tommy clufetos

REVIEW: Black Sabbath – The End (2016)

NEW RELEASE

Scan_20160330BLACK SABBATH – The End (2016 BS Productions)

As a Black Sabbath fan since I was old enough to be a Black Sabbath fan, I have amassed a huge collection of official and unofficial Sabbath recordings.  With the exception of one Japanese bonus track (“What’s the Use” from Cross Purposes), I can happily say I have everything the band has ever officially put their name on.  The End has proven to be one of their most difficult albums to acquire, because Sabbath insisted on selling it at their concerts exclusively.  (At least until the inevitable reissue with bonus tracks.)  With only one CD, eight songs, and no booklet, it’s hard to justify a $30 selling price.  Additionally, many concerts were sold out of the CD, because of people buying multiple copies for re-sale.  The proof is on eBay and Discogs.

Thankfully, a fine gentleman known to his friends as James went to see Black Sabbath on a whim on their Calgary date.  He exited the arena with three copies of The End, but none were for re-sale: One for him, one for our buddy Aaron, and one for me!

Ever since the release of the terrific album 13, the band teased that they had plenty of extra material to perhaps do another LP.  It turns out, they had recorded at least 16 songs that we know of for 13.  There were eight songs on the album proper, and an additional four on various special editions.  The End contains four more from the sessions!  Four songs isn’t enough for a whole new album, so for added value, rare live songs are included.  None of these have ever been on a live Sabbath album before.

Sounding something like an outtake from the not-Sabbath album The Devil You Know, “Season of the Dead” has the slow crawl that has become a Sabbath trademark.  A chugging, biting riff and a slightly psychedelic melody are the pillars, but like Sabbath of old, it twists and turns into different parts.  “Season of the Dead” is a grower, but it certainly does sound like Black Sabbath and nobody but.  Doom, gloom and slinky bass.  “Cry All Night” starts as a slow Sabbath crawl but then immediately transforms into a mid-tempo stomp.  These Iommi riffs are by no means leftovers.  Can you imagine what he still has in the vault?  (Note:  Tony Iommi really does have a vault where he keeps all his riff tapes.)

Studio drummer Brad Wilk really stands out on “Take Me Home”, as a precise and hard-hitting player.  The monolithic riff he compliments is simple but effective.  Meanwhile, parts of Ozzy’s vocal melody are reminiscent of his song “Fire in the Sky” from 1988’s No Rest for the Wicked.  Tony’s Spanish guitar solo is a delicate icing on a very heavy cake.  The final studio track is “Isolated Man”, a different and interesting experiment.  At its core it is still a heavy-riffed Black Sabbath refrain, but Ozzy’s vocals are purposely mixed back and heavily layered for effect.  The result is something very much like the oddball shit that they used to do in the 70’s.

Each one of these “new” songs is going to take time to fully absorb.  They are not immediate, but neither was all of 13.  Even without Bill Ward, they managed to rebuild the sound they had 40 years ago, and that’s just grand.  13 easily could have been a full double album, consistent and heavier than fuck, had all 16 songs been included.  It also would have been an overly long ride of doom!

The live stuff is well recorded.  Ozzy doesn’t sound too lively on “God Is Dead?”, but that tends to happen when you read the words off a teleprompter.  He was in good voice that night in Sydney, maybe even great!  It’s great to have “God Is Dead?” in live form, but it only really cooks from time to time.  Oldie “Under the Sun” (from Vol. 4) has long been one of my favourite Iommi riffs.  It’s great to finally have this in live form; it’s just too bad it lacks the swing of Bill Ward.  That is not a swipe at Tommy Clufetos, a great drummer who has done very well under difficult circumstances.  Of the many drummers that Sabbath have employed over the years in the absence of Ward, Tommy has been one of the best fits for an “original” sounding Black Sabbath.

Jetting off to Hamilton Ontario Canada, “End of the Beginning” serves as a main course of doomy metal.  The crowd is clearly into it, as Ozzy gets them riled up.  This track works better live than “God Is Dead?”, being much more peppy and headbang-worthy.  Here is my only beef:  I noticed during one of Tony’s solos that there was rhythm guitar.  Looking at the back cover, keyboardist Adam Wakeman is also credited with additional guitar.  Black Sabbath has always been a single-guitar band, and I definitely noticed this unfamiliar sound.  I’m not sure how I feel about that.  Sure, it sounds more like the album, but it sounds less like the live Black Sabbath that I loved.

Of course Ozzy has to remind the audience that he loves them all!  “God bless you all, thank you!” he says, showing gratitude for a #1 album in Canada.  “Age of Reason” sounds like a crusher live, and certainly epic enough to act as a closing track on the final Black Sabbath album.  Even if it wasn’t epic, it was a new Black Sabbath song recorded for posterity and now in the collection forever.  That’s enough for this guy.

I am not sure how a $30 price tag is justified, but I have paid more for less.  The score for this review is completely independent of the price.  You’ll have to judge for yourself how much you’re willing to pay.  $30 is high for four new songs and four live songs.  Be that as it may, eBay prices are stupid.  My advice:  Grab it for $40 or less, or sit tight and wait and see if it’s ever reissued.  Final Black Sabbath album?  Perhaps, but expect plenty of Sabbath material to buy in the future.  Up next: deluxe editions of Headless Cross and Tyr!

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Black Sabbath – 13 (deluxe, Best Buy, all 5 bonus tracks)

BLACK SABBATH – 13 (2013 Universal deluxe, Best Buy, and Spotify editions)

Last year, Uncle Meat gave us his detailed review of Black Sabbath’s 13.  (His rating:  3.25/5 stars.  Check out his full review for the scoop on the first CD of this metal monolith.)  Having had almost a year to live with it myself, I think it’s time I got around to reviewing the songs he didn’t:  the bonus tracks!

The deluxe and Best Buy editions have “Methademic,” “Peace of Mind,” and “Pariah.”  “Methademic” is cool for being a fast-paced heavy rocker, something I associate more with a Dio kind of sound.  It’s a good track, good enough that Sabbath play it live.  Geezer’s got a serious groove going on with the bass part, and Brad Wilk is playing with furious drive.  You wouldn’t consider this song to be as good as any on the first CD of 13, but it’s a great bonus track.

“Peace of Mind” is of equal quality to “Methademic.”  This time Sabbath have gone back to doomy, but Ozzy’s vocal melody takes it to a special place.   All it’s missing is that looseness that only Bill Ward could provide.  It sounds so authentically Black Sabbath, but if you concentrate on the beat, you can hear that the loose swing of old is not there.  Having said that I enjoy “Peace of Mind” very much, especially when it picks up after the 2:15 mark.

My favourite of this trio of songs is “Pariah.”  It occupies a mid-paced groove which chugs along nicely.  Tony has a couple cool riffs in it, but once again Ozzy’s vocal seals the deal.  Tony’s guitar solo is icing on the cake.  I love when he has a chance to slow down and play bluesy, as he does here.

Japanese fans, and Best Buy shoppers have their own exclusive bonus track, and it’s the one with the best title:  “Naïveté in Black.”  You have to love that.  This smoker is similar to “Time Machine,” from Dehumanizer.  I don’t know why a song this good was left to Best Buy, because it’s better than the other three.  It’s definitely unique among the 13 songs for sounding more like Dio-Sabbath than Ozzy-Sabbath; perhaps that’s the primary reason.  Count me as a big fan of “Naïveté in Black.”

Finally even Spotify have a bonus track, which is “Dirty Women,” live.  This is with Tommy Clueftos on drums, from the same show as the recent Gathered In Their Masses live DVD (but not the CD).  I am fortunate enough to have an excellent quality copy of the song burned to a CD, the perfect final bonus track to 13.

But that’s not all folks.  With the deluxe box set edition, there’s a DVD as well.  There is a brief documentary about the reunion and recording of the new album.  There are quite a few humorous moments, but I do not consider this to be much of a bonus.  All this stuff is available for free on youtube.  I don’t value a physical copy of something like this as much as I value a physical copy of a song.

Best moment:

Fan – “I came all the way from Croatia!”

Ozzy – “Where the fuck is that?”

The deluxe set is large and very nice to look at, but I considered it sparse in terms of worthwhile goodies.  There are lots of large glossy photos, but they’re not up to handling repeatedly.  There’s a print of the “God Is Dead?” single art, a 2 CD set (minus “Naïveté in Black”), and 13 on double 180 gram vinyl LPs.  Everything is lovely and fragile.  There’s also far too much room in the box itself for everything, so things move around inside.  That’s a bit of a design flaw just to save on some extra cardboard packaging.

The Best Buy set came with a T-shirt, which I have kept in-package.  You can find pictures of both versions below.

4.5/5 stars (for 13 as a whole)

Best Buy:

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Deluxe:

 

 

 

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Scream (2011 tour edition)

OZZY OSBOURNE – Scream (2011 tour edition)

If you liked Ozzy’s previous album, the quite good Black Rain, then I think you might like Scream even better. As everybody knew, it was Ozzy’s first new studio album of original material without Zakk Wylde since he joined the band. (Jerry Cantrell did play on the perfectly awful covers album Under Cover.) Many wanted to know, “Is Gus G any good?”

Yup.

Ozzy’s never had a bad guitar player, and Gus G is a speed demon. I don’t know alot about the guy, but he seems to emulate Zakk with those “Wylde” bends, yet he also has this fast neo-classical vibe. If you hear that Ozzy live EP that came around the same time (iTunes Festival 2010) you will find that he really nails a Zakk-like vibe on the old Ozzy stuff. On the Sabbath classics, he does justice to Iommi’s chunky riffs. And he’s fast…really fast. In other words, he is kind of the best of all worlds. I’m not saying he’s better than Zakk, because personality goes a long way.  I’m just telling you what I hear.

SCREAM_0002Songwise, Ozzy wrote the album again with Canadian producer Kevin Churko, with some co-writes by Adam Wakeman. Churko also played drums even though Tommy Clufetos was credited. I really like Scream, and I can’t say there’s anything weak on it.  I’ve had a chance to live with it for a few years and I still enjoy it.  Maybe a couple filler tracks here and there, but nothing I hated. Most of the rhythms are chunky and staggered, gated like some nu-metal band but still well within the realm of Oz. The excellent “Soul Sucker” and “Diggin’ Me Down” in particular emphasize this modern sound.  I happen to like both songs a lot.

Yet there are surprises on here. I wouldn’t call them “ballads” per se, but “Time” and “Life Won’t Wait” change the pace. “Time” re-emphasizes Ozzy’s old love of the Beach Boys with its lush “ooh, ooh” backing vocals. “Life Won’t Wait” is a softer, bass-driven mid-tempo rocker with an amazing chorus as only Ozzy can deliver. The bass line really reminds me of another song, “Take a Picture” by Filter.

The rest of the album is heavy, maybe Ozzy’s heaviest. At times it reminded me of Zombie, at others, Sabbath. In general though it is identifiably Ozzy. “Let Me Hear You Scream,” the lead single, is a fast heavy Ozzy rocker designed for firing up the concert crowd. While Scream does not worm its way into your noggin the way Blizzard of Ozz did, it’s still a pretty good record. Ozzy seems very proud of it, and rightly so.

Lyrically, Ozzy’s in familiar territory. His lyrics to me are always underrated (whether he writes them or not). On Scream, he has tracks for his beloved audience as always: “Let Me Hear You Scream” and the touching outro “I Love You All”. On others he’s talking about religion. “Diggin’ Me Down” asks the question, how long must we wait for Jesus Christ to come back? “Crucify” seems to be about crooked preachers again, or perhaps just those who prey upon the desperate.

SCREAM_0004This being Ozzy, a “tour edition” was released not too long after I bought the original. In fact, I bought Scream as a digital download just to get the bonus track “One More Time”, a heart-racing rocker with a great tempo. I also bought this album on Japanese import to get the “Jump The Moon” (not really exceptional) bonus track. Hindsight is always 20/20, and I should have learned from the past album, Black Rain. It too had bonus tracks for different markets, and it too was reissued with all bonus tracks intact on some kind of tour edition.  So Ozzy’s done it again, with this “tour edition” designed to promote his American tour. You can tell by the missing black flag, now replaced with an American banner. Ozzy has also stuck on a “new” song called “Hand of the Enemy” which to me wasn’t as good as the rest of the material on the album. Besides that, there are four live tracks: “Let Me Hear You Scream”, “Bark At The Moon”, “No More Tears” and the Sabbath classic “Fairies Wear Boots”.  This is the second released live version of “Let me Hear You Scream”, though this is the first version available on a physical release.   All four live tracks are great, with Ozzy’s newest band playing competently with their own flavour. Best of the live tracks is “Fairies Wear Boots”, on which Gus G perfectly captures the guitar riff. Plus it’s a song that Ozzy plays less frequently, so that’s a bonus.

I also bought this album on double vinyl. The vinyl edition omits the live songs, but includes an exclusive single edit of “Life Won’t Wait”. So in total, I ended up with Scream four times!  (I gave the Japanese import to my friend Peter.)

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Black Sabbath – Live…Gathered In Their Masses (CD/DVD/Blu-ray box set)

NEW RELEASE

BLACK SABBATH – Live…Gathered In Their Masses (2013 CD/DVD/Blu-ray box set)

Any time a classic rock band releases new music and goes back on tour, there has to be a live album to go with it these days.  Actually, to be more accurate in the current age it’s more likely to be some kind of CD/DVD combo pack.  This deluxe of Live…Gathered In Their Masses contains 1 CD, 1 Blu-ray, and 2 DVDs.

The visual program opens with a collage of pre-gig ritiual.  The band arrive, and get ready in their own dressing rooms, the cameras offering a brief intimate glimpse.  Before too long, the air raid sirens of “War Pigs” brings us to the stage.  The Blu-ray looks absolutely gorgeous.  Every line on every face is visible, every grain on Tony’s Gibson SG, and the stage is gorgeously lit.  It’s a beautiful disc to watch in 1080p.  I couldn’t help myself; I sat there playing air drums, and putting my hands in the air when Ozzy commanded.  It was fun!

Ozzy hops about, but most exciting visually is unofficial member Tommy Clufetos.  I wonder if it’s intentional, but he definitely resembles a young Bill Ward circa 1976 (as long as he keeps his shirt on).  And Tony?  He smiles, a lot.  You would too if you’ve been through what he has I imagine!  Ozzy’s already dumped a bucket of water over his head before they get to the second song, a sludgy “Into the Void”.  I think the temptation is often to play this song a little faster live, but this version is very much in pace with the deliberately slow original.

My cell phone ring tone these days is that riff from “Loner”, one of the best songs from 13.  Unfortunately, the fact that this is a new song means Ozzy’s rivited to one place on stage, concentrating on the words, glancing at the floor.  Even so, Ozzy remains a mesmerizing presence.  Another bucket of water, and Ozzy’s the cheeleading frontman again.  The bonus interview on the disc, by the way, reveals why Ozzy really douses himself in water!  (You probably don’t want to know.)  “Snowblind” then erupts, Ozzy hitting the high notes with cracking but real voice!  (That’s the part that counts.)  Tony’s extended guitar solo is a stunner in itself.

The rain and tolling bells of “Black Sabbath” sound great on blu-ray, though I was hoping to hear more stuff going on behind me in the 5.1 mix.  “Black Sabbath” is the standard workout, no surprises here.  Likewise, “N.I.B.” is very much the traditional Sabbath version, even down to each note of Tony’s solo.  Ozzy somehow manages to still be menacing behind the mic.  “Methademic” is one of the new songs again, but oddly it’s a only bonus track on the deluxe versions of 13.  This is a song that resembles Dio-era Sabbath and would have sounded at home on Dehumanizer or The Devil You Know.  With Ozzy behind the mic, it’s still classic Sabbath.  I think it’s a great number, only weakened live by Ozzy struggling through the wordy lyrics.

Oz doesn’t seem to have trouble with the old favourite “Fairies Wear Boots”.  His wail of “Allllllright now!” looms, and out comes the water again!  “Symptom Of the Universe” then stomps on the stage.  This is the song that Clufetos can really sink his chops in.  He’s obviously not Bill Ward, but I like his interpretation of Bill’s parts.  They’re as close to the mark as any other Sabbath drummer’s parts, if not more.  Tommy gets an extended drum solo too, during “Symptom”, not bad for an unofficial member!  Mrs. LeBrain called the solo “Sweet!”

GATHERED IN THEIR MASSES_0004A drum solo naturally suits “Iron Man” to segue into.  “Iron Man” is wooden, Clufetos unable to cop Bill Ward’s loose feel.  It’s still “Iron Man”, a song Black Sabbath have probably played live at every show since ’72, but it’s not definitive.  Only when the song gets up to speed does it become the beast it should be.  Another new song, the deliberately vintage sounding “End of the Beginning” takes over, but it’s not the song I would have chosen to play at this point of the set.  Not only is it too similar to “Black Sabbath” but it slows the set down too much so close to the end.  It does pick up, but I feel it would have worked better closer to the start of the show.

Ozzy then teases out that they will only play one more song, unless the crowd goes “extra crazy”.  This “final” song is the storming “Children of the Grave.”  The audience bounces like a wave in sync with the classic tune, led by an energized Ozzy.  I detected some clever editing here to make it appear that Ozzy is jumping around more than he actually is, but that’s video.  One pretty thing about this song is the appearance of Tony’s old cream Gibson SG, paint cracked and chipping.  Blu-ray allows you to see every scratch in the paint.

The crowd goes “extra crazy” and then Ozzy says they’ll play one more song.  It’s “God Is Dead?”, the excellent first single from 13.  Clufetos nails the stuttering drum roll, but Ozzy’s back to reading lyrics off the floor, which is distracting.  But does anyone actually believe it is the last song; that they won’t play “Paranoid”?  Of course they play it, and the riff from “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” too.  It’s the quintessential closer, ending the concert as a party, not a session of pure doom!  Clufetos and Ozzy are quite animated on “Paranoid”, and of course Ozzy reminds the crowd that they are “number one”!  I just wish Tommy would pull up his pants.  Fuck, I wish I could fit into that size!

The DVD and Blu-ray versions contain three bonus tracks.  “Under the Sun” is a nice one to pull out of the hat.  Ozzy handles the difficult vocals without issue.  How does he do it?  You can hear his voice cracking from time to time; it sounds live.  “Dirty Women” is a personal favourite of mine.  This is an interesting version.  It’s the one that Spotify have as their own exclusive bonus track to 13.  I already had an audio copy of this bonus track, but Blu-ray is cool, too.  It’s a damn great rendition of a lost classic from Technical Ecstasy.  “Electric Funeral” is the big surprise, a song I don’t think I’ve ever heard played live.  Ozzy really struggles with the words on “Electric Funeral” but it’s a treat.

Elsewhere on the disc, there are more bonus features.  I have to say the Blu-ray menu is an annoying, repeating tolling bell.  Leaving the menu running unattended for more than 60 seconds is an excersize in testing your patience.  In the bonus features, the Sabbath interview is typically low key.  You know what to expect:  a difficult to understand Ozzy, and a soft spoken Tony, with occasional comments from Geezer.  There’s not too much here in the way of revelations.  Vegetable juice and food have replaced vodka and a line before the show, although Geezer still drinks wine.  How scandalous!  I don’t know who the interviewer is, but he’s very good at getting the band involved and in good humour.

Lastly there’s a feature called “Show Day”.  This is a behind the scenes look at the goings-on in the 24 hours before the show in Melbourne.  I love it!

Ozzy:  “You know what I was looking at, the old re-runs of the Twilight Zone.”

Geezer:  “You told me that about 40 times.”

Ozzy:  “Sorry.  Trying to make conversation.”

Tony:  (Laughs.)

Even Joe Perry and Steven Tyler show up backstage.  I enjoy watching Joe and Tony chatting…what a meeting of guitar greats in one room.

The packaging for this box set is loaded with goodies.  I always enjoy some complimentary guitar picks.  There’s one here from Tony, and one from Geezer.  There’s also a replica concert ticket, setlist, and a small poster.  Nothing to get too excited about, but when you buy an expensive box set it’s nice to get these added touches as a bonus.  There’s also two DVDs included with the same content as Blu-ray.  That’s extraneous to me, I may never play them, so they’re sealed.  I don’t have a problem with that, but I do wish they didn’t edit the CD version of the concert down to fit on one CD.  I’m pleased that the CD version contains all the new songs, but for the price of this set relative to the cheap cost of a CD, I don’t know why they couldn’t just make it a 2 CD set.  That part is disappointing.  When I buy a deluxe edition, I want the whole thing on CD.

That niggle aside, Black Sabbath Live…Gathered In Their Masses is worth:

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – iTunes Festival London 2010 / “How?” (iTunes exclusives)

Today, T-Rev, Wes and I are attending The Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale in Mississauga, Ontario. Wish us luck in our musical quests! For today, an Ozzy rarities review.

OZZY OZBOURNE – iTunes Festival 2010 (iTunes exclusive EP)

Jesus Murphy!  How much live product does Ozzy need?  Remember back in the 80’s when he used to moan and moan about record companies who wanted to release live stuff with his hits and Sabbath tunes?  Well, for a guy who complained about it, he sure didn’t break the cycle.

This is Ozzy’s third live EP (after Live E.P. and Just Say Ozzy).  For those keeping score, Ozzy also has four full length or double live albums, a live bonus disc to the Diary of a Madman album, and several live bonus tracks.  But who’s keeping track?  I guess it’s kind of cool that this EP was released three days after it was recorded on July 3, 2010…if you were there…or even knew it was happening…I guess.

Anyway this live EP was cool at least because it was the first live product available with Ozzy’s new guitar wizard Gus G.  The band was rounded out by Blasko (bass), Tommy Clufetos (drums) and Adam Wakeman (keys).  Hmm, didn’t two of those guys also play on the last Black Sabbath tour?

It’s entertaining enough, but any Ozzy live product in the last 20 years has felt like “just another live album” to me.  Even with the new lineup on this one, I can’t feel too excited.  At least I got one song that I didn’t have any live versions of:  the new “Let Me Hear You Scream”.  Oh, wait, hold on — another live version was on the Scream tour edition that was released a few months later!  Jesus!  This iTunes version sound like it has loads of taped backing vocals.  Too bad.

“Mr. Crowley” is next, a fine version, nothing wrong with it, after all these years nothing can compete with the version on Randy Rhoads Tribute.  Gus G plays the solo pretty much perfectly, but something’s missing.  Maybe it’s that the song is tuned down for Ozzy’s voice.  Ozzy reminds us that he wants to see “some fuckin’ hands”.  Another Blizzard of Ozz track follows, “I Don’t Know”.  Gus G gets to do some more original shredding here, as he puts his own spin on an Ozzy classic.  This guy will be a guitarist to watch, as he grows.

“Suicide Solution” is the third of three tracks from Blizzard.  I think it’s a shame that Ozzy keeps playing the oldies while leaving more recent songs behind him.  On this EP, only “Let Me Hear You Scream” is newer than 1991.  I for one would probably poop if I got to hear something like “Perry Mason” or “Trap Door”.  At least Gus G breaks the world landspeed record with his solo.

One song I never liked, ever, is “I Don’t Want to Change the World” from No More Tears.  This is the fifth version I own now.  It’s just…I dunno…I hate the chorus.  It’s too pop for Ozzy.  It’s like Bon Ozzy, or something.  Ozz Jovi.

My favourite track is last:  “War Pigs”.  Even though “War Pigs” is on pretty much every Ozzy live album ever made, this version is one of the most fun!  I just love when Ozzy tells the audience this:

“Clap your fuckin’ hands, come on you fuckin’ assholes!”

That is just hilarious!  I always laugh.  When I put this song on mix discs, I always label it “War Pigs (‘You fuckin’ assholes’ version)”.

OZZY OZBOURNE – “How?” (2010 iTunes single)

The last thing I want to talk about is Ozzy’s studio version of John Lennon’s “How?”.  This is also an iTunes exclusive, released in October 2010, shortly after the EP.  It was released on what would have been Lennon’s 70th birthday, with the proceeds going to Amnesty International.

Causes and good intentions aside, I think this version is just as crappy as anything on Ozzy’s dreadful Under Cover CD.  This is just…dull, boring, and not good.  I don’t know who played on it or produced it because there are no credits.  (Physical product!  This is why I care!)

iTunes Festival London 2010:  2.5/5 stars

“How?”:  1/5 stars

Most Anticipated New Releases of 2013 (?)

I was having an offline discussion with the mighty Heavy Metal OverloRd and The CD Whisperer about the albums we’re most excited about in 2013.

It’s easy to think back just one year and remember how we couldn’t wait to see if the new Van Halen would be a triumph or disaster.  Now it’s the end of the year once again, and as long as the world doesn’t end on December 21, there are some cool releases lined up for the new year.

What are you most excited for?  Is there something in particular that you KNOW you’ll be buying before you hear a single note?

I have five must-buys in 2013.  Here’s my list.

queensryche

5. QUEENSRYCHE

This could end up being a total disaster.  Replacing a beloved (albeit knife-weilding) original frontman with a relative unknown is a huge risk.  Kudos to the band for trying, I’ll play along.  The key will be to walk a fine line between avoiding a retread of the past, and reminding fans how good they used to be.  Not an easy task.  Will Todd La Torre be up for it?  Time will tell.

crue

4. MOTLEY CRUE

Nikki has said the band is writing music to follow the lacklustre single “Sex”.  They’ve got tour dates with Kiss lined up in the new year.  I’ll admit I’m actually not that excited about a new Motley release, but I have been faithfully following this band through ups and downs through their entire career.  I even bought New Tattoo!

Voivodtarget

3. VOIVOD – Target Earth

This one has a confirmed release date of January 22.  Although some may say that the idea of a new Voivod album without the late guitarist Piggy is sacrilege, life goes on.  This is the first album in over two decades with Blackie on bass.  From what I’ve heard of the first single, “Kluskap O’Kom”, it does sound like Voivod.  I’ll be supporting the boys in 2013, count on reading my review in the new year.

Sabbath Logo

2. BLACK SABBATH

Some might say that the idea of an “original” Sabbath album without Bill Ward is sacrilege!  Hell, I might be one of them!  But I love this band, and I have to have faith that the combined might of Sabbath plus Rick Rubin will produce something worthwhile.  Will “Scary Dreams” be on there?  I sure hope so.  First album with Tommy Clufetos on drums, a much more metronomic drummer, so I wonder if Sabbath can capture that loose vibe of the precious first 8.

Purple

1. DEEP PURPLE

Confirmed for an April 26 release.  Confirmed that Bob Ezrin is producing.  Confirmed song titles:  “Out Of Hand,” “Hell To Pay,” “Weirdistan,” “Uncommon Man” and “Above and Beyond.”  “Above and Beyond” is a tribute to late organist Jon Lord, who passed away far too soon.  “Weirdistan”?  I love it.  That title can only come from Ian Gillan.  Astoundingly this is the fifth album with Steve Morse and third with Don Airey.  And some said they’d never last without Blackmore!  I will most definitely be pre-ordering whatever cool editions the band has lined up.

What are you psyched about in the new year?  I want to hear from you.

A Quickie: Sabbath, O2 Academy Birmingham

I just want to say a couple quick things about the Sabbath reunion, Tony, and the drummer situation.

I think when the Ozzy-fronted version of Sabbath was put on ice in 2006, it was a good thing, because they were sounding stale and boring.  It also gave Dio a chance to come back one more time.  But, from the 02 footage I’ve seen, Sabbath are a lot better now than they were in 2004/5/6.  They are playing a few different songs this time which is cool.

Tony looks great, considering what he has been through with his health.  This show must have done Tony a world of good for his spirits.  He played great and you wouldn’t have known anything was wrong with the guy.

And finally, the drummer.  Bill Ward’s an interesting character with a complex set of ethics that often leaves me fascinated if not baffled.  In the 70’s nobody else could have been the drummer of Black Sabbath, his sound was so integral to the original band.  I wish he was involved with the studio album for that reason, but I don’t believe that Bill Ward can play that way anymore.  You really notice a shift in his drumming style from about 1983 onwards.    Tommy Clufetos, from what I hear, is a decent enough drummer.  I find him both visually interesting and distracting.  I’m sceptical, but I’ll bite.  In the end you have to assume, regardless of his Ozzy connection, this guy wouldn’t have got the gig if Geezer wasn’t into him.

Looking forward to more shows.  Get well Tony Iommi!