Monday, 21 September 2020

ALBUM REVIEW: Zakk Sabbath, "Vertigo"

By Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 04/09/2020
Label: Magnetic Eye Records


“Vertigo” CD//LP track listing:

1. Black Sabbath
2. The Wizard
3. Wasp / Behind the Wall of Sleep / N.I.B
4. Wicked World
5. A Bit of Finger / Sleeping Village / Warning

The Review:

It seems from “the internet” that this release is viewed as somewhat controversially... I really don't know why, as it is Zakk Wylde- ably supported by Blasko (bassist) and Joey Castillo (monster drummer)- roaring through the Sabbath debut in its entirety (with the US album track “Wicked World” present) in a pretty live-in-the-studio presentation. The release, as far as I can tell, is an affectionate homage to the band and Zakk's sometime boss and it is delivered convincingly. With Wylde being the de facto Ozzy guitarist post-Randy with the longest tenure, it's really not much of a stretch for him to claim lineage in the Sabbath family tree- and beyond Iommi, Zakk is the guitar player most closely associated with Ozzy still alive today.

In case anyone has forgotten, Wylde was/is a highly regarded player with a phenomenal picking hand and a very memorable and identifiable playing style. Vocally, Zakk imitates Ozzy convincingly- with a lower register and a touch more grit. The sound is wonderful; it's warm and live and raw and sounds like... a band playing together. What a refreshing change!

The playing is, of course, rock solid from the rhythm section and Zakk's guitar playing is very much on form. The title track is delivered with real fire and then it's onto more deep cut material. I assume it's Zakk playing harmonica on “The Wizard” (Wylde has already covered this one on the 2nd Pride and Glory disc many years ago). It's a storming rendition and Castillo gets many bonus points for adding in the solitary cowbell strike that Ward graced the original recording with. In fact, its faithful touches like this which show the record for what it is: big Sabbath fans paying tribute to the original gods- as the promo notes say- as a COVER BAND. Its fun, it's enthusiastic and it rocks really hard.

The other songs on here are delivered just as well and have lost none of their ageless power; “Behind The Wall of Sleep”,N.I.B” and “Wicked World” are just fantastic. We are spared the odd Crow cover of “Evil Woman”- serviceable on the original album but the weakest piece of music therein.

It's no secret that the first few Sabbath albums are all time classics, but hearing the songs played by other world class musicians just reminded me of their power and vitality. In the history of heavy music there are few bands to rival Sabbath's six album  run (and of course the Dio, Ian Gillan and Tony Martin eras all have a huge amount of classic material too) and hearing this gallop through their debut only served to remind me just how good the debut is/was. The list of other bands with a catalogue even close is small... well, you've got your own opinion as to who! Beyond the biggest of bands (Maiden, Metallica, Priest... slim pickings thereafter), it's a small list and mostly confined to sub-genres.

It's widely accepted that Sabbath created metal- yes, there are internet dwellers who argue for Blue Cheer (sigh), Hendrix (no- although godlike; not metal), Led Zeppelin (hard rock and more but not metal) and even some who claim that Sabbath were not metal at all and that instead Judas Priest were the first metal band- and then only with the release of “Sad Wings of Destiny” due to its dual guitars and higher tempos (Priest innovated the genre in the 70s, but did not invent it- come on, now!). These people are all wrong, obviously: Sabbath were the first metal band. To hear the Sabbath debut- or even this re-recording- is to hear metal explode from the womb and show its teeth.

One question that can certainly be levelled in accusatory fashion at this release is: what is the point?!  It isn't a “reinterpretation” a “reimagining” or anything else; it's just a solid and inspired run through the most significant debut in metal history.

By the time I reached the closing fifteen minute suite of “A Bit of Finger/Sleeping Village/Warning”, I was already planning to play the Sabbath back catalogue as soon as possible just to reacquaint myself with its unearthly power. Well, I think the question is answered; it'll have you digging out all those  Sabbath albums from the 70's and beyond. It's a wonderful tribute to and acknowledgement of the most important metal debut of all time. No more and no less.

“Vertigo” is available HERE

Band info: facebook