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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.