Tony Iommi. Anybody who has ever listened to a heavy metal album owes a great deal to him. He formed Black Sabbath almost forty years ago, and though the roots were planted much earlier, Iommi and his band mates are usually credited with inventing the genre. Sabbath went on to become one of the most successful bands in history, and Iommi became quite famous in his own right. Which leads us to Iommi. This is Tony’s first solo album, and is basically him writing and playing with a guest vocalist/musician on each track. As you might guess, it’s these guest appearances that make this album very difficult to review, since everyone is going to like a different one best. Thankfully, Iommi’s playing is superior throughout, and this sounds far more Sabbath-y than the actual band had in a while (the original lineup had not yet reunited at this point). There is no shortage of doom riffs here, coupled with some wicked solos.
The album’s opener, The Laughing Man (In The Devil Mask), doesn’t really do a good job of setting up the album. While it’s a decent track, it doesn’t seem to fit on here. For one thing, Iommi actually plays what sounds like a Nu-Metal inspired riff. Mix that with the laughable lyrics, and the only real high point is Henry Rollins’, who puts in an inspired performance. The other songs are far more Sabbath-esque. Take Time Is Mine, for example. A brutal five minute riff-fest that is probably the best on the album. If it weren’t for the raspy (but fitting) vocals of Pantera and Down frontman Phil Anselmo, the song could have easily fit in on an early Sabbath album. Most importantly, the Iommi and Anselmo just seem to click. Add that to a vintage Iommi solo and you’ve got an extremely enjoyable track.
Two other highlights are Goodbye Lament and Patterns, which include guest appearances by Dave Grohl of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters and Serj Tanikan of System Of A Down, respectively. Goodbye Lament shows off the heavy side of Grohl that we only really see in the most violent of his tunes. In addition, Brian May plays some additional guitars on the track. Patterns showcases Serj singing over some more excellent doom metal riffs, but obviously maintaining his own personality (how could he not?). The biggest surprise. however, has to be Black Oblivion. Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins is helping out on this one, and his delivery is actually perfect, even though I’m not a fan of his. While the song features some of the best guitar work on the album, it is a bit long for its own good.
So what could possibly be wrong with this album? For one thing, there is very little variety, with the exception of the bizarre (yet excellent) Meat, which includes guest vocals by Skin, as well as an amazing solo. By the time you reach Ian Astbury’s (of The Cult) appearance on Flame On, you’ve already heard everything the album has to offer. The instrumentation (other than the guitar, of course) is barely average. Another minor complaint is the electronic drumming that can be found on some tracks, most notably Goodbye Lament and Just Say No To Love, which features Type O Negative’s Peter Steele. While the latter is a powerful song, familiarity and out of place drumming bog it down. Who’s Fooling Who, while not as impressive as classic Sabbath, is a monster of a track. Three quarters of the original Black Sabbath lineup play on this one (Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, and drummer Bill Ward). Finally, the album closes with Into The Night. None other than Billy Idol handles vocals on this, and he couldn’t be any better. While Iommi doesn't play anything too special for a change, only a standard solo and some decent riffs, Idol delivers the extremely campy (and satirical) lyrics with a dark grace that brings the album to a brilliant close.
Review Summary: An outstanding solo effort by Mr. Iommi. Though it can get stale and recycled at times, a host of famous voices keep showing up to keep things interesting. Iommi doesn’t really vary from what made him famous, but if you’re already a fan, than this is a must-have. Obviously, if you don’t like his guitar work in Sabbath, you won’t enjoy this. While the other instruments are sub-par on most tracks, you probably only want this album to hear Tony and the guest vocalists, so it really doesn’t matter. The bottom line: any true fan of Sabbath should definitely add this to their collection.
-Time Is Mine
-Into The Night