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RECORD STORE TALES Part 204: An Introduction to sHEAVY
MARCH, 2000. Saturday night. One of our store owners was throwing a house party. Tom, being the usual musical selector at parties, put a cassette on for me. He rewound to the beginning and hit “play”.
“Mike,” he said, wild-eyed with excitement. “One of my customers gave me this tape. It’s the new Ozzy. It’s not out yet. This is a bootleg copy.”
This intense, guitar heavy distortion faded in. The voice, also distorted and processed, was a dead ringer for a young Ozzy!
“Ozzy’s singing great, isn’t he?” Tom inquired mischievously.
“That’s not Zakk Wylde on guitar,” I retorted. “I’d know if it was Zakk, and that guy’s not Zakk.”
Tom faltered. “That’s, uhhh, the new guy.”
I called bullshit. “This isn’t Ozzy. It sounds a hell of a lot like early Sabbath, and it’s really good, but it’s not Ozzy.”
“Fuck!” Tom spat out. “I can’t believe you got it so fast. When I heard it, I truly thought it was new Ozzy at first. At least the way the new Ozzy should be, you know what I mean? Hear all that fuckin’ Sabbath going on there?”
I did indeed hear all the Sabbath going on. In fact, of all the bands that people hyped to me as being “Sabbath-y”, this band came closest.
The band is from St John’s, Canada, and they are called Sheavy. They kicked serious ass. The album we were listening to was 1998’s The Electric Sleep. The song: “Virtual Machine”. Often found on many bit torrent sites as a “lost” Black Sabbath reunion song. It is not. It is Sheavy, and that’s how close they nail the vintage Black Sabbath sound.
The singer is a fellow named Steve Hennessey, and according to the CD booklet, he once had an audition with Tony Iommi and Black Sabbath’s then-producer, Bob Marlette! What could that have been for? An Iommi solo album, or Sabbath itself? The CD doesn’t reveal. “Special thanks to Tony Iommi, Bob Marlette, Ralph Baker and Paul Loasby for the audition and an experience I will never forget,” is all it says! He nails every inflection that Ozzy used to do, it’s that uncanny.
I marveled at the music, and decided to buy it the next day. I ordered it from Amazon along with Jalamanta, the first solo album from then-Fu Manchu drummer Brant Bjork. (Even though I worked in a record store, there was no point in trying to order obscurities like these through our supplier.) When they arrived, I was blown away by both. I occasionally brought Sheavy to the store to play at work, and many people asked if this was the new Sabbath or the new Ozzy. “Nope,” I’d say. “This is a band from Newfoundland and Labrador called Sheavy. They’re awesome.”
Unfortunately for a Canadian band, their albums were really hard to find! A little while later, I picked up the next album, Celestial Hi-Fi, on Japanese import, from HMV. The bonus track “Nine December” is an asskicker that made it worth the extra cash. They’re just an awesome band, and they grew past the Sabbath-clone tag after a couple albums. Unfortunately, toiling away in relative obscurity for almost 20 years has taken its toll, and the band’s future is uncertain. For that reason I’m grateful they’ve left many great albums behind.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at The Electric Sleep in a detailed review. Check back soon.
I honestly do not recall if I was there that night, but I have had similar exchanges with people about Sheavy. Can’t say I have ever been a huge fan of this band, and mostly it has been out of principle. I find their likeness to Sabbath a little too close to home in this case. I know especially that their first release sounds like a tribute band. I am sure back then I would have said something like .. “Fuck these guys. I will just put on Volume 4 when i feel like hearing Ozzy Sabbath”
Again . good band… With some less Sabbath like releases as well..but that’s been my take with Sheavy
Good take. I think you will enjoy tomorrow’s review. I don’t ding them heavily for bring Sabbath clones, but I do ding them…
They are a good little heavy band at times … they just leave themselves open to be dinged with the copying of the style. I have found myself enjoying Sheavy when Tom has put it on .. but it never seems to stick with me.
As you said the later stuff is less Sabbathy. Synchronized was a good departure, slightly. But Hennessey sounds like Ozzy period and that doesn’t change.
I didn’t realise they were Canadian actually – I love sHeavy (esp. Celestial..) and all the stoner stuff from this time actually, it was just a great mix of elements.
Fu Manchu, QOTSA, Leadfoot, Brant Bjork…those are all personal favourites!
Fu Manchu are just awesome, so good live too. I don’t know Leadfoot but Nebula rocked.
Nebula…I like the name. I’ll have to check them out. Leadfoot are an offshoot of Corrosion of Conformity. I like their first album a lot.
I think they may have been one or two of the original Fu members.
Cool! On my radar now…
Wow, really timely post for me. There was a sHeavy song called “Pictures of You” on a recent Rise Above Record sampler that came with an issue of Classic Rock magazine. When it came on, I did a double-take because of the singer’s uncanny resemblance to old Ozzy and told myself I needed to learn about the band. As with many things in life however, I promptly forgot to follow up on my fleeting thought. No problem though because guess what, LeBrain’s done all the research for me!! I look forward to tomorrow.
On a separate note and leeching onto 1537’s comment, Nebula is good stuff. I’d add Sleep and Atomic Bitchwax onto my own long list of stoners to whom I give a hearty thumbs up.
How about Orange Goblin? Tom is into those guys. Also Sleep, Beaver…I can’t remember all the bands.
I don’t have Pictures of You. But as I said their albums are stupidly hard to get in Canada. You know, their home country and all.
I had some mp3’s a long time ago, of singles and rarities, and I remember that one tune was bizarrely uncanny for AC/DC! Wish I could remember the name. I’ll have to dig through my pile of CDs that I burned 10 years ago!
I like Orange Goblin alright, but never enough to actually buy an album. Tastes are tastes, but OG have always seemed to me to have less of an individual personality than my favorite Stoner bands. I don’t mean this to be as harsh as it sounds, but I’d put on an Orange Goblin song if I wanted to give someone a sense of a “generic” stoner band. They do get my vote for one of the coolest song titles of all time: One Room, One Axe, One Outcome”
Oh I do like that! I don’t own any Orange Goblin, but I do remember my buddy Joe giving me a cassette copy of…Time Travelling Blues? I think?
I think for me, my favourite artist of this genre is Brant Bjork, in whatever band he happens to find himself. Typically, I am drawn to that period of Fu Manchu.
Awesome post. I’ve never heard of the band, but I enjoyed reading it.
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed. I love these guys.
Wasn;t there a band called Om, to go with all that stoner stuff? I seem to recall…
You make me wanna hear more sHeavy. Woohoo!
I also love that it was on Rise Above Records. Love a reference to the mighty Flag!