A BLACK SABBATH Reunion Tour without Bill Ward is an Unarguable Atrocity

I may be a little late to the burgeoning party, but sweet merciful fuck, am I glad to see the rally of support behind Bill Ward. To be fair… to me, anyway… I did recently highlight the man in my first rant about Black Sabbath. Plus, I probably voiced my disapproval while DJing once or twice.

Anyway, lots of great evidence has recently cropped up on 1,000,000 Black Sabbath fans say yes to Bill Ward—who have blazed from zero to over 20k Facebook fans in their first 24 hours—with a broad swath of fan photocaps, personal family letters, artist-friend endorsements, and kind words/posts from those running the Page (I’ve come up with the name Tony Conley of Rock Guitar Daily, but I’m not sure who else is involved).

What frustrates me about the whole situation is that it shouldn’t be an issue. This is an all-or-nothing deal here. Besides the fact that drummers have fundamental differences in terms of style and substance, the spiritual side will lack the most in Bill’s absence. I have never seen the transcendent “fifth member” quality in any band to the degree of Black Sabbath. How many groups out there bust out covers of classic Sab slabs? Surely, many of you have seen Ozzy kick out the jams over the years with different band members, yeah? And perhaps you were also lucky enough to catch Heaven & Hell before Dio died? Well, regardless of preference for the various incarnations, there’s something undeniably special behind the Butler-Iommi-Osbourne-Ward connection onstage—a feeling nigh-impossible to miss.

We don’t want something that’s pretty enjoyable; we want the genuine article. We don’t want 3/4 of the band that invented heavy metal; we want them all. You know they can make this work. Complicated though it may be, money can always be shifted around, and is so fucking unimportant in the grand scheme. This could be their last tour, and I’ll be damned if it’s not truly complete. I will not personally attend without everyone present and accounted for; all real fans should likewise boycott. Do you agree or not? Would you attend a show yourself? Who would be the best replacement for Ward, and who would be outright unacceptable? (You know, if you had to choose… gun to your head.)

Lastly, in terms of pure logic, if you believe that the original members of Black Sabbath are Bill Ward, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, and Tony Iommi—and a definition of ‘reunion’ is: “a gathering of the members of a group who have been separated”—then an reunion as originally promised would necessitate all four Brummies. Should they sally forth with Ozzy’s skinsman Tommy Clufetos, they must rename the act, or risk lying to our angry faces and empty wallets.



On 'Post-', 'Djent', and Genre

"Whipping 'Post-'" was my working title. (found via http://www.fromoldbooks.org)

If you’ve read our lovely lists lately, you might remember that Cole hopes for more “metal” and less “post” in 2012. Then, our deaf jammer Brad Barratt (who contributed our first 2011 list—in 2011, even!) mentioned this, some 24 hours later on Facebook:

“I don’t understand the current trend with post-genres. Post-hardcore? Post-punk? Post-rock? Post-metal? What the fuck are the bands within these “genres” trying to do?”

So Cole and Brad got my gears turning, but then I remembered—as annoying as the mushrooming chthonic categories and subterranean subgenres can be, they’re often necessary. I mean, surely we fans have discovered groups by matching styles with other personal favorites. All you scribes and DJs reading know your eyes flash to genre every time you get a promo or one-sheet.

Still, people often get super pissed about genre—like one Randy Blythe. Re-reading this great piece from Heavy Blog is Heavy (itself inspired by The PRP) reminded me about Blythe’s ignorant comments and how I meant to write this article for a while. Scroll down through the comments section in the HBIH post and you’ll see a discussion about the mutability of words. After all, before the words “rock” and “metal” were used to describe music, they meant “solid mineral formations” and “an opaque, fusible, ductile, and typically lustrous substance that is a good conductor of electricity and heat”. Words hybridize, gain and lose meaning, and receive labels like ‘slang’ and ‘archaic’ as time passes. The notion of words as sacred is retarded.

Djent fueled Randy’s fire. And I admit that djent, as a subgenre, initially frustrated me. Not that I disliked the bands, exactly, but it didn’t seem like a critical categorization. It’s like calling ‘tremolo picking’ or ‘jud jud’ a subgenre …and so forth. But it has exploded outside of progressive metal realms in a few short years to include hundreds of bands, as evidenced in Facebook communities like The League of Extraordinary Djentlemen and websites like Got Djent, who also produced this fun little chart, which you probably saw about a year ago:

I'm bothered (though not butthurt) that Periphery is djentler than Meshuggah.

Anyway, part of the reason why I okayed the genre was because several characteristics fell in line, and bands that identified themselves as ‘djent’ bore similarities. Plus, the style basically arrived with—and blossomed through—the bands who employed it. So no, Rosetta, you can’t call doom metal ‘DUNNN’ because Black Sabbath invented that shit decades before the genre stuck. Hey, that brings me back around to the impetus behind this article:  the whole “post-” thing.

My problems with post-whatever stems from their static implications. This has existed, now there’s that; we were once there, and now we’re here. This contradicts the reality of music as a fluidly evolving beast, always adapting to reflect its environment. Not to mention that we have a habit of retrofitting certain bands with these obtuse genres; slap a label on Motörhead and see where that gets you. To all the young bucks and does, be thankful people try to understand your music; someday you might even become known on name alone. Just realize that everything we say — EVERYTHING — is arbitrary and symbolic. Words mean what they mean because we agree that’s what they mean. You remember that episode of South Park, “The ‘F’ Word? Thus, this includes post-whatever.

There is nothing inherently defining in “thrash” or “black metal” or “hardcore”, we have simply reached a consensus about how these words function as descriptors for different music. These descriptors are important to preserve our understanding of this music, without the need to recount the convergence of riffing/drumming/vocals and fire off a laundry list of bands every time a certain style is explained. The shorthand results in both surprises and stereotypes, innovators and imitators, masters and mediocrity. For those growing defensive, seriously consider the etymology of our brutal breeds; aren’t some just downright goofy?

My point is that I’ve made peace with the majority of these bastard offshoots. I realize this is a slippery slope, but bear with me a minute more. Again, this is all about evolution, right? So don’t be all scaredypants of every stupid sub-sub out there, because that’s counterproductive. Personally, I enjoy the expansion/specification/portmanteauification of “depressive black metal” and “[YOUR REGION HERE] folk metal” and “doomgaze”. If it’s a path to understanding, I’m gung-ho, but indeterminate confusion from monikers like “scenecore” and “deathcrunk” and “blackwheedlegrindskronk” will only hasten their downfall. Let the babies have their bottles.

So which genres have you made peace with? Is anything unforgivably bad? Will DOOM finally be commodified amidst the 2012 apocalyptic nonsense? If so, it would probably be ham-fisted and riddled with pop cult… oh no… the Dubstep Zombies of Doom are already here, aren’t they‽



Yeah, this clearly needed to happen. Also, looks like SOMEONE just lost a little credibility in my eyes!

Don’t any of you goddamned heathens listen to Black Sabbath anymore? I was driving home late and happened upon “War Pigs” — a.k.a. one of their six salvos that still receives regular radio play. I got transfixed by the music, as always, and just took a second to ponder, Hey, isn’t that something? That’s impressive, right? This song I’ve heard at least 10,000 times in my life still has the power to captivate. Bill Ward — a.k.a. the reason jazz belongs in metal — brilliantly drives the tune, which you could listen to three times for every subtle instrumental bit between he, Geezer and Tony. Yet the reins are in Ozzy’s hands as he wails the words we all know by heart, and sing back live every time. If you don’t know the words (or worse, do know them and stay silent), kindly leave, learn and return.

Did the next band on ballsthewire102.3highvoltagerockballs measure up? No, Drowning Pool, you did not. So how come? Isn’t their name spooky and badass enough? Were they not on WWF Forceable Entry? Actually, I got it. You know what it is—really?  Their name has a sense of finitude, and confusing finitude at that. A “drowning pool” always struck me as a thing with a purpose. Thus, a literal pool for drowning people. I don’t have or want or need one, so I can’t relate to the fucking band on that core level, you know what I mean? And speaking of names—regardless of merit, sometimes shit gets a little too nerdy (Spock’s Beard), hard to pronounce (Rwake), fanciful (Fairyland), pretentious (Thought Industry), or absurdly/overtly offensive (any of the 40+ Anal______ bands). So yeah… to coin the phrase just sung on my recent run through the discog: “Why should we even care?”. When you talk “black sabbath” — shoot, that could be conjuring demons, burying loved ones, attending Southern Baptist revivals, anything can happen. That has a sense of infinitiude. Also, isn’t the name satisfying to say? Those nice short A’s, the assonance, the fact that your face forces a smile; all equal awesome. But Drowning Pool sounds awfully close to ‘brown stool’, and actually, are there any good uses of the ‘-ool’ sound? Unless you’re Ghoul or Tool, it won’t work. Karnivool barely skates by, but I still feel silly when I name them aloud.

Whoa… okay, reel it back. Little tangental there.

I was gonna talk about the heavy Christian themes in Master of Reality, especially considering 2011 marks its 40-year anniversary, but Cosmo Lee beat me to it back in July. (Ps&btw, I was both psyched and intrigued that the one song he included was “Lord of This World” by Helmet, a band whose covers I have defended before.) MoR is part of the second Sabbath quadrant (you can group the Ozzy years in equal fourths—possibly more on that in the future); I am listening to the latter half of that quadrant, my favorite: Black Sabbath Vol. 4. By far the most diverse, it still maintains cohesion while never succumbing to grandiose trappings. I, however, will get a bit verbose. It includes (in order) stark stories of maturation; boisterous liberation; contemplative longing; tasteful sonic experiments; adventurous acid trips; pitiless remorse for addiction; disillusioning dissertations; Iommi’s finest, most complete instrumental; another take on relationships that encourages reconciliation; and the empowering, confrontational conclusion, with the heaviest riff on Vol.4, maybe even the heaviest of any Sabbath album. It’s not the best album to introduce the band (Black Sabbath, or especially Paranoid hold that distinction) but it’s the one that sticks strongest over the years.

Admittedly, this is more of a rant (note the new Category), and I intend to complete a proper analysis for the ‘Archetype‘ series. Here’s a link to We Sold Our Soul for Rock ‘n’ Roll, the best-of album that got the ball rolling for me, and really made me want to explore the back catalogue. I wonder if I take the band for granted, because I can’t imagine Metal without them, but the way some of the new kids sound, you wonder what has crept in and what stays on the sidelines. Well, I hope you goddamned heathens listen to Black Sabbath — because however much you like them now, they’re still more important than you give them credit for.


Editorial : “Nice Shirt”

No adjective is more vapid than “nice”, yet this is the very word used in 95% of all interactions between Metal folk when acknowledging each others’ torso ads for our favorite bands.  Especially between guys.

This struck me the other night, as my girlfriend and I walked back through Burlington, after our evening of amazing pizza and beer at American Flatbread for our three-year anniversary.  Since it was the end of August in a college town, there were shit-tons of students swarming on the city streets.  As I internally grumbled in half-jest at the U-Haul next to our house, a guy comes out from behind it, sporting a classic Voivod shirt (my memory recalls the cover of Killing Technology).

I almost didn’t say anything.  But you know that when we see someone clearly down with a band that we enjoy, it does a disservice to the Metalverse as a whole to not give a tr00 nod. And so it went:

“Nice Voivod shirt, dude.”

(half surprised) “Oh… thanks, man!”

In my buzzed state with anniversary sex on the horizon, now was not the time to engage.  There would be time to explain that I am a Metal Music Director with a radio show and website (which, incidentally, prominently features our slogan “Document The Metalverse” in Away‘s ‘Probot’ font).  Sometimes it’s all about timing with Metal peeps; too much too soon, and you’ll scare many off. Near as I can tell, this is why the otherwise-hollow descriptor “nice” works when appreciating Metal shirts (alternately, saying it is “cool” or that you “like” it also applies).  Despite their often-intricate nature, they are meant as symbols, above all else; if you are in the know, you understand at a glance.  Rare it is for someone to closely inspect your threads, lavishing high praise on its levels of metaphor (if, say, it was designed by John Baizley) or utter brutality (like most by Cannibal Corpse).

For what it’s worth, I think I was wearing this Frank Zappa shirt:

PS:  I was prompted to finish this post, after initially starting six weeks ago, when shouting out to another dude that’s new to my street…

"That's a nice Genghis Tron hoodie, dude!"

Editorial : Breaking Up Metalcore

It’s time we, as a Metal community, collectively begin to break up metalcore as a genre. As I re-read my review for Converge‘s Axe to Fall, I was struck by the opening sentence:

“Words cannot capture the depths of my frustration with the Massachusetts metalcore pioneers, who have been challenging heavy music audiences for nearly two tenacious decades.”

Not only did I call them “metalcore”, but I was reminded that the genre has existed for a solid generation. The genre now needs the same treatment being applied to death metal and black metal, so we may distinguish Shai Hulud from Shadows Fall from Starkweather… you get the idea. And by the way, in that time I have come to greatly appreciate bands like Converge, who innovate much further than the droves of imitators.

It’s so easy to cling to something that feels safe—the steady reassurance without fear of deviation is comforting.  But listen, dammit, that is not what rock n’ roll has ever been about! At its core, Rock is a rebellious spirit.  One that—lest we forget—has only been around about 60 years in the pantheon of musical entities, spawning a near-absurd amount of bastard children, half of whom play heavy. And we have let them run amok like a tantrum-addled toddler.

So I say it is time to either reel in or sever these lost ones,

who want the horizon brought to them

and think that Satan digs high fashion.

I’m all for self-expression but I’m also a critic, and folks, there are simply some holding the rest back. Stepping stones at best, I hope for a rapid and inevitable dissolution.