Black Sabbath's Ongoing Journey Into Evil

Billboard magazine/Wikipedia
Original evil: Black Sabbath in 1970 -- Geezer Butler (bass), Tony Iommi (guitar), Bill Ward (drums) and Ozzy Osbourne (vocals)
Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe
By Mick Wall
St. Martin's Press, 400 pp., $27.99

In one of the most memorable scenes of the fictional rock mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, the clueless heavy-metal rockers endure some disastrous and embarrassing stage incidents involving a Stonehenge stage set that is far too small. And then comes the appearance of some dancing dwarves jigging around who...well...dwarf what was supposed to be an impressive and looming mound of stones.

That the real-life Black Sabbath once had a Stonehenge set that was too big for its stage, and a dwarf dressed as a demon baby whose (usually scripted) screams went on a little longer than normal one night -- the stack of mattresses that normally broke his planned fall from atop the set were not in place -- gives the band today a comical edge. Original lead singer Ozzy Osbourne's befuddled reign as a reality-TV patriarch also did Sabbath no favors.

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Extreme Noise Terror Grinds Fitz Into a Pulp

Photos by Francisco Montes
The beast that is E.N.T.
Extreme Noise Terror, Desecration, Phobia, Nomads, Turbokrieg
April 7, 2015

No one I spoke to last could seem to remember the last time that UK grindcore originals Extreme Noise Terror came to Houston. The easy consensus, though, was that it had been a long fucking time. As it was, we got the light-touring troupe on the final evening of a relatively brutal five-shows-in-five-nights trek across the country from California--and on a Tuesday evening, at that.

The raging E.N.T. loyalists who turned up last night to see them would have gladly paid admission to see the band play Fitz on a Tuesday morning, or under a bridge in the middle of flu epidemic. It didn't matter. All that mattered to the weird throng of crust punks, headbangers and hardcore kids hanging out and smoking on the club's downstairs patio was that they didn't miss the chance to get gnarly with a group of the planet's longest-running extreme-rock icons.

The earliest fans to arrive were greeted by Turbokrieg, the familiar local grind outfit. With tongue forever in cheek, the band's front man praised the small-but-growing crowd's decision-making skills.

"It's good to see so many people here on a Tuesday, when Buffalo Wild Wings has 60-cent wings," he cracked.

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Steve "Zetro" Souza Can't Get Exodus Out of His Blood

Photo courtesy of Adrenaline PR
Bay Area bashers Exodus
If there's anything that three decades spent in the wild and wooly world of heavy fucking metal has taught Exodus singer Steve "Zetro" Souza, it's to never say never. After being not-so-amicably dismissed from the band for the second time back in 2004, it looked for all the world as if the thrash-metal progenitors were charting a new course away from the man who sang "Toxic Waltz."

As recently as last year, odds didn't look good that Souza would ever get a crack at the big stage at House of Blues in Houston.

"I probably wouldn't have put any money on it," the singer says.

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Oceans of Slumber Casts Its Thrall Over Fitz

Photos by Francisco Montes
Oceans of Slumber
Green as Emerald, Carrion Sun, Oceans of Slumber
March 20, 2015

It's rare that a band gets an opportunity to make a second first impression, and Oceans of Slumber arrived at Fitzgerald's on Friday night prepared and determined to make the most of this unlikely shot. After all, the prog-minded musicians are hardly new to the local metal scene, having first assembled in 2011.

But the recent additions of keyboardist Beau Beasley and singer Cammie Gilbert to the group have opened up exciting new possibilities in their sound, illustrated beautifully by Oceans' one-take cover of the Candlesmass classic "Solitude" that went viral a couple weeks back. A very large and curious crowd turned up for a free show over the weekend to celebrate the release of Oceans of Slumber's new EP, Blue, and see what the new-look band could do with a full set of tunes.

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A Few More Words With Oceans of Slumber

Photo courtesy of Oceans of Slumber
Coming off an exceptional year with a critically acclaimed album and turning out to be one of Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy's favorite bands for 2014, Oceans of Slumber could easily be lauded as Houston's hardest-working metal band (or hardest working any band, for that matter). Once described by Russ Russell - the iconic producer for Napalm Death, Dimmu Borgir, etc. - as "the perfect mixture of sheer brutality with ultimate musicianship," the band has the chops to juggle many genres while at the same time still walking on the tightrope that puts the heavy in metal.

OOS have just released a new EP, Blue, and are about to make their live debut with new line-up that includes new female singer Cammie Gilbert. But at the helm is Dobber Beverly, drummer for the band. He takes a minute out of his busy schedule -- they'll soon be releasing a new full-length album and heading out on tour -- to chat with us. Trust us: catch them tonight before they take the world by storm.

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Oceans of Slumber Pushing Harder Than Ever

Photo by Jeremy Pierson/Courtesy of Oceans of Slumber
When local prog-metal troupe Oceans of Slumber take the stage at Fitzgerald's on Friday night to celebrate the release of their new EP, don't be surprised if they look and sound a little different than you remember. The band has added a keyboard player, for one thing. And then there's the small matter of their brand-new singer - the young woman with the light-brown skin and the big, soaring voice.

One familiar element that definitely hasn't changed is that the middle of the stage will still be occupied by Dobber Beverly, the headphones-wearing drum demolisher still best-known to many around these parts as the skin-smasher from bygone grindcore greats Insect Warfare. Now appreciated around town as much for his gentle grooves as for his bone-shattering rolls and fills, Beverly has been the backbone of Oceans of Slumber since the group's formation in 2011.

The idea back then was to get together and jam out some progressive tunes with no holds barred, pushing the boundaries of what metal could sound like. Four years later, they're pushing harder than ever.

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Bad Ass Weekend 2: A Banquet for Extreme-Music Lovers

Photos by Francisco Montes
England's Napalm Death finished off the pungent, black-wearing crowd of extreme-music lovers at Fitzgerald's.
Maybe it was the dank weather that drove them out of their burrows, or the deep bass vibrations that attracted them. But the extreme rock underground slithered up through the cracks and into the daylight on Saturday, turning out early and with enthusiasm to Day 2 of the Bad Ass Weekend III festival. In studs and spikes they came, rocking mullets, mohawks and long, frizzy tresses, to catch the kind of cult bands that you can really build a scene (or a fashion statement) around.

The sold-out crowd hustled up and down the stairs at Fitzgerald's all night, trying to see and hear everything. It was impossible. The deep lineup of thrash, death and grindcore thought-leaders on both stages was staggered nicely, but difficult choices had to be made. That's just the way it goes at the biggest, gnarliest extreme-rock show of the season.

By the time old-school Orange County grind outfit Phobia began bashing away upstairs at 7:30 p.m., the Bad Ass Weekend had already been underway for quite some time. D.C. punk originals Government Issue had headlined a practically unmissable punk portion of the fest the night before, and lesser-known acts like Church of Disgust and Peasant had been rocking a capacity crowd at Mango's since early Saturday afternoon.

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Enabler Turns Way Up at Walters

Photos by Nathan Smith
Tuesday night tinnitus: Enabler's Jeff Lohrber
Enabler, Call of the Void, Blasé, STRESS33
Walters Downtown
February 10, 2015

It's a rather small crowd that turns out to hear extreme sounds at Walters on a Tuesday night in February -- one that typically shows up with callouses on their cochleas. But even the saltier veterans of the hardcore haunt went home with their ears ringing like a tardy bell last night. The tinnitus would come courtesy of the Ohioans in Enabler, purveyors of a bitter fusion of hardcore and metal that somehow manages to sound angrier than either. There was no use wearing earplugs. Things were about to get rather loud.

The first act of the night was the local outfit STRESS33, who raked the early arrivals over the coals with a nasty blend of piercing noise and sloppy power-violence. At stage left, a guy in a colorful mask and shades manipulated some kind of digital controller that produced grating squeals over the band's thoughtfully destroyed guitar crunch. As sheer sonic assault, it was a terrific warmup.

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Enjoy the Least Metal Video Ever Made

If you don't remember Chris Holmes from his stint as lead guitarist in W.A.S.P., you may be forgiven. They were, after all, just another hair-metal act and not one whose work has particularly stood the test of time. On the other hand, if you don't remember Chris Holmes from his interview in the Penelope Spheeris documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, then you might have brain damage.

Who could ever forget Holmes floating in a swimming pool on an inflatable chair, swigging vodka from three separate bottles and babbling incoherently as him mom looked on worried? It's arguably the greatest interview in music-documentary history.

His latest video is the music-video equivalent of that interview. Oh. My. God.

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Billy Hinkle Brings East Side Ethic to Poison Girl Turntables

photo by Matthew Romero
L-R: Robert Mena, Francisco Pulido, Scott Peterson (of Cryptic Slaughter), Billy Hinkle, and Ed Reyes
Pasadena hardcore outfit H.R.A., named after television personality Marvin Zindler's "heavy roach activity" blurb from his famous and often-amusing weekly rundown of local health-inspection violations, makes music to kill cats by, pens theme songs for nightmares, belches anthems for the apocalypse. Fast, furious, industrial-strength, and filled with rage, this is sonic warfare, the stuff they play in the torture cells at CIA black sites.

Unless you're part of the hardcore scene, it's hard to comprehend how deeply embedded hardcore is on the East Side. According to H.R.A. bassist Billy Hinkle, whose first DJ gig ever will be spinning his vinyl at Poison Girl tonight, the manic, abrasive, buzzsaw genre that sprang out of punk is in the water in east Houston. [Disclosure: the author is also DJing at PG this evening -- ed.]

"A lot of bands -- you know, Splatterreah, Bacteria, Social Deceit, Crucifixion -- were based out of the East Side. There's something about the working class and chemical pollution that caters to this music."

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