As the summer ebbs and flows on the shores of North East New England, I am kept entertained by the various releases heading my way. This week I have one more DVD and three albums to share with you.
Black Sabbath: Classic Albums: Paranoid
This was released to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of this classic heavy-metal album. It is quite a treat for metal fans. Once the Sabbath fan gets over just how long it's been, he or she will enjoy a wonderful examination of how the band went about making this classic. Unlike most releases in this series, we have the entire band giving their take, as none of them have popped their clogs yet.
Obviously part of the fun of watching this is actually trying to understand what Ozzy has to say. My English wife was at times hard pressed to understand Ozzy’s mumblings about the album recording. One thing that is clear that Ozzy is far less the nut in the front of the band and more an integral part of what made Sabbath tick. What might surprise some is the fact that he clearly has a range of singing few thought existed.
What fascinated me is that quite often the band developed songs with the help of Ozzy while he sung random words that “fit” with the music. Once the music was completed, then the lyrics were completed. Ditto Iommi’s description of coming to grips with his accident-shortened fingers and his finding another famous guitarist who suffered a similar fate.
There is much to interest a Black Sabbath fan on this DVD and those with an interest in classic metal releases would be wise to get a copy. An excellent glimpse into what made Black Sabbath Mark 1 such an amazing triumph of metal over adversity.
Stormzone: Dead Dealer
This lot hail from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and clearly have a fondness for classic heavy metal. What strikes me on first listen is that singer Harv Harbinson admires Blaze Bayley (of Wolfsbane, Iron Maiden, and Blaze fame).
In fact, on several tracks the band sounds just like Blaze-era Iron Maiden. Not exactly the most successful or laudable era for Maiden, so an odd thing to evoke. Then again, Neal Kay, who championed Maiden early on co-produced the album. On the last couple of tracks the similarity is hard to miss.
This is a solid release from a talented band. Its no wonder the band managed to grab support slots to many classic rock bands and did quite well on the European festival circuit. There is still that niggling feeling that this lot just might be aping their favourite band just a wee bit too much. Though a completely different genre, it rather reminds me of The Darkness’ second album cum Queen tribute.
If you can get past the obvious references in this lot’s music, it's quite a release: decent hard rock from an obviously talented band. The band is certainly one to watch as they develop into the hard-rocking force they obviously want to be.
Mark Sweeney: All In
Another solo outing from Crystal Ball and Bruce Kulick solo band vocalist Sweeney. This is clever pop rock that won’t scare the horses. That is no criticism at all and I suspect the aural reminder of Europe would not offend Sweeney. The fact that Robin Beck turns up to lend her pipes to the cause helps with the diverse nature of the tracks on offer. Forget the boy-band solo artist picture on the back cover. This guy has some pipes.
The CD has a great bonus track in the form of “Demons,” which reminds the listener of Crystal Ball and shows off his ample pipes. This release is obviously a labor of love that won’t necessarily light the music world on fire, but it is good enough to muster interest. Bruce Kulick completists will surely like what is on show here and want to find a copy.
This type of release is a great break from the normal hard rock fare. While not anything mainstream or pappy, it's still got some balls. It's music that won’t drive the summer guests away. Sweeney’s got a good voice and there is nothing wrong with the guy taking twelve tracks to have some fun with. A sleeper release for the summer.
Ozzy Osbourne: Scream
After The Osbournes and all the drama the surrounded the hit show, it's good to see Ozzy back with a solo album. Yet again, there is a different guitarist in the ranks with long time Zakk Wylde out to be replaced by Gus G. This was the first worry for fans of the great man. Those who are used to Wylde’s curly distinct style of playing will indeed find themselves missing the guitarist. Gus G is competent, but his style is not distinctive enough to provide the needed foil for Ozzy’s voice. Curiously the musicians list is buried deep in the sleeve notes and takes some searching to find.
The lack of Zakk is not the biggest worry when first placing the CD on the death deck. What immediately strikes you is that Ozzy is rapping in the first song “Let It Die”. His rhyming has a distinctive tinge of that best forgotten rap metal trend. All in all, it’s a pretty dire track and one has to wonder who chose to put it as the lead off. It gets a great deal better with the track “Let Me Hear You Scream”. This is an obvious crowd pleaser that will probably be one of the few songs that appears from this album in his live show. It’s a typical Ozzy anthem that reminds us of the Ozzy classics of old. The song title is one of his tag lines after all.
Lyrically it's interesting, with Ozzy going all religious on us and asking about Jesus and a potential return on one track. That, paired with the final track “I Love You All” might hint that Ozzy is finally getting to grips with his own mortality. I suspect that this album might be a bit of a grower. There are few tracks that leap out at you with their catchiness and power to suck you in, the exception being the nominal title track.
Overall, this is an Ozzy album of the later years, patchy with none of the catchiness of releases like No More Tears or its predecessors. Still, none of his fans will care, as it gives the guy another excuse to tour.
On that “go f***ing crazy” note, it's time to put another column in the can. Stay safe and rocking, whether celebrating the 4th or just checking out some damn fine live music.