To be honest, I wasn’t expecting all that much out of Brown Sabbath – the alter ego of the Latin psychedelic-funk band Brownout – and their latest album when the opportunity came to give it a listen. A nine-piece Latin funk and breakbeat band from Austin, Texas doing an entire album – their second entire album, mind you – of Black Sabbath songs cheekily named Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath, Vol. II? Gimmick band at best, right?
I found that Brown Sabbath was deftly able to utilize their Latin-funk leanings and find some new territory to explore in these venerated warhorses of classic metal. On tracks such as “Snowblind,” “Supernaut,” “Children of the Grave,” and “Fairies Wear Boots,” the band adds a fresh undercurrent of musicianship to the sludgy perfection and gives a nice blast of spice to remind you why the originals were so tasty.
For me, it was a kick similar to listening to Ozzy Osbourne’s solo work in my high school years (and loving it) but then throwing on headphones and truly listening to the first four Sabbath albums and realizing that he was fantastic on his own. But together with the other ingredients of Sabbath? That went from a snack to an amazing meal of sound.
Brownout, thanks to their obvious love of the source material, takes that meal you’ve known and loved – to stay with that metaphor – and adds a nice kick of seasoning to it. Much like the predecessor of this release – 2014’s Brown Sabbath, Vol. I, which I have since added to my collection – the band finds the little nooks and crannies of the soulful and funky undercurrents in the heaviness of these Sabbath songs and fleshes them out with some greasy horns, nearly hypnotic percussion and much more psychedelic improv than you might think. Unlike the earlier release, however, more attention seems to be given to the guitar, as there are some fairly aggressive riffs floating through the horns and, yes, bongos, which I’m guessing Tony Iommi himself would approve of.
If you’re a fan of Black Sabbath, you’ll enjoy this album tremendously. I know I did. I’ll admit it makes me wonder, though, what these guys could do if they flipped over into Dio-era Sabbath. Can you imagine a salsa breakdown in the middle of “Heaven and Hell”?
Until then, however, I’ll just strap on my headphones and listen to “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” a few dozen more times.