Sanctuary, 2005


REVIEW BY: Ben McVicker


Geezer Butler has had perhaps the least successful solo career of any founding member of Black Sabbath. His first two albums were largely uninspired efforts featuring loud, crunching riffs and blood-curdling vocals but little else. His debut, 1995’s Plastic Planet, featured some great drumming, but was an otherwise cacophonic collection of frisbee material. 1997’s Black Science was a slight improvement, featuring a collection of solid, albeit largely forgettable, sci-fi themed songs and a new vocalist in Clark Brown.

Ohmwork is a slight improvement on Butler’s past efforts, but remains an unsatisfying affair due largely to the same problems that bogged down the last two: no solos, monotonous vocals, and a lack of memorable riffing.

The latter complaint is easily the most damaging. You can have quality metal without leads, and a lack of melodic vocals is hardly a death knell when you’re talking about the metal genre. But you need catchy riffs for these sorts of songs, even if they’re the metal equivalent of a shampoo jingle, and sadly, there are few to be found on this album.

In spite of a continuous barrage of blastbeats and heavy riffing from the band, the songs rarely rise above mediocre. Still, there are a few catchy songs to be found: “Misfit” kicks things off with a simple riff and some angry vocals, and it’s a decent headbanger to start with. The cleverly titled “Aural Sects” has a nice, snaking bassline and some fast-paced riffing amidst some furious vocals from Brown. Likewise, “Pseudocide” is a hard-hitting and uptempo dose of metal, littered with lurching guitar runs and colorful drumming. The latter two tunes are arguably among the better of Geezer Butler’s material in his three albums worth of solo efforts to date. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Another minor highlight of the album is new drummer Chad Smith's (not to be confused with the member of the Chili Peppers) performance. Unfortunately, you really have to listen for it. It's a shame that he isn't more up front in the mix. Deen Castronovo's drumming was the highlight of Plastic Planet, and Smith may well have stolen the show on Ohmwork if you didn't have to listen so closely to hear his parts over the loud guitars and vocal overdubs. He adds a real energy to the band, but at the same time, the snare sound is irritating, and sticks out like a sore thumb among longtime guitarist Pedro Howse's Iommi Jr. style riffing. Clark Brown's vocals, meanwhile, are a blessing for anyone who's had to sit through Burton C. Bell’s wails on Plastic Planet in that they're clean and decipherable.

Sadly, the bulk of Ohmwork is hollow and uninspired, featuring grinding, mid-tempo riffs that seem to overlap as the album progresses. The only track where the band ventures into unknown territory is “I Believe,” a listenable albeit unremarkable number that stretches on for nearly seven minutes, blending quiet acoustic passages with angry vocals and heavy guitars.

The one mishap where Butler ventures into the realm of self-parody is “Prisoner 103,” a dreadful tune featuring an obnoxious rap intro straight out of the late 90s. Hearing a veteran like Geezer Butler try to emulate the sounds of nu-metal six years after the genre had met its swift demise is a rather tragicomic experience.

While things rarely hit the level of sheer dreadfulness that is “Prisoner 103,” Ohmwork can only be seen as a disappointment. In my review of GZR’s Plastic Planet, I mentioned that I had paid $1.15 for the disc and wished I’d spent the cash on a chocolate bar instead. While this is a more listenable album in many respects, the verdict remains the same: take your money elsewhere and wait for Geezer Butler to team up with Tony Iommi again (as he did in 1997) in the hopes that he’ll release something worthwhile.

Rating: C-

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© 2008 Ben McVicker and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sanctuary, and is used for informational purposes only.