Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
For some people, being part of one of the most seminal bands in rock history would be enough to sit back and bask in the resultant adulation.
Not Geezer Butler though. Not content with being one of the quartet who invented and refined Heavy Metal in the genre defining Black Sabbath, his solo work was also a scorching entry into the annals of music, featuring three albums that showed there was much more here than the doomy riffs that the Brummies had made their name on.
Cherry picked from the three solo releases, ‘Plastic Planet’, ‘Black Science’ and ‘Ohmwork’, this compilation spans the decade those albums cover and are a distinct blast of modern hard rock and metal. Always at the centre of things in the Sabbath mothership, the seventeen-track compilation shows a meaner and more visceral edge to the bass player’s material.
Whilst the album is a little scant of background info, you can’t doubt its quality as Burton C Bell from Fear Factory joins him to handle the vocals on six of the tracks whilst Clark Brown covers the rest and Butler is accompanied by his nephew, guitarist Pedro Howse, throughout. Joining in to add their own considerable weight to the rhythm section, drummers Deen Castronova and Chad Smith hit hard and there’s a titanic groove that underpins the city destroying heaviness on display.
Opening with grinding Sabs like intensity turned up to 11, ‘Drive Boy, Shoot’, hits hard and Bell’s raw throated vocals suit the approach perfectly and paired with the acid stripping metal of the grungy ‘Man In A Suitcase’ you begin to sense that we’re not in Kansas (or Birmingham for that matter) anymore. ‘Misfit’ and ‘Box of Six’ are bruising riff fests and ‘The Invisible’ brings in some street tough and sharp barbed wire rap metal that at times echoes the work of Anthrax.
There’s really a lot to take in here, whilst the whiplash blast of the music is eviscerating, Butler shows all his usual aplomb and fine touch with lyrics, some ticking the same science fiction boxes as the mighty ‘Iron Man’.
Amongst those gems are crushing ‘Among The Cybermen’ and the flamethrower to the brain that is ‘Prisoner 103’. To hear these alongside the psyche metal industrial rock of ‘Mysterious’, a number that somehow swirls together Hawkwind, Marilyn Manson and Depeche Mode in its DNA and the swirling, grand and melodic heavy Prog of ‘Number 5’ you’re given a peak into the mind of a man unafraid to stretch his wings, embracing those who have so readily embraced him.
Whilst there are the very occasional missteps such as the crassly and cringeworthily titled ‘Aural Sects’, the music throughout is of a uniformly high standard and befits being added to his canon. From the brutal and twisting ‘Catatonic Eclipse’ through to the smart Pearl Jam grunge meets NWOBHM stylings of ‘I Believe’, there’s just so much to absorb here and whilst some point to the material on ‘Plastic Planet’ as being the best of the solo songs, this particular release is reason to delve deeper.
The titular track that heralded that initial solo outing was a world away from the more stately sludge of Sabbath, coming over akin musically to a brutal prison yard gang fight, blood, teeth, fists and shanks flying, adding a stuttering vibe that System of a Down would pick up with such great success on ‘Toxicity’ and is a highlight here.
Overall though, the best course of action is to be washed over and thrilled by the diverse material on display here, getting lost in the arrangements and versatility of all involved. Whilst you can sit back and treat it as a whole, the album really lends itself to be one to dip into, the nonlinear nature of this particular selection being something akin to a jukebox of Butler’s work.
That every present bass is certainly there and his playing still remains one of the most underrated features in rock, truly loved by those who can see past the gargantuan riffs of Tony Iommi and appreciate his mastery of the instrument.
The fretwork of Howse adds a fiery and fresh edge to the compositions and the vocals of Bell and Brown certainly bring an untamed modern feel to things. Whilst his work with Sabbath will be what’s he’s most remembered for, the albums represented here are certainly not throwaway side projects and earn their place as much more than footnote in his career.
On the strength of this, let’s hope that we see a fourth solo album at some point now that the heavy metal titan that brought him fame has been laid to rest. The world needs Geezer Butler.
The Very Best Of: Geezer Butler’ available to order now: https://geezerbutler.lnk.to/verybestofID