Thursday, July 21, 2011

Iommi - Iommi (2000)

Tony Iommi. Anyone who claims to be a metal fan knows this name. Hell, there wouldn't be a metal genre today if not for the dark, devilish tones of this Burmingham guitar God. When the days of icons Black Sabbath had passed, and before the Dio-led Heaven & Hell had begun, we had Iommi. This ten track monster features a veritable "who's who" of vocalists. But let's not kid ourselves the star of this self titled disc is man himself.

There is no nonsense. "The Laughing Man (In The Devil Mask)" goes from 0 to 60 in seconds, with the deep, rich guitars that made Iommi famous. A punchy drum beat sets things up for guest vocalist, and punk icon, Henry Rollins. Though seemingly an odd team, Rollins' bordering on "talking" style syncs up well with the chugging chords. A true metal solo caps this one off. Skin, vocalist for alt-metal band Skunk Anansie, lends her talents to the screaming "Meat." Her voice, sultry and larger than life, is the perfect compliment to the bending strings and thumping bass. The guitars whine, but in a low roar. The signature pick work gets the spotlight, but Skin is as strong a companion as Iommi could get.

Even Dave Grohl, he of many projects, gets into the act on "Goodbye Lament." The song feels like a true collaboration, one half Foo Fighters, one half straight evil. Bass and guitar lock up, a constant kick/snare pattern padding out the background. The song is upbeat, or at least as upbeat as it can be in a dropped tuning. The aptly titled "Time Is Mine" is a mindblower. This is, by far, the strongest track that Phil Anselmo has appeared in since the glory days of Pantera. The verse finds him with a low, dark crooning. But as the chorus hits, his screeching, heavy voice is back with a vengeance. Iommi is at his hellish best, keeping it low, slow and demonic.

After tremendous success with System Of A Down, Serj Tankian penned the winding, whirling "Patterns." This is a more minimalist approach, instrumentally. More simple, stripped down guitar and bass dominate the track, allowing Tankian some lateral freedom with his delivery. The breakdown portions sees some chunky riffs crashing down amongst the pounding of drums and spoken passage. The track that seems to struggle for a place is "Black Oblivion," performed with bald-headed phenom Billy Corgan, sounding more like a Smashing Pumpkins b-side. Even the production stands out from the rest, as if recorded at a different level from the rest. The effects used on Corgan's voice are weak, and leave the track searching for a backbone.

Ian Astbury, most famously from The Cult, sees action on "Flame On." While there is certainly an electronic feel to the track, the classic metal stomp begins anew at the first chorus. It's as if Iommi has already written every heavy riff known to man, and he can dish them out at will. This is no exception. Late Type O Negative mainman, Peter Steele, won a duel with Cold singer Scooter Ward to get his voice featured on "Just Say No To Love." His voice, deep and dreary, comes to you as if delivered from the grave.

In a reunion of sorts, Ozzy Osbourne and Iommi come together on the track "Who's Fooling Who?" It may not rekindle the fires of "Paranoid" era Sabbath, but this is enough to make any metalhead smile. The ringing of church bells leads, before a roll takes you into the low end blasts of Iommi's guitars. There is no need for treble. You are in the darkest night, wandering through a graveyard. Ozzy's voice is unmistakable, in both ominous speech and acceted singing. But the uptempo breakdown section is a blast from the past, with the thumping of drums and bass providing the foundation for another classic, blazing solo.

The album's finale, "Into The Night," is everything you could want to end an album. Voiced by Billy Idol, of all people, it has all of the evil that a zombie apocalypse could offer. Lyrically, it is a gem, featuring such lines as "All the undead souls who walk the night, they can suck my dick." Gritty chords take the lead, up and down the neck. The uptempo midsection is a headbanger's dream, a clinic for up and coming bands. Iommi's guitar screeches through another solo, left to ring out pairs of clean notes, echoing one another as the album fades to a close.

The man who practically invented modern metal hasn't lost any of his bravado. This isn't a cash grab album, or a plea for attention from an aging rocker. Young or old, there is much to appreciate. It isn't just the demonic tones, or the visions of upside crossed. On "Iommi," you find nine well crafted, well thought out songs from someone whose hands should be bronzed. And decades after he created the most well known guitar riff in history, "Paranoid," his fingers haven't slowed one bit.


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