The reunion of Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi, and bass guy Geezer Butler — you know, the seminal dark lords of metal — has managed to help keep the heavy-metal masses smiling. With crossed arms, of course.
Even without legendary original drummer Bill Ward thundering the skins, Black Sabbath is still fucking Black Sabbath, and considering the former lifestyles (or current for the recently relapsed Ozzy) and ages of Sabbath's members, we'll take whatever we can get at this point.
Also contributing to the sludgy fun, Birmingham, England's greatest gift to music has just added to its hallowed canon with 13, the first release featuring most of its original lineup since 1978. Although our excitement is tempered by the lack of Ward's involvement, we are still stoked to have them back for what is inevitably a final round of rituals before these dark lords settle into a proper retirement.
Now, being that we at New Times absolutely love any excuse for a trivial best-of list, we're going to throw the spotlight on some of our favorite South Florida bands that have shown a distinct Black Sabbath influence in their sound or aesthetic. And please note, the following list is in no particular order.
Cavity — This crew is the gnarliest of the incestuous quartet of bands (Cavity, Floor, Torche, Load) that put Miami-bred sludge on the map. A fantastic example of what happens when you take Sabbath's fuzz-and-grunt aesthetic, then chop and screw that shit and add the guttural vocals of a satanic demon. If you are planning on sacrificing a goat or lighting a neighbor on fire, a Cavity song would make an ideal soundtrack.
Floor — Behold the next pillar in the house of sludge that Miami built. And yes, Floor and Cavity shared and swapped members at different points in the '90s, and they're connected in many other convoluted ways. However, each band provided a completely different take on doomy tuneage. Floor's more rockin' assault had all of the chugging guitars, but it was rounded out by Steve Brooks' inimitable vocals. It also featured so-called "bomb notes," which utilize a slack-tuned bass string where the low E string normally goes to create a bottomless pit of chunk during a riff.
Torche — The most popular band to emerge from Miami's sludge scene is Torche. Over the years, its sound has developed into an even-easier-to-consume extension of what Floor did, frequently referred to as stoner-pop by critics in search of a box to place this band in. However, Torche's output includes stuff that vacillates between either extreme on the heaviness spectrum, from bombastic muck to glorious rock anthems. While just about every heavy band on the planet can claim Sabbath as an influence, this outfit's lumbering guitars and tom-heavy drumming is but a few branches below Ozzy, Tommy, and Geezer on the metal family tree.
Holly Hunt — This instrumental duo from Miami features former Floor drummer Beatriz Monteavaro on drums and Gavin Perry on guitar. Though Holly Hunt is a relative newcomer, the band has received a lot of critical acclaim for its stripped-down approach to droning metal that is heavy and monolithic with an artistic and psychedelic flair. Seeing Holly Hunt live is as much a physical sensation as it is an aural one, thanks to Perry's insatiable amplifier lust.
Ether — This band features "Mean" Pete Kowalsky and Danny Burger of metallic hardcore band Remembering Never. And though this band has not been particularly active in recent months, it has finally released an LP of post-Sabbath doom that flows like an iceberg of death down a river of blood. Ether's sound can be compared to a more violent take on the style forged by Isis and Neurosis — with a healthy dose of Tony Iommi-informed riffing.
Consular — Ignorantly loud, satanic sludge from the heart of the Magic City, Consular describes itself as "bulldozer-core." So unsurprisingly, most of its performances conclude with frontman Matt Cleer rolling around on the floor while screaming into a mic like a deranged animal and at least two band members bleeding. Bonus fun fact: This crew once sold a T-shirt that featured its name in the iconic Black Sabbath font.
Shroud Eater — A trio that is Miami's answer to High on Fire and Motörhead, plain and simple. Fronted by two left-handed demon conjurers, Jean Saiz and Janette Valentine, this band sounds ancient and dangerous, like dinosaurs fucking, but with a spaced-out twist. The new material has shown a definite evolution in Shroud Eater's sound. But the songs are still nasty celebrations of fuzz and double-bass drumming.
The Tunnel — What would happen if the Melvins formed a band with Pentagram? Or if Black Sabbath covered Rush songs? It would probably sound something like the Tunnel, an intrepid 305 twosome that makes a mountain of sound via guitar, some synth pedals, and Arturo Garcia's deft drumming. Definitely not for straight-laced riff rockers, this band is adventurous and weird in the best way.
Centuries — While this crew is distinctly a hardcore band, the guitar tones, lyrical content, and the evil depth of its sound are undoubtedly descended from Black Sabbath. What's more, the Palm Beach-based group has recently signed with the purveyors of all that is good in the world of heavy music, Southern Lord Records, and we've been searching for an excuse to offer our props. Congrats, Centuries!
Load — Considered a punk band by some, a hardcore band by others, Load had plenty of Black Sabbath's sludge and anger in its sound. Last year, Bobby "Load" Johnston tragically passed away, but the music this man made left an immense impact on heavy music.
Long live Load! Long live Sabbath! Long live the dark lords!