Bob Marlette

REVIEW: Iommi – Iommi (2000)

“Like many projects featuring multiple singers, the album called Iommi is a mixed bag but with more gems than turds.”

 

IOMMI – Iommi (2000 Virgin)

Iommi is the first released solo album by Tony Iommi, but actually the third recorded.  The first was 1986’s Seventh Star, released as “Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi”, with Glenn Hughes on vocals.  10 years later, Tony recorded another album with Hughes often referred to as “Eighth Star“, which was released in 2004 (after the drums by Dave Holland were re-recorded by Jimmy Copley) as The 1996 DEP Sessions.  Then finally in 2000, Tony took a page from the successful Santana formula book and did an album with various lead singers called Iommi.

Like many projects featuring multiple singers and assorted musicians, the album called Iommi is a mixed bag, but with more gems than turds.  The guitarist picked an interesting assortment of vocalists, mostly artists big in the 90s.  It’s telling that Tony’s good buddy Glenn Hughes isn’t one of them (though Hughes returned on 2006’s Fused).  Clearly commercial interests were most important when it came to selecting the singers and songs.

The inimitable Henry Rollins gets the enviable opening slot with “Laughing Man (In the Devil Mask)”.  Rollins sounds best with a heavy riff behind him, and this one is pure grunge.  Producer-de-jour Bob Marlette co-wrote almost every song, and there’s little doubt that this is how Iommi acquired its “modern” edge.  Rollins creates a swirl chaotic rock around him, but the riff alone would have sunk without Hank.  Iommi seldom writes such atonal, monotonous guitar parts as “Laughing Man (In the Devil Mask)”.

Skin (Skunk Anansie) is surely one hell of an underrated singer, and her track “Meat” howls.  Iommi’s solos and riffs sound much more like what comes naturally from him.  Then, it’s the unfortunate sound of 90s drum loops and samples.  It’s Dave Grohl’s tune “Goodbye Lament”.  Because as soon as one thinks of Iommi or Grohl, we think of drum loops, am I right?  Fortunately Grohl has ex-Sabbath bassist Lawrence Cottle and Queen maestro Brian May on his track.  He plays the drums when they finally do kick in.  Three of those four guys played on Headless Cross!  The drum loops suck and date the song to a certain period in time, but fortunately Grohl knows how to write good melodies so it’s not a total bust.

Phil Anselmo (Pantera) takes the very Sabbathy “Time is Mine”.  That riff sounds like it may have been later used on an actual Black Sabbath record.  The track simmers with fury, then Phil lets it rip loose.  The only way to make Sabbath heavier than Sabbath is to include a singer like Anselmo.  Drumming is Seattle legend Matt Cameron.

The expressive Serj Tankian (System of a Down) lets his pipes have their way with “Patterns”, amidst more of those annoying samples.  It absolutely sounds more System than Sabbath, which is fine since both are heavier than fuck.

The one guy that pulls off a truly Black Sabbath-sounding song is the guy you’d least expect:  Billy Corgan.  Yet his “Black Oblivion” comes closest to the spirit of classic Black Sabbath, in terms of length and epic riffage.  Billy plays bass and guitar on the track as well — what a phenomenal bassist!  (The drummer, Kenny Aronoff, knew Corgan from the 1998 Smashing Pumpkins tour on which he played, and then Aronoff went on to play on two more Iommi solo discs.)

The Cult’s Ian Astbury makes Iommi sound like — who else? — The Cult!  Brian May returns for some guitar (with Cottle and Cameron on bass and drums).  The Cult rarely employ such monolithic riffs, but the chorus is pure Cult.

“Flame On!  I used to bleed like a suicide mother,
Flame On!  And now I breath in this dirty black summer,
Flame On!  I bought the truth in the mouth of my brother,
Flame On!  I used to bleed like a suicide motherfucker.”

Shame about the damn loops, like something discarded from Chinese Democracy.  They also infect “Just Say No to Love” featuring the late Peter Steele of Type O Negative.  Like Astbury, he makes Iommi sound like his band, which already sounded a bit like a Black Sabbath parody.

The biggest disappointment on the album is second to last.  “Who’s Fooling Who” is a virtual Black Sabbath reunion, with Ozzy Osbourne and Bill Ward returning to the fold.  On bass is Lawrence Cottle, making it 100% Sabbath alumni, 3/4 original.  And it’s easily the most boring song on the album.  The best thing about it is Bill Ward, the first drummer who didn’t sound like a session guy.  A muffled Ozzy phones in his part, but Bill puts some effort into composing the percussion.  The best part is the instrumental burnout.

And then, a surprising finish:  Billy Idol, with a monstrous “Into the Night”.  Idol should consider doing heavy riffy metal like this more often — he’s good at it.  Though he effectively snarls his way through the slow riff, his punky side comes out when things get fast.  The contrast between riffs and tempos is half the fun.

With Iommi freshly consumed and digested anew, it’s obvious that good portion of what you heard was purposefully geared towards the nu-metal Ozzfest crowd.  The selection of musicians was clearly slanted post-80s, but it’s the loops and samples that really blow.  The blame must be laid on producer Bob Marlette, especially considering some of the loops sounded exactly like another band he produced:  Rob Halford’s Two.  The whole thing sounds like a “product”, though at least with some pretty incredible riffs behind it.

3/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Two – Voyeurs (Japanese bonus track) #200wordchallenge

The #200wordchallenge continues!  The complete review for the original Two Voyeurs CD can be found by clicking here.

200 word


TWO – Voyeurs (1998 DML Music Japan)

Rarity acquired!  After many years of searching, I snagged a mint condition Japanese copy of Rob Halford’s album as Two with John 5.  It was priced affordably and included the obi strip, always important to collectors.  The Japanese copy has a second booklet with pictures of the band, missing from the original CD.  Rob and John casually enjoying coffee in front of a wall of X-rays?  It’s in here!

The bonus track is called “In My Head” and it’s surprising how different it is from the album at large.  It still sounds like the industrial metal of Two, but criss-crossed with dirty blues.  It’s like Two meets the Black Keys, in a wormhole from before the Black Keys even existed.  Rob has occasionally shown a penchant for mixing the blues in with his heavy metal.  Witness “A Little Crazy” from the first Fight album.  John takes a really cool and inventive solo break on this track complete with plenty of slide.  Had this track been on the original album, it might have had more appeal with the rockers, though that’s admittedly a long shot.

It’s not easy to find, but worth finding for the industrial blues of “In My Head”.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Anvil – Juggernaut of Justice (Deluxe and iTunes versions)

For my recent review of Anvil’s This Is Thirteen on vinyl, click here!

JUGGERNAUT_0001ANVIL – Juggernaut of Justice (2011 The End Records)

When I first heard all that cowbell on the track “Fukeneh!” I screamed aloud, “YES!” Anvil don’t give a crap about what’s trendy and what ain’t. That’s why they’re still around over 30 years later, and Juggernaut of Justice was one of their best albums since the early 80’s.

It’s not commercial, but it is more accessible. As good as This Is Thirteen was, I like Juggernaut of Justice better. It is slickly produced by Bob Marlette (at Dave Grohl’s Studio 606). Bob Marlette is not my favourite producer, I’ll admit that, but he’s done a bang-on job here. A little trebly on the guitars in the mix, but otherwise a fine, clear sharp production job. Lip’s vocals are more accessible, but not overproduced. You can still hear flat notes here and there, which is good!  I like production to remain authentic.  Kudos to Marlette who made a great sounding Anvil album.

Every song is great. I especially loved “Conspiracy” and “Fukeneh!”. “On Fire” is cool and fun lyrically, an obviously autobiographical tune about Lips himself. The title track is great, and so is the galloping nu-metal sheen of “This Ride” (featuring bassist Glenn Five on vocals.)  Yet there are no weak tracks, Anvil sharpening their metal edges.  With the exception of the 7-minute “Paranormal,” (a great slow burner) all songs are in the 3-4 minute range, packing maximum punch into the grooves.  Also noteworthy is the horn-laden metal of “Swing Thing”!  This great instrumental shows off the considerable chops of drummer Robb Reiner. It is the icing on top of this heavy metal treat!

I love the cover art, which reminds me of Endgame by Megadeth for whatever reason. (Also “Conspiracy” reminded me of some of the lyrical themes on Endgame.)

I liked Juggernaut of Justice enough to buy it twice: Once digitally, to get the bonus track “What I Want To Be”, and then the limited edition CD which has its own pair of bonus tracks. “The Station” grinds along relentlessly, with a metallic sheen of multiple layered guitars. “Tonight Is Coming” is more basic, but with G5 hanging out on the upper frets of his bass every now and then to give it some flavour. The chorus is pretty amusing: “Tonight is coming, all day long!”*

The digital bonus track, “What I Want To Be” is the best of the three, a bright metal song with Reiner playing it fairly straight and the transmission in drive. Each bonus is a perfectly fine track, so purchase as you feel so inclined.

Very, very happy with this album. I had my doubts due to the presence of Bob Marlette instead of Chris Tsangarides, but…well done, Bob.

4.5/5 stars

* their new album, Hope In Hell, features the song “Flying” with the following lyric:

“Tel Aviv to Turkey then down through Greece,
Back home to Canada to see our famous geese.”

You gotta love that.

REVIEW: Halford – Live Insurrection (2002 Japanese Import)

“Part 6 in a miniseries of reviews on Rob Halford’s solo career!  If you missed the last part, click here!”  That was a rhyme, that ain’t no crime…Breaking the Law!  Breaking the Law!

HALFORD – Live Insurrection (2002 Japanese Import)

Having a wealth of solo and Priest material to draw from, this seems like a good place for a double live album to drop.  And so it was; Live Insurrection, Rob’s first full-fledged live solo outing.  For me personally, this is the peak.  This Rob’s home run of solo projects.

Admittedly, there is a certain sense of Rob trying to bury parts of his recent past.  There are no songs from Two, and the set is Priest-heavier than prior tours.  I found the Halford band to be kind of faceless, a little devoid of personality.  They’re absolute pros and there is no question of them cutting it.  That’s not the issue, it’s just one of…I can’t hear the different personalities of the players, compared to Fight.

On the other hand, the setlist is so much richer than Fight used to do.  The songs are culled from the Halford album Resurrection, the Judas Priest back catologue, and the first Fight album, with a lot of added surprises.

These surprises include three studio tracks, two of which are tracks written by Judas Priest, but never released at the time! You also get Rob’s duet with Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, “live” (recorded during rehearsal I believe), and the two bonus tracks from the Japanese version of the Halford album, once again performed live. Rob even sings his first-ever solo track, “Light Comes Out Of Black” which was originally on the Buffy The Vampire Slayer soundtrack back in 1992. The Priest material is a great mix: old obscure stuff from Sad Wings and Stained Class, as well as more obvious stuff from Hell Bent and Screaming. Rob’s voice is in fine form, doing justice to the Priest and Fight material.

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Rob’s so hardcore, he stapled his fuckin’ forehead!

The Japanese bonus track is “Blackout”. Yes, the old Scorpions tune, and recorded here with a Scorpion: Rudolph Schenker! Halford easily handles Klaus Meine’s vocal part. It’s a great bonus track, easily worth the extra cash that I spent on this import version.  I got this from Amazon.com in 2002.

They give you lots of great packaging with this live album. Decent liner notes, lots of pictures, plenty to look at while you spend a couple hours listening to this platter of metal perfection.  Enjoy the feast.

5/5 stars

I’ll be taking a summer break from this series.  I’m a bit burned out on Halford albums now, and there are so many new arrivals to listen to!  But fear not.  I’ll be following this review with Crucible, another Japanese release, a box set, and more.

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REVIEW: Halford – Resurrection (2000)

Part 5 in a miniseries on Rob Halford’s solo career!  Missed the last part?  Click here!

HALFORD – Resurrection (2000 Japanese edition, 2008 remastered edition)

Note:  There have been several versions of this CD.  The original CD and Japanese import versions had a certain tracklisting, but the track order was changed up a bit for the Remastered edition (see tracklists at bottom).  Since that’s the version that’s out right now, that’s what I’ve decided to review.  I got mine in a combo pack with the DVD, Resurrection World Tour Live at Rock in Rio III.  Rob has also retroactively started to number his solo albums; as such the remastered version is technically Halford 1: Resurrection.

Voyeurs by Two was not a mega seller regardless of the association with Trent Reznor and Nothing Records.  Rob needed to return to heavy metal or risk alienating his fanbase.

RESURRECTION_0005I think pretty much everyone was enthused by the title track and lead off single, “Resurrection”.  This wasn’t techno wizardry with whispery vocals.  This was heavy metal, with screams!  Although Rob was already headed in that direction at the end of Two, while working with Bob Marlette, it is Roy Z that drives this one single home.  Yes, Roy Z, the Roy Z that Bruce Dickinson utilized to collaborate on many a great solo album.  With Halford now drinking at the well of riffage that is Roy Z, “Resurrection” was bound to smoke.  And it does.  Take the sound of classic Judas Priest circa Painkiller, adjust for 10 years of sonic trends, stir in Roy Z, and you have “Resurrection”.  Rob makes sure you know he’s serious from the very opening, screaming as only he can.

What I dislike are the lyrics.  “I walked alone into a Fight”?  Rob, you weren’t alone, you had Scott Travis with you!  “I tried to look too far ahead, and saw the road lead to my past instead.”  In other words, sorry about the Two album, this is what I really want to be doing.

The first three tracks totally smoke, all falling somewhere in a Defenders/Painkiller vibe of Priestly goodness.  At first I didn’t like “Night Fall”, the fourth track, too much.  Its redeeming value is a great chorus, totally in the Defenders mold.

“Silent Screams” is one of the songs that Rob was working on with Marlette at the end of Two.  Rob was especially proud of this lengthy number, and he released a demo version of it for free on his official website.  The demo version is an evolution from Two.  It has screams (appropriately enough) and heavy guitar riffs.  The album version has a more emotional lead vocal and tones down the keyboards.  The song is a bit slow and ploddy to start with but it is epic in quality and it sure does rock by the halfway point!

The big gimmick on the album was the duet with Bruce Dickinson, “The One You Love to Hate”.  The connection is Roy Z, but obviously a matchup like this would generate much hype.  Arguably the two best singers in metal, together at last.  Bruce sounds great, holding his own against the Metal God, who sounds vintage 80’s.  I have to say I enjoyed this one a lot.  Shortly thereafter, there were rumours of a coming supergroup called the Three Tremors – Rob, Bruce, and Geoff Tate of Queensryche.  All three artists were touring together at the time, but this idea was never meant to be taken seriously.

RESURRECTION_0002“Cyber World” is fast and heavy but unfortunately also boring and skip-worthy.  Likewise, the groovier “Slow Down”.  Dull title, dull song.  I tend to think of Resurrection as losing steam on side 2.  I guess that’s why the remastered edition inserts the Japanese bonus track “Hell’s Last Survivor” right here.  Sounding something of a Screaming for Vengeance outtake, I think this was placed here to compensate for some of the weaker tracks.

“Temptation” is a little on the boring side, so two new tracks are inserted at this point for the remastered edition:  “God Bringer of Death” and “Fetish”.  In my opinion it doesn’t sound like they belong here.  Rob’s voice had changed a lot in the 8 years since, and the sound is more like later Halford albums.  Neither song is particularly notable.

On the other hand, “Sad Wings”, which was previously only on the Japanese version, is awesome.  It has a sharp riff and a chorus that is designed to remind you what band he was the singer of.  This is followed by “Twist” which sounds like maybe it had its origins in Two, but I like it a lot.  “Drive” is also pretty decent, and the album ends with “Saviour” which has an anthemic chorus.

Bottom line:  Pretty decent if a bit safe comeback.  Rob wasn’t treading any new ground here musically, but Roy Z never fails to class up any album he’s on.  His tasteful and blistering solo work is just marvelous.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Two – Voyeurs (1998)

Part 4 in a miniseries on Rob Halford’s solo career!  Missed the last part?  Click here for Fight – A Small Deadly Space.

TWO – Voyeurs (1998 Nothing)

Fight was kaput.  Rob had a new band, a photo of whom appeared in Metal Edge magazine.  The band was called Halford, and although that would change, Rob used his surname for another band later on.  I remember a weird looking blonde dude wearing a silver skin tight suit of some kind (more on him later), and I thought, “Well, OK then.  This is going to be different.”  Soon after the Metal Edge photo, the name had changed from Halford, to Two.

I had a buddy, Nathan, who was really into Nine Inch Nails.  This Halford project was on his radar as well, due to Rob’s collaboration with Trent Reznor.  At the time, Rob Halford insisted that the resulting album, an industrial/rock hybrid, was the sound he was going for all along when he quit Priest in ’92 and formed Fight.

I don’t believe that, but they did come close on the Mutations EP. I think Fight was exactly what he wanted to do at that time. When the second Fight album fizzled I think Rob questioned his musical direction, hooked up with Trent, and did this experimental record.

Two (stylized as 2wo) were experimental by Halford’s standards, but not by industrial music standards in general. Voyeurs has all the expected bells and whistles, including but not limited to:  distorted vocals, the word “pig” in a song title, thumpy bass, ticky-ticky sounds, bloops, bleeps, and other stuff that sounds like broken machinery.

What does make this album special is that the band was “Two”, not “One”…meaning there is a second guy involved here, and what a talent he was. That guy was guitar player John 5. This was his breakthrough release. After this he hooked up with David Lee Roth, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, et al. John 5’s involvement means there is some wicked guitar work here, including “I Am A Pig” which features a solo that sounds like a mashup of Morello and Satriani.

Highlight songs include “I Am A Pig” (Reznor sure loves his pig imagery), “Stutter Kiss”, “Hey Sha La La”, “Water’s Leaking”, and the epic closer “Bed of Rust”.  “Bed of Rust” could have made a pretty cool Fight track.  I would say in fact that there are no throwaway songs here.  All of them have something worthwhile to offer.  Just don’t think too much about the lyrics.  Halford’s delivery is understated and, at times, whispery. No screams. At Reznor’s suggestion,  instead Rob explored other aspects of his voice.

Other notable names:  Bob Marlette plays bass and produces.  Dave “Rave” Ogilvie does some production work.  Trent Reznor “executive produced”.  I always wondered what that means.  I picture it meaning that Trent gives the project either a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” when the real work is done.

JOAQIN

Of course many Priest fans didn’t get it, although a chunk of the Reznor fans (who at the time would buy anything on Nothing records) accepted and enjoyed the album for what it is.  I think if this was a release by a more popular band, like say Nine Inch Nails or KMFDM, it could have spawned two or three singles.

Japan had a bonus track called “In My Head” which is absolutely impossible to find, so good luck. I’ve never heard it.

3.5/5 stars

Postscript:

It was during this period, promoting the Two album, that Rob Halford came out.  People joked for a good number of years that Rob’s sexuality was the worst kept secret in rock.  That can’t negate the courage that it took for Rob to come out in a musical genre that isn’t always kind to anyone who’s “different” (hello, Blabbermouth!).

“I think it’s difficult for everybody, you know, in making the decision to come forward and be who you are, based on peer pressure, especially if you’re a teenager,” Halford said. “That’s where a lot of the anxiety begins, and so maybe people like myself and others that do step in front of a camera and let the world know, maybe it’s of some help, where there’s an individual that’s been successful, that’s been able to achieve dreams and visions and goals in life and not let the issue of sexuality be something to hold them back, so I think it’s an important thing.”

More:

LGTBICONS:  Rob Halford – Angel of Retribution

MTV News – Rob Halford Discusses Sexuality Publicly For The First Time

Part 204: An Introduction to sHEAVY

sHEAVY_0002

Back then in the olden days, you were actually expected to type that whole url into your browser!

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.

sHEAVY_0003The 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.