CLASSIC ALBUMS REVISITED: Black Sabbath’s Genre Defining Debut Turns 50

Black Sabbath in 1970, photo by Warner Brothers Records

On the sleeve: a grainy picture of a woman dressed in black. A stagnant pond. A creepy looking mill house. 

And two words. Black Sabbath

On the record: Rain. Thunder. A tolling bell. Those three notes. That voice.

And just like that, in February of 1970 – appropriately enough on the 13th – the face of music was changed forever.

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Demons – Great Dismal

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Demons is the new pet project of Zach Gehring, guitarist for the Virginia based Rock band Mae. With Great Dismal (Spartan), Gehring has experimented with styles that he could not fit into Mae, and the results are phenomenal. Gehring really benefits from the experience of writing and producing records, and the sound quality and composition on this EP are therefore really good. The styles vary a bit, but the grungy guitar sounds and melancholic vocals are omnipresent.

Gehring’s voice is sometimes a little Steven Wilson, and sometimes, especially in ‘Lenora Slaughter’, a lot like Marilyn Manson but with vocal lines more like Corey Taylor. Backing vocals are often just a little off, but not enough to make it annoying. In fact, it ends up being a really cool stylistic effect. The vocal lines are often smooth and mellow over more energetic music, as in opening number ‘There Is No Reward’. This is a very hard rocking song, with nice grungy guitar lines, which could have goon on for a little longer in my opinion.

Gehring shows off his musical versatility on his album, as the laid-back and almost Dark Country feel of ‘Godless Girls’ contrasts with the earlier hard rock. It felt like it could have almost been a song by The Hold Steady. On the surface it seems like a simple song, but the timing of the different elements makes it much more, and when you get to the final chorus it seems to somehow go straight through you.

‘Radical Cure’ is in yet another style, and it is an excellent loud and aggressive song. The riffs and mix are once again really good, and the contrast between the vocals and music just adds so much tension in some places, while they complement each other perfectly in others.

The final song is ‘Quietly Waiting’, and it is worth waiting for. I fell in love with it from the very first notes. The acoustic guitar with clean vocals and piano is so melancholic, so beautiful and touching. This is the longest song on this release, and the popularity of artists like Wino and Conny Ochs indicate that Gehring could easily release an entire album in this style. I would happily listen to an hour of this. My only criticism for this song is that it doesn’t end on a closing tone, but I am willing to forgive that.

All in all, this is an amazing début, and I really enjoyed the experience. It touches on a number of different genres and artists, and excels in each style. Give it a listen, it’s worth it.

 

8.5/10

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LORRAINE LYSEN