Earlier today, a private record label listening party happened out in the LA area. I wasn’t invited (Waaaaah! – haha), nor do I personally know anyone who attended. However… We live in an age of the Internet and instant information, so you KNOW things would get out. An hour or so ago, I got sent this review of the listening party from someone I don’t know. Really – don’t know them, never emailed them before tonight, and they hid their identity. Still, I’ll take the news, because it’s GOOD STUFF. You’re gonna LOVE this.
First off, the event was held privately – in fact, I didn’t even know it was happening until this afternoon (Wed Apr 10th). When I got confirmation that it was happening, I was asked not to blow the cover on the thing until after it happened. Probably the last thing they needed was a few thousand local Sabbath fans rushing the door to get in. :) Anyway, if you were going, you saw this at the entrance to what I’m told is the “Ricardo Montalban Theatre” in Los Angeles…
Once you got in, your electronics were confiscated. Well, not “confiscated”, but held – they had security tight, they didn’t want the tunes leaking out. Understandable enough. But anyway, I wasn’t there. This guy obviously was. So enough of my prattle, check this out:
…it is a VERY good record, certainly belonging of a place in the Ozzy-era discography. It is not mind-expandingly original, nor would I want it to be. What it is, is VERY heavy Ozzy-era-sounding Sabbath.
- There were about 60 of us. No electronics were permitted (e.g., cameras, cell phones, etc.) If you had them, they were checked at the door. People were wanded to ensure compliance.
- Once seated we heard seemingly every other Ozzy-era song before they finally started.
- Jack Osbourne — looking fit and clean/sober — came out and introduced the record, and showed the clips that we have now seen on YouTube which were, evidently, produced by his production company (nepotism at its finest, take that Geoff Tate). There was an additional clip that I’d not yet seen played at the end, so maybe 10 minutes in total.
- Then they played the music. Eight tracks, five of which are 7+ minutes. I didn’t have a pen so I had to scratch some notes into the piece of paper with a key…a dubious method of note-taking, to be sure. Here are my recollections.
- Overall, very heavy production, owing at least in part to what must have been downtuning to a low A or something to accommodate an aging Mr. Osbourne.
- The tempos seems to sway a little bit. Some may prefer this as it’s more organic sounding. I was irritated somewhat by it in a couple of places, but it wasn’t to distraction.
- Most of the time, Ozzy’s melodies were not simply mimicking the guitar line (think Iron Man, Electric Funeral, NIB, etc.). The sole exception to this was the final track.
- Almost everything is mid-tempo. No short quick tracks ala Paranoid. No reaaaaally drawn out doomy stuff like the beginning of Into the Void. There’s a fair amount of “swing” (e.g., Hole in the Sky type stuff) in here to go along with relatively brisk (for Sabbath, meaning mid-tempo) riffage.
Specific Track Remarks:
- End of the Beginning (8:07). Too long a track for an opener but otherwise very good. Very heavy. Ozzy’s vocals don’t evoke dragons and knights and the soaring evil of Dio…rather, they have a melodic but, unsettling quality to then. Not operatic bombast, but understated, melodic eeriness. But it works. This is not the uninspired songwriting of those two songs from the Reunion album — this is real songwriting with some good riffs from Iommi. A very good song.
- God is Dead? (8:54). This song slays. Very cool riffing and a good melody line. The B section is evocative of the Holy in the Sky riff but it still works really well. This is an excellent song, worthy of standing with anything in the Ozzy catalog (thought it lacks the instant memorability of Iron Man or Paranoid).
- Loner (5:06). Sounds a LOT like a heavy, modern-production version of NIB (I even sang “Oh yeah” after the appropriate riff). Lyrically and mood-wise it mixes in some Johnny Blade. It’s a good song, but not as good as the previous ones.
- Zeitgeist (4:28). Mellow, and somewhat evocative of Planet Caravan. It’s fine, but I anticipate skipping this on CD.
- Age of Reason (7:02). This song kills. My notes (again, scratched in there by keys) are unintelligible. But this one had people pretty fired up.
- Live Forever (4:49). Has a Children of the Grave / Hole in the Sky Feel once again. A good song, if not as ambitious as some of the others.
- Damaged Soul (7:43). Very heavy blues. Too bluesy for my tastes. Blues blues and more blues, and when you are done with the blues, it shoves another does of blues up your ass. This is overstated — it’s plenty heavy. It just is too (wait for it) bluesy for my tastes. Others enjoyed it more than me. Still, this is not a throwaway, just not one of my favorites.
- Dear Father (7:06). A great song to finish with, again quite heavy with a lot of energy. The B section is the one featured in the video with Rubin telling Ozzy to try again (“…the victims of the sins you devise.”) The main section is beefier than that part. There is a recurrent tritone riff that is very evocative of the first notes played in the song Black Sabbath. It’s so evocative that one wonders if it’s purposeful…and the riffs appears again at the very end of the song…and then the song ends…with rain…and church bells. Very cool. Very cool indeed.
In all, four terrific songs (tracks 1, 2, 5 and 8). Three good songs (3, 6, 7 if you like blues). One song that non-stoners will skip. And non-stoned stoners, probably. On balance, this is a very, very strong record.
At the end, Jack came back out and thanked everybody, and then (this was a surprise) Ozzy, Tony and Geezer came out to say hello briefly. Tony looked well. Ozzy mumbled something well below the already low standard for coherence that has been established for him — I could only make out the word “album.” In fairness, people were applauding so it would have been hard to discern what he said in any case.
So, you’ll be very happy. I think you will find it to be an enjoyable reprise of the original Sabbath sound you liked. You’ll hear what Iommi’s old riffs sound like played with modern production. I think everybody will probably find something to like about it.
From Joe Again:
Now that is something to get excited about. I won’t lie – I’m a bit jealous that I didn’t get to hear it, and these random people (well, random to me – haha) got to hear it. A few remarks of my own based on what I’ve read…
- This is the most detailed set of remarks I’ve seen. The others are short comments, this by far is the best written thing I’ve seen about the party. One short one was nothing more than “SABBATH!!! THEY’RE FUCKING BACK!!!” But they’re all positive. I’ve not seen any truly negative review or remark coming out of this event. Oh, people don’t like this track or that bit, but that’s down to personal taste. Not negative at all.
- One constant – they all seem to love the track “Age of Reason”. My guess is it comes out of the block as a really instant killer track.
- There are only eight songs played, and in interviews, the band has said they’ve recorded as many as 16. While I have *NO PROOF* of what is happening – I’m just guessing here… I bet you the various packages have different numbers of tracks on them. Like standard vs deluxe. Plus there’s always the dreaded possibilities of Japanese CD exclusive tracks or iTunes pre-orders. Again – I HAVE NO FACTS HERE – pure guesswork on my part, because things like this have happened before. Remember, the last two Ozzy solo albums did the same thing (iTunes pre-order exclusive tracks). If anyone gets any hard facts on this, please let me know.
- Other track names I’ve seen elsewhere but were not in any report I saw from today’s event are: “Epic”, “Methademic”, and “Cry All Night”. Whether they’re other tracks from the “up to 16” we’ve heard about, or are renamed tracks remains to be seen.
- I’m liking the longer track times. Was hoping it would be like that, and not a bunch of songs ranging from 3:30 to 4:15. w00t! :)
That’s all I have for now, but it’s a pretty darned substantial update. Thanks to the dude who sent this in – if I knew who you were, I’d thank you – but then again, you might want to not betray someone’s trust – I get that. Either way, thanks for sending me this.
UPDATE: Last night after I posted this, Mike Exeter, one of the album’s engineers, had this to say in response to the review:
Just to correct the original reviewer. The guitars were tuned to E flat for the entire record – and Ozzy sang extremely well in that key. Age Of Reason is a very cool song with a blistering ending that only Sabbath could pull off.