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All posts for the month May, 2013

Black Sabbath left to right, Tony Iommi (guitar), Ozzy Osbourne (vocals) and Geezer Butler (bass). Photo courtesy of Black Sabbath's official Facebook page.

Black Sabbath left to right, Tony Iommi (guitar), Ozzy Osbourne (vocals) and Geezer Butler (bass). Photo courtesy of Black Sabbath’s official Facebook page.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Doomy down-tuned riffs. Dark, foreboding lyrics. Tales of war, angst and the dark side of the human experience. …I know what you’re thinking; the popular shtick of your typical hard rock or heavy metal band, right? You may be correct, however, hundreds if not thousands have tried to perfect this sound over the past four decades. This is the sound of Black Sabbath.

Flashback to the late 1960’s. The musical climate was, for the most part, as bright as a tie-dyed shirt. The rock and roll of the time was idealistic, with themes of peace, free love and mind-opening experimentation. The hippie movement was in full swing. Conversely, that musical climate was ready for a shift.

Sonically, by the late 60s, rock bands were becoming progressively louder, more aggressive and “heavy.” The use of the fuzz pedal and distortion was changing the idea of what the electric guitar sounded like. From this, hard rock and heavy metal were born.

Although proto-metal acts like Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Blue Cheer and even Led Zeppelin were pushing the boundaries of hard rock in the late 60s, it wasn’t until Friday, February 13, 1970 that heavy metal was perfected full circle, and the hippie music before it had fallen to its knees.

The date marked the release of Black Sabbath’s self-titled debut album. And from the fist riff of opening track, “Black Sabbath” (a tri-tone, a sequence of notes banned in the Middle Ages for supposedly evoking Satan himself), the sound that was to become heavy metal was defined. Guitarist Tony Iommi, who suffered an accident while working in a factory that left the tips of his fingers severed, tuned his guitar a few steps lower to accommodate his prosthetic finger tips. Because of this, the band’s signature sound had a low, doom-like feel to it. Further accompanying this was swinging rhythmic attack of bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward, which pulsated around Iommi’s usual mid-tempo bluesy riffs. Finally, the final layer on the Black Sabbath cake was singer Ozzy Osbourne’s paranoid (no pun intended) and frightening vocals, that sent shivers down the spines of audiences everywhere.

Originally written off as rubbish by the music media at the time, the world was taken aback by Black Sabbath. No artist had explored such dark musical themes such as Satanism, war and the oppression of religion quite as outspokenly as they did. They were unapologetic yet innovative, laying the groundwork for nearly four decades of musicians trying to cop their sound.

Despite this, the band saw great success throughout the early and mid-70s, releasing a string of albums such as Paranoid (1970), Master of Reality (1971), Vol. 4 (1972) and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973), that served as a prerequisite for any artist attempting the genre.

But by the late 70’s, years of consistent touring and hard drug abuse was starting to take its toll. The musical climate had again shifted, and where the pioneers of hard rock and metal once reigned at the top of the decade, the even more raw and aggressive sounds punk and new wave had stolen the throne. The band was artistically drained and off their creative course, particularly Ozzy Osbourne. By 1979, he was fired and new chapters were to begin for both parties.

In 1980, both Osbourne and the remaining members of Black Sabbath had relaunched their careers. Osbourne reinvented his sound and began a very successful solo career, while Sabbath recruited former Rainbow and Elf singer Ronnie James Dio, and released two successful albums, Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules. But by 1983, Dio had left Sabbath. As Osbourne’s solo career continued to flourish throughout the 80’s and 90’s, Sabbath saw a string of replacement singers and ill-conceived reunions and nothing got too far off the ground.

In the late 90’s, at the height of his successful annual Ozzfest tour, Osbourne reunited with the original Black Sabbath and fans rejoiced. A live album and a few new recordings were released, and a full scale album was in the works. But with Osbourne continually balancing tours with Sabbath and solo releases, the years quickly racked up. Old tensions came back to haunt them and by 2005, they were again finished with no future plans to work together. Relauched as Heaven and Hell, the members of Black Sabbath reunited with Dio for a successful run but tragically, he died of stomach cancer in 2010.

On November 11, 2011 (11-11-11, dubbed National Metal Day), the four original members of Black Sabbath announced their return, with plans for new music and extensive touring. But in the frame of a few months after the announcement, trouble struck the band again. Unhappy with his contract, Bill Ward dropped out of the reunion and even worse, Iommi was diagnosed with cancer.

After witnessing his friend and former band mate Dio fall victim to the illness, Iommi remained fully determined, taking treatments for the disease while writing and recording new material. The band entered the studio with famed producer Rick Rubin (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys, Johnny Cash, Metallica) and recruited former Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave drummer, Brad Wilk.

The result is Black Sabbath reborn.

A new album, 13, from the almost-original lineup is scheduled for release June 6. Tracks like “End of the Beginning” and lead single “God is Dead?” prove Black Sabbath are not reinventing the wheel, they are the wheel! Rubin’s production brings an updated platform for Sabbath to do what they have always done been then everyone; write amazing heavy fucking music! Iommi is as sharp as ever, with no shortage of jaw-dropping riffs after 40+ years. Butler’s bass playing is stellar, and his lyrics perfectly lend to Osbourne’s still-eerie vocal approach. Newcomer Wilk is no stranger to holding a grove, and his style lends well to Sabbath. Although it would be nice to have a true reunion, Wilk is undoubtedly worthy to sit behind the kit of the greatest metal band of all time.

The story of Black Sabbath is far greater than the average tale of rock and roll redemption. They are innovators. Influencing practically everything that followed, from Kiss to the Misfits, Candlemass to White Zombie, Soundgarden to Mastodon, and countless others. They may been down but never to be counted out. For they seem to return at the peak of every generation and shake things up again. Originality cannot be denied, therefore Black Sabbath remians!

QOTSA

Queens of the Stone Age 2013 lineup. Photo courtesy of Queens of the Stone Age’s official Facebook page.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Since their debut now 15 years ago, Queens of the Stone Age have refused to play by the rules. Josh Homme and Co. have taken from the rule book of good rock and roll; infectious grooves, hard-hitting riffs and sexy swagger, and pissed all over those rules, claiming their territory and re-writing them as they see fit. With off-beat time signatures and unconventional yet undeniably hard rocking anthems, QOTSA never fails to deliver unpredictable and genius rock and roll.

…Like Clockwork, their first album in six years, is by no means an exception.

The album showcases the band doing what they do best; rocking harder than anybody else unlike anybody else. They certainly march to the beat of their own drummer, or at least that of Dave Grohl, who returns to the fold for …Like Clockwork. Also returning are long-time collaborator Mark Lanegan (formerly of Screaming Trees) and founding bassist Nick Oliveri. Not since 2002’s breakthrough Songs For the Deaf, which featured the aforementioned musicians, have the Queens rocked so mercilessly hard. Evidence of this can be heard on the band’s first single, “My God is the Sun.” These Queens are again ready to rock!

Queens of the Stone Age first left scars on the face of music in 1998 with their self-titled debut. Although it wasn’t an initial success as compared to its predecessors, it firmly established the band’s sound. Led by front man, guitarist and chief songwriter Josh Homme, formerly of stoner rock icons Kyuss, their signature sound was like nothing of the time. Sure, the guitars were low-tuned as much of the music was in the late 90s, but it had a groove reminiscent of classic rock, the over quirkiness and unconventional songwriting approach set QOTSA apart from both their contemporaries and their mentors.

Their second album, Rated R, saw QOTSA poking their head through the mainstream, only for a peek, with rave reviews and modest success, only further laying the groundwork for their seminal masterpiece, Songs For the Deaf. The success of the quirky single “No One Knows” and the face-melting “Go With the Flow” saw the band riding high. Backed by Grohl on drums throughout the entire album, it was the first very powerful rock record of the new millennium.

…Like Clockwork again features Grohl behind the kit, as his playing is ruthlessly undeniable. Unlike the raw experimentation of 2007’s Era Vulgaris or the innovative yet over-produced Lullabies To Paralyze from 2005, this effort is more straight to the point. Cuts like the opening “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” “Kalopsia” and “I Appear Missing” are straight-forward rockers, yet unlike anything you’d expect from a modern heavy rock band. Finally, the closing “…Like Clockwork” leaves its listener on a satisfied yet slightly unsettled note, if you could imagine such a thing. QOTSA boldly dares to be different, letting the chips fall as they will.

What’s unique about …Like Clockwork is that there’s no shortage of wildly eclectic guest musicians, who despite their talents, manage not to one-up one another, but enhance this monster into a delightfully perfect beast.

Aside from Grohl and Lanegan there’s Oliveri, their founding bassist who was fired from the group nearly a decade ago. He lends his wit and sonic stomp to “If I Had a Tail” and “Fairweather Friends.” Arctic Monkeys guitarist Alex Turner, who is now part of the touring lineup, lends his craft to “If I Had a Tail” as well. Scissors Sisters front man Jake Shears croons on “Keep Your Eyes Peeled,” while Nine Inch Nails Mastermind Trent Reznor lends vocals to the tripping and unsettling “Kalopsia” and “Fairweather Friends,” which if you’ve heard the collaboration from Grohl, Homme and Reznor on the Sound City Players soundtrack, you know what brilliance to expect.

Lastly, the final high-profile guest musician may come as a shock. The legendary Sir Elton John rounds out the list of guests on “Fairweather Friends.” What’s remarkable is that if you didn’t know he was on the track, you wouldn’t know he was on the track. There’s no “take it away Elton” moment. His performance is subtle, blending in perfectly with the song.

Along with a host of large comebacks in 2013 from rock icons like Black Sabbath, Alice in Chains and Nine Inch Nails to name a few, Queens of the Stone Age’s might just be the most notable. They’ve taken six years off, aside from a handful of one-off festival gigs and Homme’s forays with the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures. …Like Clockwork is a monster of an album that can be summed up in one word: Epic! It’s intelligent and innovative, yet good ass-kicking rock and roll just in time to drop the top and speed down the highway this summer!

An original piece of artwork by Daniel Rauschenbach.
An original piece of artwork by Daniel Rauschenbach.

Daniel Rauschenbach: The New Traveling Artist

By Joel Anderson (Art & Poetry Editor)

Like many artists before him, Daniel Rauschenbach just wants to paint. A graduate of Youngstown State University, Rauschenbach would rather be on a hill painting the view with a cup of coffee than stuck in the steady routine of a regular job like one of his influences Winslow Homer.

“He is that artist who had a job and was planned to become and apprentice and he said “screw it I’m going to go paint.” And he traveled the world and he painted,” said Rauschenbach. “Everybody has these idolizations of getting a job. I have tons of friends who graduated with an art degree from YSU working a 9-5. And you ask them “when was the last time you painted.” And they’ll say “Oh when I had that painting class with you.” I said “You have an art degree and the last time you painted is four years ago?” and they’ll say “Yeah that was the highlight of my career.” We’re 25 years-old, and I plan having the highlight of my career when I’m 77,” said Rauschenbach.

Rauschenbach began his art career as a method of release.

“Years of built up anger and people saying ‘express yourself’ and ‘put all your feelings into something.’ And I tried music first, but I sucked at the French horn. So I started painting and sketching. I think that’s what it was, was having family members saying ‘here, here’s a paint brush,’” said Rauschenbach

While studying at YSU, Rauschenbach became skilled in many other areas of art; sculpture, ceramics, welding; but painting is where he finds his focus.

“When I’m painting I know where attention is and hopefully one day it will pay off,” he said.

His paintings follow everyday life, wherever he may be. Using his canvas like a camera lens, Rauschenbach tries to capture as much of reality as he can when he’s painting. For example, his painting of the outdoor light that hangs outside the Lemon Grove, or his painting of the Paramount Theater; which will soon be demolished and will no longer exist as a part of downtown’s sky line.

“We’re historians of our time,” said Rauschebach.

Rauschenbach said artists, if not all Youngstown natives, are all brought up to have the same life plan.

“Our foundation starts in Youngstown, it’s where we build our character and then leave. That’s a bad thing to say, but it’s what we’re taught. Get your niche, figure out who you want to be, leave and then if you feel like you want to retire, come back, buy a house on the North Side for $10,000 and live here,” said Rauschenbach

Through his travels, Rauschenbach has seen many art scenes across the country and from what he’s seen; Rauschenbach decided he needs a fresh perspective.

“New York City, I hate to burst the bubble, but they’re stuck on 9/11. It’s a tragic thing, but that’s what all their art is. And now, sad to say, Boston artist that’s all their going to be focusing on is a tragedy, Philadelphia they’re in the same boat as we are, an old city that used to be, so got to get out of the country,” he said.

Some of Rauschenbach's artwork displayed at The Lemon Grove Cafe in Youngstown, Ohio.
Some of Rauschenbach’s artwork displayed at The Lemon Grove Cafe in Youngstown, Ohio.

Rauschenbach will have the opportunity to do so while he’s studying abroad at University of the Arts London. But even though he’ll be out of Youngstown, the cities influence will still show up in his work.

“When I go to shows in Maine, or New York, or in Florida, they ask me “Where are you from? You’re not local.” and I say I’m from Youngstown. And they say “You can tell because your pallet is different from ours.” You can leave Youngstown but you have to take it with you,” said Rauschenbach.

He isn’t sure exactly where life will take him once he’s done in England, but it’s clear it will be art related.

“It depends on who I owe money. If I need to make a job after I get my masters I’ll become a professor. If I have the dream job and I’m showing and I made the right connections and found the right person who likes my art, I’ll be a gallery artist. That’s my plan is to make art,” he said.

And nothing will stop him from his goal. Rauschenbach has the kind of determination usually seen in athletes, always willing to go the extra mile and not letting anything stand in his way, not even a his girlfriend.

“I got into an argument with my girlfriend the other day and she said ‘You know you’re never going to make any money for us until you’re dead.’ And I said ‘That’s bullshit. I better be making money by the time I’m 45 of we’re never going to be able to retire.’ She said ‘That’s not funny.’ Then she said ‘Have you ever thought about changing careers?’ And I said ‘Have you ever thought about getting a new boyfriend.’

A testament to Rauchenbach’s passion for and devotion to his art.

For more on Daniel Raushenbach, visit his website at www.danielrauschenbach.com.

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