Small Stone. I never thought I’d be so into a song called “Traci Lords.”
Halfway to Gone, TBA
What I’d really like to see happen is for Halfway to Gone – who are high on my list of New Jersey hometown heroes and who haven’t had a new LP out since their 2004 self-titled — to put out a new record in 2013, for it to lay waste to everyone who hears it, and for the band to finally get the recognition they’ve long since deserved. I’ve been charged up on revisiting their three albums since I saw them at the Brighton Bar this past July and after a long wait, rumors, breakups, makeups, etc., I’ve got my hopes up that this year is when these dudes pull it together and make a new one happen. It’s been too long and this band is too good to just let it go.
Kings Destroy, TBA
Confession time: I have the Kings Destroy record. I’ve had it for a bit now. It rules. I don’t know when you’re gonna hear it, but it’s strange and eerie and kind of off the wall stylistically and it doesn’t really sound like anything else out there. Last I heard they’re looking for a label, and whoever ends up with it is lucky. I use a lot of descriptors for bands and their albums, but rarely will I go so far as to call something unique. This album is. If you’ve had the chance to check out songs like “The Toe” and “Turul” live, you know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t, then stick around because with all the sessions I’ve had with the tracks, I still feel outclassed by what these guys are doing. Shine on, you doomed weirdos.
The Kings of Frog Island, Volume IV
I keep going back to the video for “Long Live the King” that Leicester, UK, fuzz rockers The Kings of Frog Island put up back in October. No, really, I keep going back. It’s a good song and I keep listening to it. Just about any other details regarding their fourth album and first without guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt (Josiah, Cherry Choke), Volume IV, are nil, but periodic updates on the band’s Thee Facebooks have it that progress on the recording is being made, and in the meantime, I don’t seem to have any trouble paying return visits to “Long Live the King.” Hopefully Elektrohasch stays on board for a CD release, and hopefully it happens soon.
Several times over the last couple months I’ve had occasion to say it to people and I’ll say it here as well: I think Lo-Pan are the best American stoner rock band going right now. I was interested to see how they handled the bigger stage for their opening slot for High on Fire and Goatwhore (review here), and as ever, they killed. I haven’t the faintest idea what their recording plans might be, if they’ll even sit still long enough to put an album to tape in time to have it out in 2013 — I suspect it depends on what tour offers come up in the meantime — but new songs “Colossus” and “Eastern Seas” bode well for their being able to continue the course of momentum that the excellence of 2011′s Salvador(review here) and all their hard work before and since has put them on.
Queens of the Stone Age, TBA
It probably wouldn’t be fair to call the upcoming Queens of the Stone Age album a reunion between Josh Homme and Dave Grohl since the two also played together in Them Crooked Vultures and Grohl only drummed on Songs for the Deaf, but it’s exciting news anyway and could mean good things are coming from QOTSA, whose last outing was 2007′s comparatively lackluster Era Vulgaris. The big questions here are how the time apart from the band may or may not have affected Homme‘s songwriting and where he’s decided he wants to take the Queens sound. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Sungrazer & The Machine, Split
With the Strikes and Gutters tour already booked to support it (dates above; or here), Dutch upstart heavy psych jammers The Machine and Sungrazer have teamed up for a split release as well that’s bound to feature some of the year’s best fuzz. The two bands have a lot in common, but they’re pretty distinct from each other sonically too, and with The Machine guitarist/vocalist David Eering helming the recording, you can safely bet it’ll capture the live, jammy feel both groups share. Latest word has it that the mastered tracks are in-house, so watch for more to come as we get closer to the Valentine’s Day launch of the tour.
The Swedish fuzz juggernauts’ fourth album overall, this will be Truckfighters‘ first with new drummer McKenzo alongside the core songwriting duo of Dango and Ozo. They’ve been teasing recording updates and threatening song clips, but as soon as I run into something concrete, I’ll share. I’m especially looking forward to the Truckfighters album since it means they’ll likely come back to the US for another tour, and since 2009′s Mania (review here) was so damned brilliant. Not sure on a release date, but it’s high on the list of necessities anyway, however low it may appear alphabetically.
Valley of the Sun, TBA
All I’m going on in including Ohio-based desert rockers Valley of the Sun on this list is a New Year’s message they put out there that read, “Happy New Year, Brothers and Sisters!!! You can count on a Valley of the Sun full-length in 2013.” Hey, I’ve relied on less before, and even if you want to call it wishful thinking, the Cincinnati trio are due a debut full-length behind 2011′s righteous The Sayings of the Seers EP (review here). Even if it doesn’t show up until November or December, I’ll basically take it whenever the band gets around to releasing. Riffs are welcome year-round.
Well, I mean, yeah. Right? Yeah, well, sure. I mean. Well. Yeah. I mean, sure. Right? It’s a supergroup with YOB‘s Mike Scheidt on vocals, John Cobbett of Hammers of Misfortune on guitar, Sigrid Sheie of Hammers of Misfortune on bass and Aesop Dekker of Agalloch and Worm Ouroboros on drums. Album’s done, set for release on Profound Lore. So, I mean, you know, yeah. Definitely. No music has made its way to the public yet — though that can’t be far off — but either way, sign me the fuck up. Anywhere this one goes, I’m interested to find out how it gets there.
Vista Chino, TBA
After that lawsuit, it’s not like they could go ahead and call the band Kyuss Still Lives!, so the recently-announced Vista Chino makes for a decent alternative and is much less likely to provoke litigation. But still, the Kyuss Lives! outgrowth featuring former Kyuss members John Garcia, Nick Oliveri and Brant Bjork along with guitarist Bruno Fevery is of immediate consequence. I’m not sure what the timing on the release is, but they’ve already been through enough to get to this point that one hopes a new album surfaces before the end of 2013. What I want to know next is who’s recording the damn thing.
Yawning Man, Gravity is Good for You
Not much has been said in the time since I interviewed Gary Arce, guitarist and founder of influential desert rock stalwarts Yawning Man, about the 2LP Gravity is Good for Yourelease (the Raymond Pettibon cover for which you can see above), but the band has been confirmed for Desertfest since then and they’re playing in L.A. on Jan. 25, so they’re active for sure and presumably there’s been some progress on the album itself. It remains to be seen what form it will take when it surfaces, and the lineup of the band seems somewhat nebulous as well, but when there’s a desert, there’s Yawning Man, and there’s always a desert. 2010′s Nomadic Pursuits(review here) was a triumph, and deserves a follow-up.
Anyone else notice that the “20 Albums to Watch for” list has 22 albums on it? Maybe I wanted to see if you were paying attention. Maybe I can’t count. Maybe I just felt like including one more. Maybe I had 21 and then added Vista Chino after someone left a comment about it. The possibilities are endless.
So too is the list of bands I could’ve included here. Even as I was about halfway through, a new Darkthrone track surfaced from an album due Feb. 25 called The Underground Resistance, and news/rumors abound of various substance concerning offerings from YOB, Eggnogg, When the Deadbolt Breaks, Mars Red Sky, Asteroid, Apostle of Solitude, Windhand, Phantom Glue, the supergroup Corrections House, Kingsnake, Sasquatch — I’ve already made my feelings known on the prospect of a new Sleep record — news went up yesterday about Inter Arma‘s new one, and you know Wino‘s gonna have an album or two out before the end of the year, and he’s always up to something good, so 20, 22, 35, it could just as easily go on forever. Or at least very least the whole year.
If there’s anything I forgot, anything you want to include or dispute, comments are welcome and encouraged.
What do you say when staring into the face of the greatest album of all time? Fuck if I know.
For months, I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting a periodic feature highlighting the best and most influential albums in heavy rock, stoner rock, doom, whatever — a Canon of Heavy. All along I’ve known that, though I didn’t want it to be like a top-10 or to go by number or date or any other particular order, the first inductee into said canon would have to be Black Sabbath‘s 1971 masterpiece, Master of Reality. The rest of the time since has been trying to figure out what the hell to say about it.
Because while endless words have been written in its praise and its singular influence has bled into enough bands and records to make Helen of Troy’s thousand ships look paltry, the basic fact of the matter is that Master of Realitywas and is perfect, and that’s all the explanation it really needs.
No doubt I could stop right there and an entire section of the population who might see this post could only nod in agreement — “Yup.” — but it would be half-assed, and frankly, it’ll be more fun this way. Here are just a few of my reasons why it had to be Geezer Butler , Tony Iommi, Bill Ward and Ozzy Osbourne, and why Master of Reality had to be the first Canon of Heavy inclusion.
Is it the Best Album Ever?
Yeah, pretty much. Opinions vary and we can go back and forth forever about this or that record, what’s better about what, but when it comes down to it, Master of Realityreally is flawless. From the coughs that open “Sweet Leaf” to the last chord that closes “Into the Void,” there isn’t a moment misspent. Sure, you have interludes “Embryo” and “Orchid” and the whispered section after “Children of the Grave,” but even these are perfectly suited to their purpose, no longer than they need to be to bridge the gap to and from the song before into the next track while adding to the atmosphere.
And each of its main tracks was a defining moment. “Sweet Leaf,” “After Forever,” “Children of the Grave,” “Lord of this World,” “Solitude” and “Into the Void” — you could look at any one of those songs and mark out its influence, whether it’s “Sweet Leaf” codifying what decades later would in no small part define stoner rock or “After Forever” offering the earliest template for Christian metal — but more importantly to the idea of Master of Realityas a whole is how well they work with each other, driving you forward into the culmination of “Into the Void,” which comes as the final answer to successive exclamations of “this is the heaviest thing ever,” “no, this is the heaviest thing ever!” No matter how many times I hear Master of Reality, it never loses its power. One does not listen to it so much as one is brought into its countenance.
It was The Birth of The Heavy — and though it’s sold over two million copies since, it remains an underground treasure. You listen to Master of Realityand it’s not like putting on anything else, any other big release. The album connects on an individual level, and not just in a handshake-from-a-famous-person kind of way. Its thickened, sludgy lumber is the stuff of legend, but each legend is a personal, human story as well.
Third Time Around
We all know the cliche about thirds, so I’ll spare you that, but arriving in July 1971, Master of Reality came not even a full year after Black Sabbath‘s landmark second album, Paranoid and only 17 months after their self-titled debut, which is widely regarded as the moment that hard rock became heavy metal. Nonetheless, the growth the band underwent in that time — they toured as well, astoundingly — is stunning, and where Black Sabbathwas formative and raw and Paranoidwas chaotic and bitter, the third album refined all of Sabbath‘s ideas to that point into a drug-fueled lurch that they’d never again match. In their rush to get the next LP out and maintain their chart position, they wrote the single best collection of songs heavy music has ever known.
They were, by their own admission, drugged out of their minds at the time. And yet, their songwriting would never be in this space again. Black Sabbathand Paranoidare both truly great albums, and I don’t doubt that in time they’ll be included here as well, but the reason it’s Master of Reality first is because Master of Realitymarks that crucial moment where “heavy” became more than just a mindset and truly manifested itself sonically in Iommi‘s guitar and Butler‘s bass, where the riffs came to ultimate prominence, and where the band hit the intersection of knowing what kind of music they wanted to be making without over-thinking their processes. The bassline of “After Forever,” the unmitigated stomp of “Lord of this World,” the percussive thrust of “Children of the Grave” — how much time did they actually spend on these songs? Hours?
With Master of Reality, Sabbath found the balance sound-wise they’d never be able to find in a real life filled with narcotic excess and personal drama. Further, it’s the most efficient album they ever made. By the time they’d record Vol. 4in May 1972, that moment had simply passed, and while they were by no means done and there was still plenty more for them to say in their original incarnation, Master of Realitywas as crucial as they ever got.
There’s ongoing debate about whether it’s even Osbourne singing or Ward, but what’s special about the penultimate cut on the album is that it’s no less heavy than anything around it for its lack of assault. Sure, “Black Sabbath” from the same album was a creeper and “Planet Caravan” is a better execution of psychedelia, but “Solitude” is among the purest executions of doom ever recorded. You’re not journeying through space so much as through the depths of your own wretchedness, and long gone are tales of mysterious demons at the foot of your bed. All that’s left is yourself and the miserable bastard you’ve become:
My name it means nothing, my fortune means less My future is shrouded in dark wilderness Sunshine is far away, clouds linger on Everything I possessed, now they are gone
Even “Paranoid,” which one could argue covered some of the same depressive lyrical ground, didn’t dare unmask itself to such an extent, and when they tried again to cover similar ground on “Changes” from Vol. 4, the result was a laughable farce of emotionality. The minimalist blues of “Solitude” is unmatched in the Sabbath catalog, which even elsewhere offers righteous judgment (“Lord of this World”) and brazen defiance (“Children of the Grave”), but never again the same kind of peculiar ambience and first-person exploration of damaged psyche. It is beautiful and doomed in like measure, and the lead-in it provides the introductory and signature riff of “Into the Void” gives both songs a context emblematic of the strength of the album as a whole work.
Goes without saying, again. Go grab a CD or record off your shelf of any even moderately heavy variety, and there’s a good chance that whether or not the band knows it, there’s some aspect of Master of Realityto be found therein. The album is elemental in the actual, scientific sense — providing the pieces through which compounds can be made. A lot of Black Sabbath from this period is like that. With Master of Realitythough, this was the record the first two were driving toward and the record that the remaining five released by the original lineup were coming from.
In terms of a Canon of Heavy, Blue Cheer and Hendrix were heavy before it, and others like Budgie, Atomic Rooster, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin ran concurrent, but none could stand in line with its crushing weight or sheer sonic mass. And none have since, Sabbath included. One need only name a band from either the heavy rock, doom or sludge genres to find someone who’s tried, pivotal or obscure, but Master of Reality stands unto itself, carved in stone. Time has not diminished it, and I think if time tried, the record would simply kick its ass, which is the same treatment it has dealt out to everything else in its path for the last 41 years.
It had been a while since I’d been to the Second Saturday Record Show in flood-prone Wayne, NJ. In fact, relatively speaking, my load of CD acquisitions has been light of late, a combination of pricing myself out of the market, saving cash to move, being annoyed at digital promos, etc. But Saturday was the record show and I happened to be in the state, so I wasn’t going to miss it.
The Wayne Firehouse, which is where the show has been held since before time began, was as packed as I’ve ever seen it, and with more vinyl. Believe the hype, I guess. People were pushing through the aisles at crowded tables, and even though I was working under my self-imposed limit to CDs and tapes, I wavered when I happened upon an original LP of the first Goatsnake record. I didn’t buy it, because it was $75, but I came close.
Treasures persisted though. Here’s a quick rundown.
Among the CDs, the self-titled Electric Wizard was the highlight, no doubt about. Original jewel case issue on Rise Above. I’d only had the reissue before that paired it with Come My Fanaticsand the digipak that came out even later, so to get the first version was a treat. Of course the album rules, but I already knew that going into it.
Tapes were three for two bucks at one seller’s table, so I grabbed the Dio, Sacred Heart, and Black Sabbath, Mob Rules and Born Againtapes from him, as well as the three-tape set of Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks‘ The 2,000 Year Old Man, which is a classic. The Ozzy tape came from his as well, which threw off the three-for-two thing, but it was worth the extra 50 cents anyway. I think actually I only wound up paying $2.50 anyhow. Fucking awesome.
The Hendrix tape in the top right corner I bought off a different dude for a buck. It’s a dub of “Top Gear”/BBC stuff (click here to pop up the full tracklist), and yeah, it’s probably all been officially released at this point, but it fucking rules anyway, front to back. 1967. Gorgeous.
The 1996 debut by Canada’s Sheavy was in the same bin as the Electric Wizard (and some Death SS, which I picked up as well), but might have been an even bigger surprise, if only because it was so random. I’ve never been really hooked by the band — though they do take Sabbath worship to a different level entirely and there’s something inherently admirable in that — but the record’s cool and it’s got a handmade-looking foldout included detailing the bonus tracks and even a little pyramid-shaped piece of paper that seems to be a kind of mail-order catalog:
And here’s the foldout, when folded out:
Pretty cool that that stuff would be with the album after all these years, and in impeccable shape at that. The CD was obviously well loved, kept out of sunlight, and so on. Hard not to appreciate stumbling on something like that, no matter how attached to Sheavy‘s work I may or may not be.
One of my main reasons for going in the first place, however, was the hope of picking up a turntable on the cheap. I’ve invested about as much time and effort into trying to repair the one at my office as I care to, and it’s time to move on. They didn’t have any at the record show, which was a bummer, but en route to other errands, The Patient Mrs. found a $40 Best Buy gift card that’s apparently been in my wallet since 2009. Could only be providence, right?
We shot over to the local big-box — a desert of outdated technologies (which actually gave it a certain charm in my eyes) — and grabbed the floor model of one of those “put your LPs on your iPod” turntables for what turned out to be $24 after the gift card was applied. Brought it to the office this morning, and of course it didn’t work. Now I’m 0-2 and I’ve got two busted record players one on top of the other on top of my office shelf unit, which I think makes me some kind of warped reality redneck.
Some you win, some you lose. I’ll try to return it and see if I can give it another go, and I’ve got plenty to keep me busy in the meantime. If nothing else, the growling and howling in “Hound Dog” on that Hendrix tape has the little dog Dio eyeballing the speaker curiously, and that’s bound to be hours of entertainment. Rock and roll.
It only happened once, in 1994, on the first Nativity in Black tribute to Black Sabbath. At the time, The Obsessed was signed to Columbia, owned by Sony, who released the tribute, and Wino came together in a one-shot recording project with Rob Halford (fresh off Fight‘s War of Words) and the original Sabbath rhythm section of bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward called Bullring Brummies. Yeah, sure, there were guitarist Brian Tilse (Fight) and Jimmy Wood on harmonica too, but seriously, Wino, Rob Halford, Geezer and Bill Ward? Covering Sabbath? I was amazed to find out it hadn’t been a Wino Wednesday pick before.
No matter, though, because it is now. That tribute also had C.O.C. (another Columbia band back then — amazing coincidence) covering “Lord of this World” and Type O Negative doing “Black Sabbath” with the original lyrics as opposed to their “From the Satanic Perspective” version. I don’t know if that necessarily makes it worth taking off the shelf, but if you haven’t heard any of it in a while, at least the “The Wizard” cover is worth another look. And in case you haven’t done the math on the timeframe there, 1994 was 18 years ago. Enjoy feeling old. I know I do.
I guess an album from Bullring Brummies probably would’ve been too much to ask for, but it’s nice to think on what might have been if they’d gone for it. One images if they’d decided to be a real band, they probably would’ve gotten a better name.
Posted in Features on August 7th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Strictly speaking, the name of the CD is War Pigs, but I wanted there to be no confusion that what I’m talking about is Black Sabbath‘s gig at L’Olympia in Paris, France, from December 20, 1970. I know I’ve posted about it here before, and it’s probably the most famous of the many Sabbath bootlegs out there (if it’s second to anything, it’s Asbury Park, 1975; even that’s debatable), but it’s something I’ve gone back to a few times this summer for repeat listens, and it well earns its place as the Album of the Summer of the Week.
Whatever happened afterwards and whatever seemingly unending trail of bullshit infighting follows the band to this very day, in December 1970, Black Sabbath were basically dopey kids. This show was recorded a mere two months after Paranoidwas released, and the performance is signature. From Geezer Butler‘s bass righteousness in “Hand of Doom” to Ozzy Osbourne even then not being able to remember the lyrics to “Iron Man,” Tony Iommi‘s burgeoning mastery of the riff and Bill Ward‘s manic fills, listening to War Pigs they sound like a band poised to create the greatest album ever — which of course they’d do with Master of Reality, released the following summer.
But War Pigsis overflowing with potential and if there’s a better way to end an hour-long set than “Fairies Wear Boots” — the verses of which are murdered here to hilarious effect — I’ve never encountered it. This being the age of ubiquitous online bootleggery (the up and down merits of which are a debate for another time altogether), the entire Paris 1970 set has made its way onto YouTube in glorious high definition, so please feel free to enrich your overheated summer afternoon with it below.
Posted in 70 RPMs on July 11th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
In his third column for the site, Roadsaw bassist Tim Catz takes a look at a few of the “Evil Women” from classic rock’s days of yore. From ELO to Black Sabbath, there never seems to be a shortage of witchy ladies to serve as muse. Please enjoy:
Tim Catz’ 70 RPMs
It is a premise so old and familiar it’s hardly worth mentioning. But for the purposes of this article I’ll explain: The idea is women are evil. They have been since the dawn of time. And the badder they are, the more inspiring they are those who honor them in song, story and art. Just ask Adam about Eve. Shakespeare had Macbeth. Greek mythology had Pandora. And rock ‘n’ roll in the ‘70s had scores of hit records about them.
Probably the most popular was Electric Light Orchestra‘s “Evil Woman.” Taken from their 1975 album Face the Music, it was the band’s first Top 10 hit on both sides of the Atlantic. With its sing-song chorus and crazy phasor string breaks, “Evil Woman” very succinctly packed every ELO pop-rock trademark neatly into a four-minute spoonful of pure FM sugar that still gets ample play to this day on “classic hits” radio.
Crow‘s “Evil Woman (Don’t Play Your Games with Me)” may have shared the same name, but not the same music, nor the same popularity. Driven by a muscular bluesy rhythm section, the Minneapolis quartet was quite surprised to find an “enhanced” version of their original “Evil Woman” on their Columbia Records debut. Whether against their wishes or even unbeknownst to Crow members, label bigwigs conspired with the studio engineer and overdubbed a full horn section over the song in an effort to cash in on the wildly popular Chicago/Blood Sweat and Tears sound of the day. And it worked. Crow‘s “Evil Woman” was a Top 20 hit, peaking at #19.
My personal favorite is Spooky Tooth‘s version. Deep on side one of Spooky Two, their nine-minute version of Larry Weiss‘ much covered original finds frontman Gary Wright in prime form, with his ragged voice switching between a pleading growl to high-pitched accusations, all while smashing on organ keys. The entire record resonates with a loose rough ‘n’ ready sound, which is nowhere more evident than on this track. Of course Gary Wright would soon leave the Tooth of Spook and smooth out much of his rough edge in a bid for the Pop charts. “Dream Weaver” and “My Love Is Alive” are evidence of such.
Whether its “Witchy Woman” by The Eagles or “Devil Woman” by Cliff Richards, one thing remains certain even to this day: Bad girls are good for rock ‘n’ roll.
* Black Sabbath recorded a version of Crow‘s “Evil Woman” and released it as their first single. Though it didn’t appear on their Warner Bros. debut in the US, it was on the UK version.
* Before everyone sends terse emails my way, yes, I know both Spooky Tooth and Crow released their versions in 1969. That’s close enough for me…
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 10th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
First off, to a lot of people, he doesn’t. For better or worse, probably the majority of those in the legions who would attend the original-member reunion Black Sabbath announced in November either don’t know or don’t care about “the drummer.” They’re there to see Ozzy Osbourne sing “Paranoid” and maybe watch Tony Iommi play the “Iron Man” riff. Geezer Butler‘s bass and Bill Ward‘s drumming are secondary concerns.
These casual fans, those who would just show up, probably don’t realize it was Butler who wrote the lyrics Osbourne sang or that the rhythm section played such a huge role in making Black Sabbath‘s earliest records — 1970′s Black Sabbath and Paranoid, 1971′s Master of Reality and 1972′s Vol. 4 — as heavy and groundbreaking and stylistically definitive as they were. And even if they did realize, or even if they heard the band themselves say so — I know Iommi said it flat out in the Classic Albums: Paranoid DVD — they still wouldn’t care.
Outside of the context of the heavy rock underground that still so vehemently flies the flag of and takes influence from those four albums in particular, Black Sabbath is a heavy metal footnote en route to Osbourne‘s solo career and the commercialization of metal that first took place in the ’80s and continues to this day. Black Sabbath is important, but they’re more important because Pantera or Slipknot or Metallica says they are than because Master of Reality was a life-changing event.
Last Thursday, when Bill Ward released his statement that the contract he was offered was “unsignable,” the internet almost immediately blew up with support for his case. My feed on Thee Facebooks — which, though I don’t use it as a measure of overall cultural relevance, at least lets me know what people are talking about — still has posts of pro-Ward propaganda memes like those I’ve included with this post: “Back Stabbath,” “No Bill Ward, No Black Sabbath,” “Bill Sabbath” t-shirts. Sloganeering from people who (I would say rightfully) appreciate Ward‘s contributions to the original lineup. In an era that produced many great British drummers — John Bonham, Carl Palmer, Ian Paice, etc. — Ward‘s work stands out as singularly characteristic. No one before or since sounds quite like him, executes a fill quite the same way or keeps the same kind of swaggering beat that makes “Lord of this World” one of the heaviest songs ever put to tape.
Iommi, Butler and Osbourne released a response to Ward expressing their regret that the drummer had, “declined publicly to participate in our current Black Sabbath plans.” Somewhat predictably, it wasn’t long before Sharon Osbourne was scapegoated as trying to ripoff Ward or pull some shady business deal. It was a quick leap from:
Sometimes I think “Sharon‘s a cunt” is the heavy metaller’s “These colors don’t run.” She’s enacted several truly despicable moves in the past — whether it was pelting Iron Maiden with eggs at Ozzfest or replacing the original drum and bass tracks on the first two Ozzy Osbourne solo records — and I think she often gets blamed for the tarnish to the public perception of Ozzy that came out of his buffoonish portrayal on the reality show The Osbournes, which saw him go quickly from the “Prince of Darkness” to a helpless, hapless oaf in the minds of fans and pop culture at large.
Blaming Sharon Osbourne for shrewd, callous or ethically questionable business decisions undertaken on behalf of her husband — she’s his manager, after all — is convenient, and sometimes, fun. She’s an easy scapegoat, and putting the fault on her saves longtime fans from accepting the reality that Ozzy himself — who’s nothing if not likable — is probably behind or at very least approving of what’s seen as happening completely without his input. Whether she’s a cunt or not, I don’t know. I’ve never met her or spoken to her, and I think a lot of women in business are open to being cast as bitches because of their gender where the same actions would be celebrated by their male counterparts. I’d have a hard time celebrating a dude for having Mike Bordin and Robert Trujillo replace Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake‘s recorded tracks, but I probably wouldn’t call him a cunt for having done it. An asshole, maybe.
So I don’t think it’s so much a question of whether or not Sharon Osbourne is at least occasionally a classless jerk — history bears out that opinion of her as it does of most of us — as it is of how the negative view of her is cast by fans of Black Sabbath and Ozzy. Yoko didn’t break up The Beatles and Sharon isn’t ruining Black Sabbath. I won’t pretend to know the complex personal and professional histories between the members of the band, but last I heard, Iommi owned the band’s name, and as he’s been the only consistent member throughout the band’s many lineup changes over the last four decades, it’s easy to assume he’s the one calling the shots, not Sharon, or even Ozzy.
Where that puts Ward‘s position in this whole thing, I don’t know. The perception when Heaven and Hell got going and Ward wasn’t involved was that the conflict was between he and vocalist Ronnie James Dio, but maybe that was only part of the story, or none of it at all. It seems like every time Black Sabbath picks up in one incarnation or another, Ward is a question. He initially left the Dio-fronted lineup of the band after 1980′s Heaven and Hell album, came back for 1983′s Born Again, left again, rejoined with the original lineup in 1997, then left citing health reasons, and intermittently took part in touring after that. When I saw them on Ozzfest in 2005, I remember thinking to myself that I should appreciate Ward‘s performance particularly, since I didn’t know when I’d see him play drums again.
Which I suppose brings us around to the original question at the top of this post: Why Bill Ward matters. Black Sabbath has a long history without him, and it’s not like he was writing the riffs or the lyrics or singing on the songs. Tommy Clufetos from Ozzy‘s solo band can play those parts convincingly — as could any number of other drummers, so if you’re going to say one particular lineup of Black Sabbath is definitive and the rest aren’t, well, there are a lot of people out there collecting royalties on Sabbath records they played on who’d probably argue the point.
Bill Ward matters in the songwriting. When Black Sabbath took the stage for their press conference/announcement last November, they established the premise of a new album with Iommi, Osbourne, Butler and Ward. Together with producer Rick Rubin and apparent fan ambassador Henry Rollins (who elected him to that role remains a mystery, but he keeps showing up in it), they discussed what a new Black Sabbath album with the original lineup would be, what it would sound like and how it would come together. They said, in effect, “We are a group of musicians who have come together to create something that is definitively Black Sabbath.”
If Black Sabbath is going to be defined then as the original lineup — and I’d gladly argue that was the tone of the press conference — then without Bill Ward‘s contributions to the songs in writing his own drum parts, the character of the band changes. It’s not the reunion they said it would be, but instead a new incarnation of the band that happens to be fronted by Osbourne and have Butler on bass. Those passionate about the idea of regrouping the original Sabbath are right to feel betrayed: Without Bill Ward in the songwriting process, they invariably won’t be getting the product they were promised.
And in that, Ward is not blameless. If he felt his contract untenable, he shouldn’t have taken the stage with the band in November and said he was on board for the reunion. However much you like these people or think they’re not out to screw you over — and however much they might not actually be — that’s just bad business, and a band that makes as much money as Black Sabbath does on a reunion tour is unavoidably a business. It’s naive to think otherwise.
Best case scenario for a new Black Sabbath album was that the original lineup put out a record that was a decent answer to Heaven and Hell‘s The Devil You Know, that wasn’t a complete AutoTuned embarrassment that sullied the already-tried legacy of the band’s highest creative peaks. But even so, the proposition was special because it was the four of them doing it. When I interviewed Eric Wagner in December, he discussed his relationship with his former bandmates in Trouble and said, ” Those four guys are the only ones who know what it was like to do what we did… I can talk to them and they know exactly what I mean and what it felt like and what we went through.”
No doubt in my mind that Tommy Clufetos is a capable drummer. He wouldn’t have been in Osbourne‘s band if he wasn’t. But in terms of the bond between the original members of Black Sabbath — everything they’ve seen and done together, how they’ve triumphed and fallen apart and hated each other and been best friends — no one else can stand in for Bill Ward. That’s why Bill Ward matters.
But not only that. Bill Ward matters to the fans. I’m not talking about the people above who show up on a Friday night because it’s something to do. I’m talking about those of us who, to one degree or another, live by this music. Ozzy Osbourne is a famous person; untouchable. Tony Iommi is a god; thoroughly unapproachable. Geezer Butler — bless his genius heart — is the (endearing) model for doom-dude awkwardness. Of the original four, Bill Ward is the one I believe most when he says he loves Black Sabbath‘s fans. Whether he actually does or not is a secondary concern at best — he engages the followers of Black Sabbath in a way and on a level that the other founding members simply do not.
For a band whose influence has had the cross-generational reach that Sabbath‘s has had, that’s an important function to play. Without Bill Ward, the fans to whom the band really matters can’t fool ourselves into thinking they’re doing it for any reason other than the money, and even if they worked everything out at this point and Ward rejoined the songwriting process and they picked up right where they left off before going to the UK to work on account of Iommi‘s lymphoma diagnosis and treatment, some of “the magic” is already gone.
That wouldn’t be the case if Bill Ward didn’t matter.
Admittedly, it’s a cruel, heartless question to ask, and yet, can there be any doubt as to the answer? Could anything ever top Master of Reality? I ask the question mostly because I want to see if anyone sticks up for Vol. 4, which, apart from “Changes,” is about as flawless as an album can get. With the recent terrible news of Tony Iommi‘s lymphoma diagnosis, I think we’re due for a good time. So let’s have some fun.
Earliest Black Sabbath was nothing if not a coalescing of various elements into a cohesive whole. A kind of cultural distillation, ground down and remade into the singular most formative basis of doom — the album Black Sabbath. Only months later in 1970, they released Paranoid and refined the darkness of the first record, adding range and sonic breadth. While the title-track became the band’s signature piece, “Electric Funeral” and “Fairies Wear Boots” grew into the anthems of a subculture within a subculture, and they remain so to this day.
However, every time I put on Master of Reality and listen to it straight through, with each successive track, I say to myself, “This is the heaviest shit ever made.” And each song proves the prior assessment wrong — yes, even “Solitude” — until finally, “Into the Void” offers clear and indisputable truth of riff. It is pure in its muck, and as perfect as stoner rock has ever gotten. The standard by which the genre is and should be measured: the heaviest shit ever made.
But what about Vol. 4? It seems to have an answer for every challenge Master of Reality throws at it. A “Snowblind” for “Sweet Leaf,” “Supernaut” for “Into the Void,” “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes” for “Lord of this World.” 1972 found Black Sabbath a more realized beast with a perfected heavy rock that seemed to already know the tropes of the metal genre it was shaping.
I could go on. I won’t. Is “Changes” enough to hold back Vol. 4 from standing up to Master of Reality? There are people who consider “Solitude” a misstep of similar magnitude. I leave it to you to decide in the comments.
You know the scenario. You can only pick one, so which is it?
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 9th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Stole this news right from Blabbermouth, and I expect I’m not the only person to do so this afternoon. Wishes for a complete recovery go without saying, and I know that headbangers, riffers and all the other miscreants around the world who’ve been touched by Tony Iommi and Black Sabbath‘s work over the years have the man in their thoughts today.
Legendary Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi has been diagnosed with the early stages of lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphocytes, a type of cell that forms part of the immune system.
Iommi, 63, is currently working with his doctors to establish the best treatment plan and remains upbeat and determined to make a full and successful recovery.
This comes as Black Sabbath — Ozzy Osbourne (vocals), Tony Iommi (guitar), Geezer Butler (bass) and Bill Ward (drums) — are writing and recording their first album in 33 years in Los Angeles (still set for release this fall) with producer Rick Rubin. They will now go to the UK to continue to work with Tony.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 11th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Mike H. posted the link on the forum to a Billboard article of the announcement. I guess I should be excited about this, since it’s Sabbath, but really, does a Rick Rubin-produced new Black Sabbath record with Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward sound like a good idea? I was kind of hopeful for an Iommi collaboration with Ian Gillan after the Whocares single was released earlier this year, but Ozzy-fronted Sabbath? As much as I hate to say it, I’m skeptical.
That said, any excuse to see Geezer Butler play bass is good enough for me…
Here’s the news, pilfered from the above-mentioned industry trade:
BlackSabbath is reuniting to record its first studio album with original frontman OzzyOsbourne since 1978, and will support it with a massive 2012 tour, sources have confirmed to Billboard.com.
The group made the announcement during a press conference today (Nov. 11) at the Whiskey A-Go-Go in Los Angeles, where Sabbath played its first show in the city exactly 41 years ago. BlackSabbath will headline DownloadFestival, which will take place between June 8-10 in DoningtonPark, England. Meanwhile, RickRubin will produce the group’s comeback album, which is expected to be released in fall 2012 through Vertigo/Universal.
Rumors of new Sabbath activity have been swirling for months, with Osbourne recently telling Billboard.com that new material was “a very, very strong possibility. It’s in the very early stages, so we haven’t recorded anything yet.”
Guitarist TonyIommi, who wrote extensively about the band in his new book Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell With Black Sabbath, also told Billboard.com that he regrouped with Osbourne, bassist GeezerButler and drummer BillWard at Osbourne‘s California home earlier this year to play some music, “For a bit of fun, and to see if we could all play. It was good, but it was just purely, ‘Let’s have a go and see what happens.’”
Posted in Reviews on August 25th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Last night, The Patient Mrs. and I went to see the new documentary God Bless Ozzy Osbourne at its New Jersey “special premiere event.” I had posted the press release on the news forum last week, but the short version is the movie was produced by Jack Osbourne, directed by Mike Fleiss and Mike Piscitelli, and promised “the most honest portrait” of his father (Ozzy, duh) through his years with Black Sabbath and as a mind-blowingly successful solo artist.
Now obviously, to tell the whole story would require a 17-hour Ken Burns special and then some — as Ozzy has simply led that much life — but though God Bless Ozzy Osbourne started out promising by charting his childhood and Black Sabbath‘s formation and first several records, the movie soon took a turn and abandoned that method of storytelling, jumping directly from a scene of current Ozzy watching and being disgusted by the video for “The Ultimate Sin” to the first season of the MTV reality show The Osbournes, which came some 16 years later, and shifting the focus from his sundry triumphs and inebriated antics to his getting clean and, as Sharon Osbourne put it in one of her many dime-store-therapist-lingo interview segments, “growing up.”
That’s fine. I went into God Bless Ozzy Osbourne thinking it was probably going to be a one-sided take on the man’s life, perhaps some effort to restore the dignity that the last decade has stripped him of (The Osbournes playing no small part in that, but by no means being the only misstep), and that’s precisely what it was. The fact is that he’s an entertaining interview — I’ve never been so fortunate myself — and that alone is worth watching. Tony Iommi appeared three or four times, and since the movie-current live footage sprinkled throughout had Zakk Wylde on guitar, I’m guessing it was from 2008-2009, right around the time Iommi and Osbourne were embroiled in that lawsuit over the rights to the name Black Sabbath. I guess they were lucky to get him at all, if that’s the case.
But even so, the “most honest portrait” it wasn’t. Scenes of Ozzy‘s kids from his first and second marriage saying he was a shitty father popped up and were gone with little examination or criticism, flashing back and forth to a current interview thread of Ozzy talking about it, and he still couldn’t remember what year his first daughter was born. In addition, in talking about his relationship with Sharon, they laid out the timing that it began roughly two years before he divorced his first wife, but never mentioned it as an affair, the two of them laughing instead that they were either in bed, on the bus, or on stage at that point in their lives. Har har. And when talking about their marriage, Ozzy says he wanted to start a family and that’s why he married Sharon, completely neglecting to mention his two prior children, who just a few minutes ago, were remembered as begging him not to leave them.
So really, it’s got its issues. Leaving the theater, I couldn’t help but wonder about the footage they left out. They didn’t even interview Zakk Wylde! Robert Trujillo, who played bass with Ozzy‘s band for a while, is never mentioned as having done so, instead showing up as a representative of Metallica — which is laughable — and since you apparently can’t say anything about Black Sabbath these days without Henry Rollins showing up, he was there. Tommy Lee told a few choice stories of touring with Ozzy in 1985, and Rudy Sarzo gave a heartfelt reminisce of the day Randy Rhoads died, but there was a lot they left out, both positive and negative. Here are the five things that most stuck out to me:
1. Master of Reality
After recounting the first two Sabbath albums, they mentioned 1971′s Master of Reality, showed the cover, and then brushed it aside to talk about Vol. 4. Not for nothing, but Master of Reality has been scientifically proven to be the greatest album of all time. They’ve done tests. In labs. Nothing is better. I suppose I shouldn’t complain, because Technical Ecstasy didn’t get mentioned at all. Seriously. Like it didn’t exist. No love for “Rock & Roll Doctor.”
This was a real surprise, especially with the time spent giving the highlights of Ozzy‘s career. The festival of which he was the namesake? Nothing about it ever appeared in the movie.
3. Jake E. Lee
Nope. The guy basically saved Ozzy‘s post-Randy Rhoads career. And nothing.
4. The second, third and fourth seasons of The Osbournes
You’d imagine in watching God Bless Ozzy Osbourne that someone tricked the family into filming their lives for MTV. I think it’s Kelly at one point (might be Jack) who says something about people thinking it was funny, but it was really watching their family fall apart because of her father’s drinking and drug use. Meanwhile, they raked in shitloads of cash on that and kept it going for three years! If it’s that awful, even if you’re contractually obligated, pull out and take the lawsuit. Aimee Osbourne continues to look like a young woman who has her shit together.
5. Any music after 1986.
No No More Tears, no Ozzmosis. In the live footage, Ozzy sings some of “No More Tears,” but no studio album after Bark at the Moon is discussed in detail, and neither is the reunion with Black Sabbath in 1997, the retirement tour, or even the names of the people in the current (as of the movie) band. Mike Bordin is shown playing drums a few times, and Wylde makes regular appearances on stage, but it looks like the camera is actively trying to avoid Rob “Blasko” Nicholson.
I’m glad Ozzy Osbourne is sober. In God Bless Ozzy Osbourne, toward the end of the film, he is shown driving, talking about getting his driver’s license and wanting to have his shit together, feeling like he loves himself for the first time in his life. He speaks clearly and stands up straight and looks nothing like the bumbling man in the garden yelling, “Sharon!” This is all wonderful. I mean it. I also think that part of having that ability to truly be comfortable with who you are means accepting your failures as well as your successes. You could easily say he didn’t make the film, and he didn’t — Sharon is listed as executive producer and Jack is given the aforementioned producer credit — but there’s no question it’s a favorable take rather than a genuine examination of his career and life.
It’s one side of a story to which there are probably 50 other sides, and I’m sure you could make a 90-minute documentary about the first Sabbath album and it would seem too short, but if the project is too much to chew, then what’s accomplished by putting it out there anyway is a few entertaining stories, choice interviews, some live footage (the 1974 California Jam is always welcome), and nothing approaching the raw analysis promised. So it was.