i am aware that the previous album NO REST FOR THE WICKED (EPIC, 1988) was his debut on an OZZY OSBOURNE record, but for me NO MORE TEARS (EPIC, 1991) is the real coming-out party for the squealing riffage and pinch-harmonic madness that is the virtuosic yet tasteful guitar playing of ZAKK WYLDE. i start out saying this because OZZY has been blessed in his career to collaborate with some singular guitar players: namely TONY IOMMI and RANDY RHOADS (R.I.P). to say that WYLDE was successful in establishing his own sonic legacy within such a storied lineage is pretty remarkable.
tracks like "MR. TINKERTRAIN," "DESIRE," "I DON'T WANT TO CHANGE THE WORLD," "HELLRAISER" and "ZOMBIE STOMP" are ripping, propulsive examples that showcase his paradoxically flashy yet tastefully restrained style. he is equal parts JIMI HENDRIX, ALBERT LEE and ROBIN TROWER. i read years ago in an interview that he was very deliberate when joining OZZY's band about not stepping on the toes of his predecessors (TONY IOMMI, RANDY RHOADS, JAKE E. LEE) and this strayed away from TRIADS, DIVE BOMBS (and WHAMMY BAR TRICKS in general) and anything sounding NEOCLASSICAL. this meant that he relied on NATURAL and PINCH HARMONICS and PENTATONICS to derive and inform his expressive style. and in my opinion it worked.
as for OZZY, this record found him in a reflective mood as he was at a stage where he had a second chance at fatherhood with a growing young family. famously the tour for this record was the ingeniously (and in retrospect laughably incorrect) monikered NO MORE TOURS tour where he played with the idea of retirement. he beat JAY-Z to that punch by a decade. given that introspective sentiment, the notable track "MAMA, I'M COMING HOME" finds him pledging to his wife SHARON that he is ready to finally settle down. it was co-written with the legendary MOTORHEAD frontman LEMMY KILMISTER (along with"HELLRAISER"). that song also showcases some tasteful DICKY BETTS-esque acoustic chicken-picking by the likes of WYLDE, again making his range very apparent.
outside of the classic RANDY RHOADS albums of the early 1980s, NO MORE TEARS is the OZZY solo record i return to most often. arguably the best produced record, it just sounds huge with a hungry young guitarist at the peak of his powers. it still holds up and most definitely worth reinvestigation.
sadly in recent years there has been a series of documentaries chronicling the demise of the recording studio, most notably the DAVE GROHL-directed SOUND CITY (review linked HERE). inevitably the repeated narrative is about what has been lost with the advent and rise of powerful (and mobile) digital recording technology (i.e. PROTOOLS), such being the spontaneity, feeling and magic that happens when musicians make it happen in close proximity to one another.
ROCKFIELD: THE STUDIO ON THE FARM (IE IE PRODUCTIONS, 2020) follows the story of the notable WELSH residential recording studio, ROCKFIELD STUDIOS, that has been utilized by the likes of everyone from BLACK SABBATH, QUEEN, IGGY POP, DAVID BOWIE, ADAM ANT, JUDAS PRIEST, ROBERT PLANT and HAWKWIND to THE STONE ROSES, CHRISTIAN DEATH, OASIS, BAUHAUS, MANIC STREET PREACHERS, ROYAL BLOOD and even COLDPLAY among countless others. what is interesting about the studio is its isolation. when it was created in the 1960s by two brothers, it was completely unique in that all other studios of its caliber were owned by record labels and located in LONDON. atmosphere-wise many of them were effectively sonic laboratories and had the vibe of a dental office. ROCKFIELD was located far removed in the WELSH countryside on what was effectively a pig and dairy farm. artists could rehearse and record with little to no distractions and effectively no volume restrictions. this was the setting that bands like BLACK SABBATH and HAWKWIND perfected their decibel rattling sound.
this isolation and lack of distractions also means that there is an intimacy to the experience of recording at all hours for an extended period of time. recording at ROCKFIELD came with cooked meals by the family that ran the studio and sleeping on the premises that they also maintained. apparently THE STONE ROSES famously stayed for 14 months straight during their peak creative and prolific period. it went the other way as well since some of the participants spoke of it as a prison, especially if your band was not clicking.
given that DEER GOD ran a recording studio for a period that was deliberately removed from the hustle and bustle of NEW YORK CITY (we were located in a late 19th century victorian mansion in southern STATEN ISLAND), its always interesting for me to listen to the shared experience of working with artists. in all these films it seems that one gig leads to the next. with SOUND CITY there was a long dry spell in the 1980s until NIRVANA came which begot RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, TOOL, KYUSS, MASTERS OF REALITY, SLAYER and so on. same with ROCKFIELD STUDIOS with a similar trajectory in the 1980s followed by THE STONE ROSES who begot OASIS, THE CHARLATANS, THE BOO RADLEYS and several members of BRITPOP royalty.
the recording studio as a destination is now an outmoded anachronism. which is sad. im glad documentaries such as ROCKFIELD: THE STUDIO ON THE FARM exist since it allows us to take stock in the moment of a period of transition as music and art "progress" forward with the advent of ever more powerful recording technology.
its interesting to consider what lays ahead and how music production will shift and evolve moving forward. whether or not the human element in music will survive. its an endlessly captivating topic.
i came to OZZY OSBOURNE late in the game. when i was 15 i went alone to OZZFEST in 1999 and saw him play with a reunited and all-original BLACK SABBATH. which was basically as close to a religious experience as i have ever come to know, with the exception of seeing a FLAMENGO futbol game at the MARACANA stadium in RIO DE JANIERO (now that was insane!). SABBATH had a more relaxed, dare i say groovy, vibe than what was on offer that day: which included ROB ZOMBIE, SLAYER, DEFTONES, SYSTEM OF A DOWN, FEAR FACTORY and the national touring debuts of STATIC-X and a little band from IOWA called SLIPKNOT. by the time i came back the following year with my brother and saw OZZY play solo (with support from PANTERA, SOULFLY, INCUBUS and QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE), i was among the converted.
whereas SABBATH records had those epic, thundering MT. OLYMPUS godlike riffs from guitar-lord TONY IOMMI and that BLUES-rock, and even jazzy, rhthym section that actually swung, OZZY's solo band on his debut BLIZZARD OF OZZ (JET, 1980) is all pyrotechnics and virtuosic guitar heroics courtesy of the legendary RANDY RHOADS. its crazy to think that OZZY had stumbled upon such amazing talent not once but twice in his career. but yeah, the singular musical range and compositional talent of RHOADS is on full display throughout BLIZZARD OF OZZ from the blazing riffage of "I DON'T KNOW," "SUICIDE SOLUTION" and "CRAZY TRAIN" to more introspective, multi-part ballads like "GOODBYE TO ROMANCE," "REVELATION (MOTHER EARTH)" and of course, "MR. CROWLEY." in terms of his solo career and the trajectory of METAL in the 1980s, both good and bad, it is arguably the work of RHOADS (as well as EDDIE VAN HALEN) that set the course for the decade. you can hear the arpeggiated riffs and composed neoclassical guitar leads/solos all over records by THRASH METAL bands like METALLICA and SLAYER as well later acolytes in PANTERA.
i know people like to slight OZZY for his vocal limitations, especially when compared to peers in RONNIE JAMES DIO and ROB HALFORD, but i think that misses the point. OZZY to me represents an everyman and his voice is less operatic and more human. more street level and oddly, more authentic to what he is singing about: commonly themes revolving around ADDICTION, RELIGION, LOSS OF CONTROL and the OCCULT. and i do feel his voice plays into his preternatural ability in relating such to a METAL audience he largely created. for me, the BLIZZARD OF OZZ record was arguably the most effective effort he ever made, because it was something only he could do. its definitively him.
rest in peace, RANDY RHOADS.
parodies by nacrowe
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it is hard to downplay the cultural and historical importance of the massively influential debut BLACK SABBATH album BLACK SABBATH (WARNER BROS, 1970). it basically created METAL as a genre. in fact, BLACK SABBATH is such an important band that there are whole current sub-genres that trace their origins back to specific songs from various albums.
of course this is all in hindsight, at the time of its release this record was not a critical favorite and the band were never considered to be at the vanguard of ROCK N ROLL or anything particularly unique or special. that fascinates me. this is the type of stuff i find intriguing about art in general, how each generation rediscovers and cherry picks from the past. how the inscrutable 16th century DUTCH painter HEIRONYMOUS BOSCH was a favorite of the SURREALISTS some 400 years later. how KRAFTWERK and KRAUTROCK in general influenced early HIP HOP acts like AFRIKA BAMBAATAA. why is BLACK SABBATH arguably as celebrated as LED ZEPPELIN with modern METAL musicians? its beyond interesting.
putting that aside, what always struck me about their debut was how much a JAZZ element there was to it. if you listen to the interplay of the drums and bass on songs like "N.I.B." and "THE WIZARD" there is a definite swing element at play. in fact, it really grooves. i think that aspect of their sound is criminally overlooked. on subsequent releases they streamlined this sound which eventually became further developed with subsequent bands like JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN, METALLICA, SLAYER into various beloved subgenres ranging from the extreme in GRINDCORE, BLACK METAL and DEATH METAL to the streamlined in THRASH METAL and the experimental in SLUDGE METAL, POST METAL and even DOOM METAL.
obviously the most celebrated track is the opener "BLACK SABBATH" with its iconic tritone riff and creepy atmospherics. when i envision it the adjective cinematic comes to mind. it just sets a mood long before singer OZZY OSBOURNE enters in. obviously OZZY is one of the great frontman in ROCK N ROLL history, but id argue not from his voice which is evocative but rather limited. i dont think he'd disagree with me on that. where his gift lies is in his commitment to the material and his presence as a relatable avatar for the every-man. i find OZZY immensely more relatable than contemporaries of the 1970s like ROBERT PLANT, ROGER DALTREY or even members of the then-recently disbanded BEATLES. no disrespect to any of them but they cover an altitude beyond us mere mortals. to my ears, OZZY comes off as something attainable. i think this is why he is beloved by every ROCK N ROLL iteration since, including PUNK ROCK and all its incarnations like 1980s HARDCORE and 1990s ALTERNATIVE ROCK. i also think lyrically OZZY is never given enough credit for the intelligence of his lyrics. in my mind the song "BLACK SABBATH" can be a substitute for your pick of any existential crisis, global or personal.
i should also mention that the riffs of guitarist TONY IOMMI are legendary and the aforementioned TRITONE PATTERNS (specifically diminished 5ths) as well as detuned guitars (to accommodate his recently disfigured right fretting hand) and ample distortion is in effect the very template for the sound of METAL for the past 50 years. its hard to downplay his impact on this and subsequent records. his riffs alone are copied by modern guitarist to this day. IOMMI basically is METAL.
i was lucky in that as a teenager i got to see a reunited BLACK SABBATH at OZZFEST numerous times and hearing specific tracks like "BLACK SABBATH" and "N.I.B." in a love context always sounded haunting and absolutely massive. even in their waning years they were a force to reckon with even after supporting acts like SLAYER, PANTERA, SYSTEM OF A DOWN, JUDAS PRIEST, SLIPKNOT or ROB ZOMBIE. never did they disappoint.
again, its hard to downplay the importance of this record. as i stated before, it is also one of those records that gets rediscovered year after year by young musicians, much like THE STOOGES or THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, and continues to influence and shape modern culture. seminal record by a seminal band. definitely worth your time to investigate.
RICK RUBIN is a renowned record producer with an enviable discography that transcends genre and era. he is celebrated for his ability to tap into an artists creative mindset and challenge them to produce new material that often exceeds audience expectation. notable records he's produced include the likes of SLAYER's REIGN IN BLOOD (DEF JAM, 1986), RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS's BLOOD SUGAR SEX MAGIK (WARNER BROS, 1991), TOM PETTY's WILDFLOWERS (WARNER BROS, 1994), BEASTIE BOYS' LICENSED TO ILL (COLUMBIA, 1986), SYSTEM OF A DOWN's SYSTEM OF A DOWN (AMERICAN, 1998), RUN-DMC's RAISING HELL (PROFILE, 1986), JOHNNY CASH's AMERICAN RECORDINGS series (AMERICAN, 1994-2010), SLIPKNOT's VOL.3: THE SUBLIMINAL VERSES (ROADRUNNER, 2004) and METALLICA's DEATH MAGNETIC (WARNER BROS, 2008) among many others. he has also involved been involved in the formation of two successful record labels, DEF JAM and AMERICAN, with each known for their diverse roster lineups.
all that being said, it comes as no surprise to anyone that RUBIN decided to start an interview podcast where he does what he does best: talk. his deft ear and inquisitive, probing questions mark him as an active listener of idiot savant levels.
check out these interview he's done over the past few years. definitely worth your time if you are a fan of modern music and the process behind their creation.
in the wake of the suicides of both CHRIS CORNELL of SOUNDGARDEN and CHESTER BENNINGTON of LINKIN PARK in 2017, a conversation about MENTAL HEALTH in the METAL community was long overdue. obviously in a music genre that seemingly openly cultivates an exaggerated, almost cartoon-like, depiction of masculinity, the idea of publicizing a sense of self-reflection and being vulnerable is quite revolutionary. and that was what this 2018 four-part video series produced by REVOLVER MAGAZINE sought to accomplish. raising awareness about MENTAL HEALTH treatment, as well as the adjacent issue of SUBSTANCE ABUSE (which really only exacerbates the former).
JOHN DYER BAIZLEY from BARONESS, JESSE LEACH of KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, ZAKK WYLDE of BLACK LABEL SOCIETY/OZZY OSBOURNE and ROBBIN FLYNN of MACHINEHEAD all present testimonials about how they went about addressing issues surrounding their MENTAL HEALTH, whether that be ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, ADDICTIVE BEHAVIOR or issues of self-worth leftover from their formative years. the courage on display is astounding and it will no doubt pay forward in terms of raising awareness and elevating the consciousness of their audience.
not only that, i think this conversation will save lives. period.
i've written before and spoken on the air about the fact that the most impactful thing JAMES HETFIELD of METALLICA has ever done is being open about his issues surround MENTAL HEALTH and ADDICTION. when he returned to rehab in 2020, after years of sobriety since his previous stint in 2001, it took real bravery to take ownership and responsibility of his problems. and stop the machine to address such. the fact that his band supported such and didn't let financial or non-health related considerations influence his decision is a testament to their values and an example of human empathy. this has long not been the case. people will stay on the road so that the crew will get paid. because of that, the grind and pressures of the road and the music industry have claimed actual lives and anything that contributes to an atmosphere of less toxic masculinity in METAL is great, long-overdue thing.
if anything, i think it may actually assist in attracting a more inclusive and tolerant audience as well as fostering a more empathetic touring industry. how METAL would that be?
parody by nacrowe
given his recent health issues and the very real likelihood that his touring days are now in the rearview mirror, i would like to revisit an early radio show i did back in JULY 2018 dedicated to the contributions of OZZY OSBOURNE, both as a solo artist and as a member of the genre-defining juggernaut that was BLACK SABBATH.
this man has brought so much joy to me and a lot of other people to such an extent that its hard to even put into words. just the butterfly effect brought about by this one musician is staggering. his influence on modern music cannot be overstated.
i have future playlists already created that highlight the myriad of sub-genres of METAL, but perhaps the show i am most looking forward to is one dedicated to the participating bands on the now-discontinued OZZFEST traveling music festival he spearheaded in the late 1990s and early 2000s. great memories from my formative years there.
much love OZZY. thank you so much.
and if you have any interest in the fight against PARKINSONS, here is a link for ways you can get involved with the AMERICAN PARKINSONS DISEASE ASSOCIATION.
photos by nacrowe
been a fan of JANE'S ADDICTION since my teens and are my all-time favorite rock band. only THE SMITHS and DEVO, two very different bands, come close in admiration.
luckily i've gotten to see the band play in various iterations over the years, but none more bizarre than a 2015 gig in TOKYO at OZZFEST 2015. first off, the show itself was all kinds of strange as you had two main stages, one with american bands of various genres like A DAY TO REMEMBER, HATEBREED, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY and OZZY & FRIENDS and the other japanese bands, namely BABY METAL. japanese metal is weird, its all mixed with J-POP music so there is lots of hand-clapping and choreographed dance moves. BABY METAL has a legit rhythm section so they absolutely crushed, if you ever get the chance definitely hit up their live gigs. BLACK SABBATH had to back out due to health concerns surrounding TONY IOMMI's battle with lymphoma, so essentially OZZY & FRIENDS was the legendary singer with his band plus guest guitarists DAVE NAVARRO, TOM MORELLO and his first performance with ZAKK WYLDE in over 10 years. too bad OZZY sounded awful. he just sounded old and tired. i left early.
but my reason for going was strictly JANE'S ADDICTION. living in the greater LOS ANGELES area in my formative years, i have memories of riding around with my dad heading off to soccer games in at-risk MEXICAN soccer leagues listening to K-ROQ blasting songs off RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL (WARNER BROS, 1990). to me, JANE'S ADDICTION is LOS ANGELES, the land of my youth.
the show was great with the requisite dancers and swinging models fearlessly suspended above the fray with hooks in their backs (a then-recent hobby of guitarist DAVE NAVARRO). it was everything you'd expect from them, something a bit raunchy, dangerous and obscure to go with a setlist made up primarily of their transcendent genre-defining efforts NOTHING'S SHOCKING (WARNER BROS, 1988) and RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL. if they never do anything of merit again, those two records are canonical in my opinion.
so in summation, having attended several OZZFESTS in the early 00s, this version had little of the feeling of those events which was as much due to the lineup as it was about the location. it was more like a LOLLAPALOOZA/OZZFEST hybrid which was fine by me, although historically a bit absurd given that OZZFEST was created by SHARON OSBOURNE after not being able to secure her husband/client OZZY a gig on one of the initial LOLLAPALOOZA. regardless, i had a great time soaking in the absurdity of it all and JANE'S ADDICTION sounded killer. too bad OZZY had an off night. he really should retire. he more than deserves his time off. ALL HAIL!