Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Geezer ~ Black Science

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Style: heavy metal
Label: TVT Music
Year: 1997
Home: Britain

Members: Geezer Butler ~ bass/keyboards
Pedro Howse ~ guitar
Clark Brown ~ vocals
Deen Castronovo ~ drums


In the metal world & maybe rock in general, Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath is as iconic as you can get when it comes to bass players. There's players who are faster, fancier & funkier but Butler was setting a standard & rythmic feeling while those who would prove to be potentially better were still in their britches. I personally call him my number one bass mentor. It's a lesser known fact that he wrote many of the lyrics to the Ozzy era hits, every one a much beloved metal classic & inspiration to metal musicians eternal. But, this doesn't mean a solo album is going to be good. Many musicians have gone out on their own with poor showings, if nothing else showing their limitations, though just as many have gone out to nothing but overwhelming praise, while some get faces filled with curiosity. Black Sabbath set the bar for metal & nobody, not even later line-ups or the reunion of the original, has been able to duplicate the early Black Sabbath feeling & albums. There's variations & competition but no duplication. Thankfully, maybe surprisingly or maybe not, Butler doesn't even try to duplicate his past successes with the second album from his solo band Geezer. 1997's Black Science with Geezer was two years following Plastic Planet, under the name G/Z/R with the same band but different vocalist. Ohmwork would be the, so far, final Butler solo album coming much later in 2005 with the same line-up as Black Science but now with Red Hot Chili Peppers/Chickenfoot drummer Chad Smith & going by the name GZR. None of the albums got gloriously overwhelming reviews but listening years later they've all held up extremely well with a timeless quality, something that can't be said for a lot of metal albums, with middle child Black Science probably being the best overall representation of the Butler solo efforts. They may not be heralded as legendary albums but they are better than a lot of what Butler's old band was producing around the same time in his absence & with rotating vocalists. Speaking of Sabbath ... Geezer follows the same moody & dark feeling, but it's not the drugged out dark of the Ozzy years. Some might call the arrangement style closer to the Dio years, but without Dio's fantasy lyrics. At the same time the band sounds more influenced by metal that was on the scene in 1997 than 1977. Kicking off with "Man In The Suitcase" one might think of Soundgarden with the sludgy detuned guitars. Sabbath was detuned but not sludgy. While "Justified" could be pulled from Metallica's repertoire. It's as if Butler inspired a generation & now is letting his students inspire him. It's an interesting approach that won't disappoint. But, there's two weaknesses to the album. The first is the layered guitars that drown out Butler's bass playing. Further, Butler has a particularly identifiable rhythmic quality, the bass players reading will understand, but the sludgy almost atmospheric guitars don't give themselves to galloping rhythms without a bit of tension & de-emphasizing of the bass. I can't help but think of the solo work of John Entwistle of the Who in comparison who aimed for dark sounds but wasn't drowned out in his own creation. The other downfall is that Clark Brown is a competant but not overly amazing vocalist. He doesn't have any particularly unique vocal tone or phrasing to bring to the album, which on some songs (i.e. "Area Code 51") becomes more obvious than at other times with a habit of quasi-growling. He sounds too much like too many of his contemporaries, which brings the album in line with the metal scene at the time but also doesn't help to distinguish Geezer. There's also some interesting inclusions in that Geezer includes a electronic element in the drums occasionally, so there's no doubt Butler is trying stay on top of current trends. The resulting industrial experiments aren't bad but Marilyn Manson so set the standard for this approach that it's hard not to compare, though Manson is far more dense. It's easy to forget that there's lots of experimental songs on the early Ozzy-era Black Sabbath albums ... which tend to be forgotten. Butler is no stranger to experimenting but we've become strangers to his experiments. Two interesting lyrical inclusions that merit mention are the songs "Among the Cybermen", a refernce to evil cybernetic aliens on BBC TV's Doctor Who, & "Unspeakable Elvis" with its odd chorus "oh elvis do you love me, oh evil Elvis Aaron Presley" ... supposedly, the album was inspired by Butler's childhood, though its not so obvious until these creepy yet playful un-Black Sabbath moments.



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