Being one of the most influential bassists in Metal history and the primary lyricist of Black Sabbath, Geezer Butler has much to offer both musically and lyrically. In the mid-’90s, he would finally establish his solo project where his musical talent was put on full display.
Geezer Butler – Manipulations Of The Mind/The Very Best Of Geezer Butler (BMG)
Release Date: 30 July 2021
This new project not only showcased the immense musicality we had heard on so many classic releases that came before but also pushed the songwriting and playing of Geezer Butler into a new, more modern-sounding direction.
Butler would release three albums, Plastic Planet (1995), Black Science (1997), and Ohmwork (2005). These three albums are re-released in a boxset, Manipulations Of The Mind, with a fourth disc containing unreleased demos, studio outtakes, single edits and three live tracks captured at the Majestic Theatre, Detroit, MI, in February 1996.
Also released is The Very Best Of Geezer Butler, featuring seventeen tracks cherry-picked by Geezer himself.
The task of getting the solo project off the ground had proved to be a difficult one. For example, even in the late ’80s, Geezer was writing songs and “looking for a really good singer but could never find one,” He said that he “gradually lost interest in the solo side, which is fine and just concentrated on writing songs. And then Ozzy asked me to do the No Rest For The Wicked Tour with him, so I did that.”
Plastic Planet – 1995
In 1995 as Plastic Planet was launched, Geezer said, “The first time I tried to do a solo album, I was told that the stuff I was doing was too Heavy. All the record companies I went to were asking me to do more commercial stuff like Bon Jovi and all that, which I just don’t do. So, I sort of shelved it. But now that there are a lot of Heavy bands around. I just thought now would be the time to do it.”
From the opening bars of Catatonic Eclipse, you can sense the modern mid-’90s industrial Heavy Metal style, packed with anger and crushing riffs. With tracks like Giving Up the Ghost, which was aimed at Iommi and his insistence of continuing with the Black Sabbath name, and House Of Clouds and its “Someone save me from myself” lines, you have a set of songs that still stand up well today.
Heavy, Heavy, Heavy! Expect no crushing guitar solos, but you will find an underrated album where Butler and his pals had presented a great set of songs that smash into your soul from the first track to last.
“I was listening to Fear Factory at the time and liked what Burton C. Bell was doing – heavy vocals but with melodic choruses when required,” says Geezer. “So, I asked him if he’d be interested in singing on the album, and he agreed. Importantly, he was great to work with and had a similar sense of humour to Pedro and me. And didn’t sound anything like Ozzy or Ronnie Dio, which was important to me.”
In the context of 1995, given that it had only been a few months since Nirvana had released their seminal MTV Unplugged set, Butler, then in his late 40s, was maybe seen as a Metal dinosaur, yet to hit his now legendary status. It is now a refreshing task to revisit this classic album.
And, given that Bell had to go back to Fear Factory if they had had the chance to perform this as a proper world tour, would things have turned out differently?
Black Science – 1997
From the opening moment of the 1997 release Black Science, there is no mistaking this will be a different listening experience for those who were coming straight over from the classic Black Sabbath releases.
The album begins with an almost ambient, industrial beat that sounds more in line with the classic Nine Inch Nails album The Downward Spiral than an album like Paranoid. From there, the opening track, titled Man In A Suitcase, explodes into a heavy, crunchy riff that leads to a catchy, melodic chorus. The song sounds more in line with bands like Filter and Faith No More than the dark blues-inspired doom of Black Sabbath.
The second track, titled Box Of Six, is a hammering slab of Metal. The main riff is filled with groove and instantly brings to mind Pantera. Track three, Mysterious, brings the album in a new direction with a brooding atmosphere. At the same time, the industrial tinges continue and begin to take more of a focus in the arrangements.
These opening tracks help lay the musical groundwork of what follows on the album; a mix of aggro upbeat Metal layered with melody, groove and industrial beats. The vocals from Clark Brown match the music perfectly throughout, with their clean but hard-edged singing.
The rest of the band, composed of guitarist Pedro Howse and drummer Deen Castronovo, proved to be the perfect tools for Geezer to use in order to explore these new directions and expand his own musical horizons.
The early 2000s were not kind to Classic Rock and Metal bands or the iconic musicians that drove them. Fresh off the back of the hugely successful Black Sabbath reunion shows at Ozzfest in the late ’90s, the era of Nu-Metal and Kerrang TV saw Geezer attempt to revive his GZR solo band for another record.
Opening track Misfit is a full-throttle belter of a song that sounds closer to Static X than it does Black Sabbath. Tracks like the industrial Metal of Pardon My Depression or the distorted groove Metal of Aural Sects sound like post-Pantera Metal songs to crash one’s car (or more probably skateboard) to.
Dogs of Whore is a more exciting mix of riffs and chugging rhythms, while the album closer, Don’t You Know, sounds like an ideal moshpit starter.
Geezer Butler’s bass playing had thankfully lost none of its unique groove, and having Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on drums gave the record an added level of Funk in the rhythm section.
It would only be two short years before Mr Butler was back in his rightful place on the world’s biggest stages with Black Sabbath.
Take this album, then, as a snapshot of a difficult time for Heavy Metal and an interesting item in itself.
The bonus disc rounds off the collection nicely. Beach Skeleton, which was only available on the Japanese version of Black Science, is included, along with a number of alternative takes, rough mixes and demos. However, the live versions of Drive Boy Shooting, Detective 27 and House Of Clouds, recorded at the Majestic Theatre, Detroit, MI, in February 1996, round this off in a superb manner and illustrate how heavy and edgy the band were live.
A full live set would have been priceless.
Manipulations Of The Mind can be ordered from geezerbutler.lnk.to/manipulationsofthemindPR
The Very Best Of Geezer Butler can be ordered from geezerbutler.lnk.to/verybestofPR
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