Black Sabbath – Beyond Ozzy and Dio. #mondayblogs #music #metal

 

crosspurposes The music of Black Sabbath has often been defined by two different vocalist eras. The albums featuring      the  vocals of Ozzy Osbourne and Ronnie James Dio still stand as a collection of mostly brilliant moments  in  the early years of heavy metal.

There is so much more to Sabbath than those incredible eras. Even though the other albums in the  Sabbath catalog may not have the sales figures or be as impressive to fans and critics, each of the other  albums which are defined as Black Sabbath records tell a series of stories lyrically, musically and with life  in general.

When Ian Gillan was brought into the band for Born Again it was a bizarre move based on some crazy management suggestions. The resulting record was a very slick and over-produced affair. It still managed to generate a fair bit of interest that would allow the band to go out on tour. Hearing Gillan perform the songs from this record as well as old Sabbath favourites is certainly interesting. There are a number of audio and video clips available online where you can get a sense of where Gillan may have felt uncomfortable. The songs on Born Again  are quite good though. Gillan’s voice was certainly suited for the songs that were written.  Original drummer Bill Ward returned for this record but would leave almost immediately upon the record’s completion.

After the departure of Ian Gillan from Sabbath it is safe to say that it was a time of turmoil for the Black Sabbath name. Tony would continue to write material and take the musical direction wherever he felt like taking it. Geezer Butler had stuck around then moved on and here was Tony working with a revolving door of musicians. The lineup changes in the band are just so many to mention that it would take a significant amount of more reading just to cover it all. It still provides some interesting insight into who was coming in and out the door.

For Seventh Star, which was supposed to be a Tony Iommi solo record, Glenn Hughes came into the band on vocals. While the songs are quite strong and range from borderline pop balladry to heavy and hard-hitting uptempo forays, the album clearly lacked focus and direction. Hughes was battling significant substance abuse problems at the time so his voice was not up to par as it is now.

The Eternal Idol would mark another vocalist era in Sabbath which is now largely being ignored. The album was originally recorded with the incredible Ray Gillen singing lead vocals. The album’s full recording with Ray Gillen has since been released and is a great listen. It is incredible to listen to this version then listen to the released album version with Tony Martin. You can easily see how different they were as singers and how well they each fit into the songs that made the record.

It is Tony Martin whose name is worthy of mentioning as part of another era of Black Sabbath. Martin’s strong power-metal voice has unfairly drawn criticism and accusations of being a copy of Ronnie James Dio. He definitely has a strong singing ability which delivered fairly good results on most of the albums.

When Iommi would take Martin back into the studio to record the follow-up album Headless Cross, it would be the first time Martin would be contributing as a songwriter. Much of Martin’s lyrical chops were very much about storytelling possibly out of the necessity to write words to sing. I found that even if I could not understand his lyrics, whatever he was singing on this record fit well with the music.

This was more relevant after the release of Tyr. This record had a theme of some Norse mythology throughout it with the occasional piece about something more understandable to mainstream audiences.

When Martin returned to the Sabbath fold after the Dehumanizer tour where Dio left, they completed what is my favourite record of the Martin era Sabbath. 1994′s Cross Purposes. The album comes across as very polished from a production standpoint but it lays out some interesting musical structures overall. Of note on this record is Cross of Thorns which was based on a phrase that Tony Martin had picked up in a local bar during his travels to war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina. His first-hand view of the state of affairs over there was the basis for a great lyric.

The final studio record in the Martin era was called Forbidden. This album stands as one of the weakest entries in the entire Sabbath story. It features some strong riffs from Tony Iommi that are catchy and at times heavy.  It suffers from a feeling of tiredness all around. Tony Martin’s voice at times sounds completely out of gas. The album grew on me just the same and is still worth a spin every now and again just to hear those great guitar riffs.

One could write an entire encyclopedia collection worth of thoughts and perspectives on all things Black Sabbath. No matter what era and album a fan prefers. No matter what the opinions of the people are. They are the most important band in heavy metal history. Having defined the genre of metal, several sub-genres of metal to come afterwards, and redefined culture, their impact is ever-lasting and will carry over into future generations of metal and rock musicians alike.

 

 

Black Sabbath – A Fan Perspective #music #mondayblogs #metal

sabbath13

 

3 of the founding original members of metal legends Black Sabbath are currently on tour supporting the most recent offering. 13 is a brilliant slab of pure heavy metal from 3 of the greatest talents in the genre. A brilliant metal record is long overdue. It has put so much of the newer material from newer bands to shame, pounding unoriginal rubbish into dust as a reminder that these professors of perfect metal can still crush anyone and everyone.

Side Note – I also believe Motorhead’s recent offering “Aftershock” is another great metal record that came out at a great time to teach younger bands a lesson in how it gets done. 

As a new generation of younger fans begin to discover this music there is the hope from hardcore fans like myself that the complete history of the band is read and researched. The music has influenced generations and will live to influence generations into infinity. Black Sabbath will be looked at as the band that perfected a genre which gave birth to several sub-genres.

While I would submit that the roots of heavy metal would begin with Blue Cheer it was not defined until Black Sabbath’s first record. The self-titled masterpiece remains my favourite record of all time and is a staple in every metal fan’s collection.

The Ozzy Osbourne era Sabbath remains the most recognized and revered of the entire Black Sabbath catalog. Everyone who has listened to a classic rock radio station anywhere in the world has probably heard “Paranoid” more than any other song in music history. It remains impressive to me that the band’s first two records which were released so close together would have such an incredible impact on so many. The lyrical subject matter crossed into so many dark places and the music was meant to match all of it. Drugs, religion, and the occult would just barely scratch the surface of the lyrical themes they would explore.

Musically, Black Sabbath had something incredible happening with the masterful riffing of guitarist Tony Iommi. Tony is widely considered to be an absolute master of compositional guitar playing. Most would agree that to this day Iommi had set the bar to such a level that it is unreachable by anyone. Even when you cross into the eras of Sabbath where record sales were lower and the albums were ignored by many fans Iommi’s riffs were still considered strong.

Iommi’s playing was always tremendously supported with the bass work of Geezer Butler and thunderous drumming of Bill Ward. It all seemed to fit just perfectly.

Fans owe it to themselves to look at each of the Ozzy-era albums and see the great progression of this first lineup. Even the least popular albums of this era do actually bring a handful of heavy moments. I still overall find “Technical Ecstasy” and “Never Say Die” difficult albums to listen to perhaps even more so now then when I was younger. As a fan I’ve become more musically aware of where the difficulties did lie in those records and the seemingly poppy direction they had taken. Even so I still enjoy each of the records.

Heaven and Hell

Even though the first record remains my favourite album of all-time, the era of vocalist Ronnie James Dio was my introduction to the band. As I gradually accumulated the entire Black Sabbath catalog I began to really see this era of the music for how incredible it is. Ronnie James Dio remains my favourite metal vocalist.

Even though the first record remains tops for me, the albums Ronnie James Dio did with Black Sabbath even through to the final “Heaven and Hell” record, are my absolute favourite of the Sabbath discography. I’ve never really pinned down a single reason as to why but looking at each of the albums you can hear something unique. Heaven and Hell showed that there was a fresh approach to the writing process and it allowed guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler to explore more textural concepts in the way songs were structured. While drummer Bill Ward would leave partway through the Heaven and Hell tour and claim to this day he has no memory of making the record due to his substance abuse problems, he turns in great powerful drum performances which really served the complexity of this new musical direction.

The Mob Rules would feature a ton of crushing riffs while still leaving open some spaces for more guitar work that was almost symphonic in nature. I also believe this record showcases the interplay of Iommi and Butler at their very best. The magnificently under-rated “Slipping Away” features a trade-off of guitar and bass leads that still stands up as among the best soloing ever recorded in metal.

Dio in my opinion has been unfairly criticized for the way he sand the Ozzy era songs. I believe he brought a significant flair of drama to those lyrics and put his own personality into the performances. “Live Evil” is still a great record to listen to and brings the listener back to concert performances from The Mob Rules tours.

When The Mob Rules lineup (which featured drummer Vinny Appice) would reunite for Dehumanizer, fans were treated to an album that would be among the heaviest Black Sabbath offerings ever recorded. It is significantly more straight-forward of a record than the first two studio albums from that era.

When this same lineup would do “The Devil You Know” under the band name of  Heaven and Hell it would bring another glorious return to form for all 4 musicians. The subsequent tour that would follow would be tragically cut short due to Ronnie Dio’s passing. It reflects one of the reasons that Dio was such an amazing vocalist. He could still deliver such mad passion with his voice and really take the audience with him while belting it out.

Black Sabbath’s history is a lengthy one and contains some interesting music beyond the Ozzy and Dio eras. I will try to visit this at a later date within these pages.

What Black Sabbath record from these two eras is the most important to you and why? What albums do you like the least. Is there anything in particular that stands out?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Owning The Moment #Mondayblogs #writing

vic park

Over the course of a few days recently I felt very rough about my Dad’s passing. I still sometimes expect the phone to ring and for him to be at the other end.

Grief can be a horrid thing. It can attach your senses when you least expect it. Whether triggered by something you see or hear, it can be really brutal. Getting through those moments can be a tremendous challenge. Part of the challenge for me has been facing that monster head on. Walking through it, on top of it, and around it. Running past it and leaving enough smoke behind that it cannot catch up to me.

Turning around any situation requires owning the moment. Learning to own the moment takes a lifetime of practice. It is not something that can be learned overnight. When it is learned there is not guarantee of 100% success. When you own the moment and can claim victory, build on that victory so you can be stronger the next time you feel a bit crushed by the pressure.

The next battle you face with yourself can be won with greater strength and personal solidarity with your own emotions. These fights are such important battles to win. Why? I don’t know the definitive answer really. The best answer I could give is that each time you overcome these or similar moments, you build on strength. You build on yourself and your ability to weather out the storms of life and prevent those same storms from washing you to sea.

 

#Perspective – A Late Winter Closing #mondayblogs #writing

Pictou Harbour Lyons Brook

I’ve never minded the cold. Winter can be a great valid excuse for sticking close to the security of your own surroundings. Especially when they are well-heated by whatever means exist. Wood heat certainly serves the place I call home in a very good way.
This Atlantic winter has certainly been colder than expected. My travels and places of residence across this great country have exposed me to more colder temperatures so it was easy to adjust. It just seemed to drag on a little bit longer. Over the past week, Nova Scotia has seen significant amounts of rain, a bit of snow in other regions and flash freezing. With the snow having taken a pounding, it appears that winter is heading for a later exit. It’s easy to dispute my thought when you consider that spring technically starts later this week. It’s just a matter of climate perspective I suppose.
I’ve turned my mind to thinking that perhaps one of the reasons winter stuck around longer was to freeze out so much of what I have been through in the last few months. Time to warm up to a fresher frame of mind perhaps. Obviously there is no scientific proof of this but that is not the point. Again I refer to the whole concept of perspective. It is a good way to look at the bigger picture of what is actually happening. An encouraging thing really.
Spring is a refresher. It is going forward. Something I continue to work with on a daily basis. Regardless of what kind of winter you have experienced. Reflect positively, look at the lessons learned and how far you may have come or how far you now want to go as a person. Explore your own thoughts of ambition. Examine your winter survival kit and look at ways to add to it. Despite so much that went on in my life in the last few months and withstanding multiple attempts at being knocked down, I am still here and still standing. I have survived grief, loss and a sense of feeling alone even though I was far from it.
Surviving the longer winter has made me stronger in every role I willingly take on. I’m a better writer, husband, pet-parent………Person.
 
Dann Alexander is a Freelance Writer based just outside of Halifax Nova Scotia. He is the Author of “Planned UnParenthood – Creating A Life Without Procreating”, available on Amazon and other online book retailers worldwide.

Time & The Balance #MondayBlogs

vic park

Bruce Cockburn wrote and sang “I never live with balance, but I’ve always liked the notion.”

Most would never doubt Cockburn’s brilliance. Even if his music and lyrics are not suited to their taste. I’ve always liked the notion of living with balance. As the last few months have passed, I have found that looking for time and to balance it all out has been challenging for reasons that I need not repeat. Make no mistake, I am tired. Some of you reading this will be tired as well. No matter how hard you might work and how well you are dealing with something, you might be really tired. As Jackson Browne once said I’m “Running on Empty”.

But I am optimistic. Every day I push through the boundaries that I impose on myself. I break through. I choose to go forward.

This does not have to be a singular quest to win. I have had to learn how to ask for help all over again. To lean on those whom I truly trust.

In the process a harder lesson has evolved. Sometimes those you might want to trust the most are just as ready to betray that trust at their own selfish expense. A harsh but real ice-cold fact of life.

Part of my quest for time & balance is right now before your eyes. It’s being here on these pages and working through some thoughts that might occasionally seem broken. There is some great clarity within the contrast though.

I will close by saying that they say time is a great healer. It can be if you allow it to work within. It is important to avoid staring at the clock while time clicks forward. Make use of time. I don’t mean just by going to work and punching the clock. Look at what makes you happy. Appreciate everything around you that you enjoy. No matter how mundane it might seem. A simple act that evokes a smile or pleasant thought is a great use of time.

This is just one of many ways to go forward.

Just keep going.

Sense and Sensitivity #Mondayblogs #Mentalhealth

Pictou Harbour Lyons Brook

There are few things I would change about myself. I am my best and worst critic.

If the opportunity arose to fix something instantly, it would be where at times I can be very sensitive. It is something I know many are working on and it is not an easy battle. I’ve learned that this is taking years to work through. I believe it is very much a learned behaviour.

There are many reasons people can be sensitive to personal comments and remarks. From my own perspective, I have chalked it up to being a victim of some relentless bullying in my younger days along having to constantly defend myself to people around me. Whether it was other pupils in school, teachers, minor sports teammates and even people in the family. I always felt that I had to be on the defensive more than I should have been.

Hearing Actor Jonah Hill recently talk about being a sensitive person had me thinking about how far I have come. Some days I can readily accept being who I am in this regard. Other days I wish I could change it.

When I was younger, one of the critiques I received was to “grow a backbone”. I distinctly remember officials in my high-school who did not take bullying concerns seriously and they would say things like this.

In the age of more awareness of bullying, this type of pass-off is no longer acceptable and rightly so. I seriously wish that people took the concerns of bullying victims seriously when I was in school. More often than not, things were swept under the rug.

Much has changed for me over the years. I still consider myself a sensitive person in many ways and on many different things. It is a difficult thing to overcome, and another battle I am determined to win. My work in the word business is a great example. I have no problem with someone offering a critique of my work. Whether it is through here or a book review, I rather enjoy the feedback. It means people are reading and that I have the chance to learn something from that feedback.

If you are sensitive, do not think that you have to grow a backbone. You have one. Instead, develop coping skills that allow you to deflect criticism more constructively. Defend yourself when necessary, and look for the best ways to do it. Talk to someone if you need to. Seek re-assurance if you need it. It is perfectly ok to do so.

Nova Scotia Grindcore “Legends” set to release new music in 2014. #Mondayblogs #Metal

Special Guest Post by C.B. Bannerman

In Canada, Nova Scotia has a healthy yet hidden history of metal music that been kept from mainstream media. While many great metal acts have come and gone, there is a constant re-occurrence of musical releases from a duo who are not well-known for their brand of comically brilliant grind and noisecore which has torn the ears off of their cult fan base for many years.

“Fung Tunt”, the duo of Buck Hanson and Froog have quietly announced plans to record new music sometime in 2014. This is sure to set off a flurry of fan purchases immediately upon the release of the new material. The duo has previously released material which has either gone missing or become massive hits in the underground scene of early 1990′s tape trading and modern-day digital file-sharing. Many remember their last release not just for it’s musical brilliance, but also for the fact that it showed a photo of a Dairy Queen Restaurant on the back of the CD’s jewel case.

Drummer/Vocalist/ Buck Hanson, who adds guitars, samples and other various noises in the music, made it clear that the time was right for new material to come out.

“Who are you anyway?” Buck asked when reached by telephone. Once he realized it was me for the interview he quietly calmed down and explained he was stressed out from his recent grocery shopping trip. Orange Juice had gone up in price again and he was very distressed.

He continued further, “Ok, yeah we are doing new music and I’m buying a new couch.” The drummer, known for his abilities as a drummer and dishwasher in his home, is also known for raising the bar of expectations that all must meet once behind the kit. He has explained that with his mastery of digital technology it has become easier to send ideas over to Froog where he has a panic attack at first thinking he is being contacted by the spirits of dead restaurant owners, then calms down to realize it is some music to work and record with.

“I’m going to have coffee now.” Buck quickly stopped the interview, but assured me he would write a further e-mail when he had time to do so.

I am left mystified by this mysterious personality.

When we reached the versatile bassist and vocalist Froog by telephone, he was quick to confirm the duo’s musical intentions for this year. He had received several tracks that Buck had recorded already and it made sense that they move forward on a new album. Froog asked that I call him back in 7 minutes so he could throw some plates on the floor as he feared a possible curse from the owner of a Halifax Greek Restaurant. When I phoned him back, I mysteriously heard plates still smashing in the background, albeit faintly. We were able to have a short conversation while he carelessly chewed on some romaine lettuce.

“It’s time to laugh again even if we are the only ones who are laughing.” Froog summarized the duo’s plans wonderfully in that sentence. With the rich musical history behind them, there is always a coming together of ideas which generate many great songs. Some of which clock in at a mere second or two.

Chad and Dann
Here is the duo in early formative days pre the old name “Zouave”. This was taken at a contest for best hair. Buck Hanson is holding the winner’s trophy while Froog stands next to him, chagrined by his 43rd place finish. Unidentified source reports indicate that Froog also had not showered in over a month when this photo was taken.

Many do not realize that the duo’s early works were not even close to being metal. As “Zouave”, Buck and Froog (using their real names of Buck and Froog) recorded a rap album which ended up drawing in significant sales of 1 copy. The album was critically acclaimed and even feared by many American rap groups who were fearing a sudden takeover by some not-so-funky boys with attitudes.

As Buck and Froog gradually learned to master their instruments and gain valuable experience on session and gig circuits, they gradually improved their deliveries and performance chops with immense intensity that no one could have imagined. In the late 1990′s they recorded two demo tapes as “Diamond Marmalade”. One of those tapes was a bare-bones stripped down to the core bass and drums masterpiece which explored many dark food and drink related themes such as being out of sandwich bread and mustard, to baking crayons into cakes in order to give an illusion of flavour enhancement.

“Those were some dark times in our lives”, Froog explained.

Buck’s follow-up e-mail subsequently arrived in and shed some more light on the duo’s plans which are perfect to conclude this article.

“We work constantly. Every day, we flip some sort of theme to each other and we run with it. If it’s funny and makes us laugh, that’s all that matters. We can then transpose it into music and make it loud and crazy for all to enjoy or despite. Either way, it works.”

The album which is tentatively untitled, is sure to spin the heads of grindcore fans all over the world, while reminding everyone of how well some working relationships can last.

C.B. Bannerman is a Freelance Writer who really doesn’t exist……