Peter Steele

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

 

CONCERT REVIEW: Queensryche / Type O Negative – Toronto Ontario, July 27, 1995, Molson Amphitheatre

I’m a pack rat.  I keep everything.  I just dug up this vintage concert review.  I wrote this the day after the concert, so memories were fresh!  I’ve made some minor cleanups, but otherwise this is completely as-is, warts-and-all, somewhat embarrassing and a bit too long winded.  For what it’s worth, enjoy!  You might never find a more detailed write-up of the Promised Land tour!

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QUEENSRYCHE / TYPE O NEGATIVE – Toronto Ontario, July 27, 1995, Molson Amphitheatre

(written by Mike Ladano, on July 28 1995, never published)

On July 27 1995, Queensryche, possibly the only great progressive rock band that is still progressing, conquered the Molson Amphitheatre in triumph.  The road has been long and hard for these boys, they put out their first vinyl in 1983.  Despite all the changes in rock today, Queensryche came out and put on one high-tech wonder of a show that rocked and stimulated.

The band opened with the taped intro of “9:28 am”, the opening track of the Promised Land CD.  Their stage was bare, except for two platforms, a keyboard and a drum kit.  The drum kit was encased in plexiglass, which seemed unusual at the time.  [I know now that this was to keep the drums from bleeding into other microphones on stage.]  One could pick out dozens of lasers, lights and effects just waiting to be used.  Behind the stage were two monstrous projection screens, much like the band used on the Empire tour.

After the intro, Chris DeGarmo, Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson and Scott Rockenfield roared onto the stage with “I Am I” which was accompanied by a video of Geoff Tate wandering though a desert encountering all sorts of strange mirages based on the lies of the American Dream.  Then the Tatemeister himself appeared on stage, wearing suit and tie, and being hounded by a half dozen journalists harassing him all over the stage.  It was, of course, all part of the show.

The band segued from there straight into “Damaged”, just as they do on record.  The press ripped off Tate’s suit, leaving him in a pair of bicycle shorts.  The band continued to rage through this song, complete with distorted vocal effects from the album.

The band took a breather there, playing their acoustic hit single “Bridge”, a “Cats In the Cradle” story about Chris DeGarmo’s father.  Again, this came with constant bombardment of images on the backing screens.  It was extremely difficult to stay focused on any one thing on stage, however, Geoff Tate is a very animated frontman; moving and contorting about, acting out his words, while he and the video screens fight for attention.

From here, the band took a trip down memory lane that I’ll not soon forget.  Upon entering, I said I wanted to hear old obscure Queensryche.  I wanted to hear “Neue Regel” and “NM 156”.  The band went right into those songs, as well as “Screaming In Digital” from Rage For Order.   For these songs (which used distorted computerized vocals before Trent Reznor had even envisioned such a thing), Tate sang like a computer or a Dalek from Dr. Who.  Then, when a burst of power was needed, the distortion would come off, and Tate would rip his lungs out with vocals from hell.

Geoff Tate’s voice was stronger here than the way I remembered it from the video footage of the Empire tour, which was nice to see.  He did falter, especially on those incredible highs, but this was also refreshing:  It meant he was not relying on backing tapes.  The entire band played well, never straying too far from their recorded album parts, but just enough for there to be an audible difference.

“My Global Mind”, a song about the information superhighway and the artificial ties it makes between nations, contained some disturbing film footage:  Saddam Hussein, and children starving in Africa.

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I always said Scott Rockenfield was Queensryche’s version of Rush’s Neil Peart, and last night he proved this.  With his hair shorn, and receding hairline revealed, he now not only sounds like Peart but looks like Peart!  Encased behind the plexiglass, he played with precision and power, even more so than on the album.  Chris DeGarmo had also cut his hair short(er) which was disappointing.  He used to have Godlike hair!

The band kicked into overdrive, playing tunes from the landmark Operation: Mindcrime album.  Their heaviest material came on even heavier live, with more power in the bass, drums and vocals.  From that album, they played in sequence:  “I Remember Now” (a taped intro with the same cartoon video footage that they used on the last tour), “Anarchy-X”, “Revolution Calling”, “Operation: Mindcrime”, “Spreading the Disease” (Geoff Tate sticks microphone in his pants and makes interesting movements), “The Mission”, and to close off the Mindcrime portion, “Eyes of a Stranger”.  For this conceptual section, Tate came out dressed as the album’s protagonist Nikki, in leather pants and jacket, shedding the shorts.

“Empire”, which came across as brutally heavy live, was accompanied by the drug-dealing video footage from their MTV video, but with added stuff as well, which made it more fun to watch.

Queensryche played the entire Promised Land album from start to finish [but not in sequence] which came as a surprise to everyone.  What came as even more of a surprise was how well this densely layered recording came off, live.

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The title track, “Promised Land”, was most interesting.  As a film played of Tate and his family buying a home (and of course not being able to afford it), the roadies ripped apart the stage and set up something else in darkness.  Then, the lights came on.  On stage was now a bar, a few tables with a ton of patrons (roadies and the drummer [Johnny Kellyfrom Type O Negative), and a tiny little stage off to the side, where a second drum kit now sat.

The band walked through the bar dressed in matching suits, just like any lounge act.  They played some piano-based barroom jazz number until, now assembled on that tiny postage stamp sized stage, they rumbled into “Promised Land”.  Tate sat at the bar, wearing pink shirt and beige pants (matching his get-up from the video footage), singing this song of disillusion.  This was also the first live appearance of his saxophone.  Just like on the album, he would play sax breaks in between verses.

Although this is one of the most serious songs you would ever want to hear, this was the last show of the tour, and it was time for the road crew to cut loose with some comedy.  One of the bar patrons slow-danced center stage with a blow-up doll through the entire 8 minute song!

The videos came back on as the bar set was torn down, and again replaced with the plastic-encased drum kit.  The band rumbled into “Disconnected”, with more saxophone.

Before “Out of Mind”, Tate began with a speech about people who might be viewed as different.  “You…your hair’s not the right length.  And your hair’s just…not the right colour.  What would you do if one day, those men in white coats came knocking on your door?”

From behind, a butt-ugly roadie dressed as a nurse in a yellow wig put Tate into a wheelchair.  (Normally, an actress plays the nurse, but like I said, this was closing night!)  Tate sang the song from the chair, using a mirror as a prop.  He would sing into the mirror while a hidden camera filmed his reflection, and projected it onto the big screens.

The band closed their set with a predictable final tune.  Of course, it had to be “Silent Lucidity”.  For this song, five large transparent curtains came down on stage, concealing the drums and Chris DeGarmo.  Suddenly, laser projectors came on, and presented amazing dream-like images onto those curtains, giving the illusion that they were suspended in air.

The crowd, as expected, went absolutely bonkers for this song, singing along to every word.  Bowing, Queensryche left the stage in triumph….

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…And returned with their early classic, “Take Hold Of the Flame” from their very first full-length album, The Warning.  Of course, this went over amazingly.  There were some diehard fans in this audience who knew the words to even the most obscure music that Queensryche could throw at them.

Queensryche ended their encore with perhaps the greatest song they have ever written:  “Someone Else?”  Chris DeGarmo played piano, Michael Wilton played some quiet backing guitar, and Scott Rockenfield added some cymbals.  It was hard not to be blown away by Tate’s extremely emotional voice during this piece.  If anything, Tate is even more emotional live than on record.

And that was the end, the band finally leaving in triumph, for real this time.

According to some in the audience, Queensryche’s stage show topped Pink Floyd.  Believe it.  This was, by far, the greatest rock show I have ever seen.  I can’t imagine anyone, even Queensryche themselves, topping this.  This was not heavy metal:  This was theatre, and it was so fucking refreshing to see in this back-to-basics era of grunge blockheads like Pearl Jam and Nirvana.

All hail the mighty Queen of the Reich.

We missed the first few tracks from openers Type O Negative, but we could hear them just fine while eating.  They opened with “Blood and Fire” from their new album, Bloody Kisses.  We caught them halfway into the second tune, the incredible “Christian Woman”.  They then played an older tune about suicide [title long forgotten].  Said vocalist Peter Steele:  “This is a song about suicide, which we fully recommend.  I know when I get old and my body is no longer useful to society, I am going to throw myself off a building, and hopefully land on someone I hate.”  Gotta love them Type O Guys.  [Sadly, Peter Steele never had the chance to get old.]

They played only two more songs, “Too Late: Frozen” and of course “Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-All)”.  Speaking of scary, these guys were not all that pleasant to look at.  Josh Silver, the keyboard player, has got to be the ugliest son of a bitch on the face of the Earth.  Peter Steele looks like he sleeps in a coffin.  Musically however, these guys were better live than on album.  On record, they come across somewhat wimpy.  Live, they are heavier and more energized.

5/5 stars

More Queensryche:

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part I

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part II

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part III

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part IV