Bit slow on the uptake here, I admit; but as a fan of the original Black Sabbath and an increasingly uninterested observer from a distance of ‘Sabbath’ and Ozzy’s subsequent work I’ve been reluctant to give the latest reunion a chance. Anyway, this is the track God is Dead that the 3/4 line-up have been premiering on the current world tour:
Initial impressions do little to dispel the notion that rock is a young person’s game. This is Sabbath-by-numbers pure and simple: the riffage couldn’t be anyone but Iommi, or at least 30 years back it couldn’t. In the wake of the Doom/Stoner rock movement that Sabbath did so much to pioneer, however, it feels over-familiar and as comfortable as a much-worn and faded black tee, which isn’t what rock’n’roll ought to be about.
I’ve no doubt that the song plays well live, and slots in nicely alongside such classics as Hand of Doom, Electric Funeral and of course, the mighty eponymous title-track; but it plods rather than compels.
Whilst (producer, Rick) Rubin has clearly fulfilled his trademark remit of reconnecting Sabbath with their characteristic sound, one can’t help but wish the band had had the courage to push the envelope a bit more with a younger, more fiery act at the helm (I’m thinking of Rush – a band of similar vintage – and their last two recordings with Nick Raskulinecz).
Then again, maybe they’re playing it safe by trailing the album launch with a single that harks back to past glories and the album is an altogether more diverse affair? Sabbath are often – rightly – acknowledged as pioneers of the ‘metal’ sound: what casual listeners often miss is just how fearlessly inventive they became in the space of that initial six-album-long burst of post-adolescent expression. Departure tracks such as soulful piano ballad, Changes and the rolling, psychedelic brainwash of Planet Caravan; the jazzy inflections of Sabbra Cadabra, Am I Going Insane‘s Bolero and the choral backing on Supertzar. Much of their output wasn’t really ‘metal’ at all, and their last two ‘proper’ albums (Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage) are as exploratory in their way as The Beatles (The Beatles), Strangeways Here We Come (The Smiths), Signals (Rush), Zen Arcade (Hüsker Dü) or any other high-watermark of rock inventiveness you care to name.
My main gripe with the post-Ozzy years of Sabbath‘s career is just how quickly it became a meat-and-potatoes hard rock band, with a preponderance for cheesy Dungeons & Dragons lyrics. Here’s hoping upcoming release, 13 has more to offer than that…
here’s a couple more tracks the Sabs have been airing on the current tour – thanks to Atleastimhousebroken from AMetalStateOfMind for mentioning that they were doing the rounds, below…
The End of the Beginning has a similar feel to God is Dead, very much in the mould of classic Oz-era Sabbath. Methademic – one of three bonus tracks on the ‘special edition’ CD release – by contrast, sounds more like an Ozzy solo song to me. The main riff is punchy and powers the song along at a good, headbanging pace; and whilst it lacks the compelling melodic hook of say Paranoid or Sabbra Cadabra, I can see it stirring up the moshpit some. A direct, uptempo hard rocker.
I refrained previously from getting into the moshpit of critical opinion re the two big elephants in the room, which is to say a) the absence of Mr Ward behind the drumkit and, b) Ozzy‘s sometimes shortcomings in the vocal department. In light of hearing these live recordings, however, I have to say I’m impressed on the second count. Osborne was never a great singer, but his voice and delivery were always distinctive and an integral part of the Sabbath sound; and he sounds great on the Melbourne recordings. For me, though, Ward‘s contribution to the band’s feel is always going to be missed. With respect to the likes of Vinny Appice, Mike Bordin and Brad Wilk – more than capable players – who have deputised over the years; nobody ever made Sabbath swing the way he did.
And in other metal news, it has been announced that Slayer guitarist, songwriter and founder-member, Jeff Hanneman has died from liver failure. He was 49. Along with Metallica, Slayer were amongst the early pioneers of the ’80s Thrash Metal sound which is currently enjoying something of a resurgence. As well as drawing on the sound of Punk, New Wave and NWOBHM acts such as Misfits, Killing Joke and Judas Priest, Slayer were big Sabbath fans as can be heard in the clip below which is included here as a tribute to Hanneman.