"Fused" (Sanctuary; 2005)

Reviewed by Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Glenn Hughes is one of the best-kept secrets in metal. Having fronted the likes of Trapeze, Deep Purple and yes, Black Sabbath (on the "Seventh Star" album), as well as boasting a prolific solo career (I heartily recommend 2003's "Songs in the Key of Rock") and collaborations with such noteworthies as Joe Lynn Turner, Hughes is at least a duke in the hierarchy of metal royalty, and poised next to one of its sovereign lieges in the form of Tony Iommi, the alliance forged here signals glorious tidings in the realm.

Lending his bass and soul-searing vocals, Glenn Hughes practically steals the show from his host on Iommi's second solo album, "Fused," which honestly, would sound like another Black Sabbath album squeaked on the lam otherwise. With Iommi's trademark heavy strumming and riffage, you can already expect "Fused" to have a monster quality about it, but take "Wasted Again" for instance -- as Hughes escalates his trademark shrills in accordance with Iommi's magnificent solo licks and cataclysmic riffs, the track becomes more elegant as a result. 

Much of "Fused" lumbers in traditional Sabbath fashion as on "Resolution Song," "Grace," "The Spell" and "Face Your Fear." The ballady "Deep Inside a Shell" allows Iommi to peel off a bluesy solo within the song's mainstream rock progression (which is undoubtedly Hughes' influence), and it lends Iommi a bit more character outside of his archetype sludgy rhythms. The driving engine that fuels the rapid "What You're Living For" gives just enough thrust to validate the slow choruses that sound triumphant because of it. And the 9-minute closing track "I Go Insane" is a triumph unto itself. Hoo, mama, that's hard music at its finest. 

Let's face facts; every time there's a Sabbath reunion with Ozzy, it's done with the intention of giving the fans what they want: "Paranoid," "Sweet Leaf" and "N.I.B." If you're quietly hoping for the original lineup to pull together for an official release, you might as well wait for reality TV to end its interminable reign. Like Geezer Butler's "Ohmwork," Iommi proves there's veritable life outside of Sabbath, and threaten my unborn children all you want, but aside from Ronnie James Dio, Glenn Hughes is the best vocalist Tony Iommi has worked with in his lengthy career. Hughes' presence on Fused is absolute magic. Brilliant call, Tony...

"The 1996 Dep Sessions with Glenn Hughes" (Sanctuary; 2004)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Recorded nearly ten years before it ever saw release, "The 1996 Dep Sessions" features two of hard rock / heavy metal's biggest legends writing and performing together. With Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath on guitar and Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple (and many more) on vocals, you'd expect "The 1996 Dep Sessions" to be spectacular.

And you would be correct. Previously available only as an incomplete bootleg, "The 1996 Dep Sessions" (couldn't they have come up with a better title?) is a solid album throughout, featuring crushing, sludgy Sabbath-y riffs, Hughes' inimitable blues-soaked vocals and crisp, bright production that those who have heard the bootleg could only have dreamed of.

Fans of Iommi will find themselves in a guitar-induced coma of ecstasy upon hearing Iommi's work here. The man is a master, pure and simple, and he proves it once again on this CD. The same can be said for fans of Glenn Hughes. Here is a vocalist that has never disappointed and his work here, although it seems to be so easy for him, is nothing short of irresistibly brilliant.

"The 1996 Dep Sessions" is closer to Hughes' typical sound than Iommi's, but there's no denying the Black Sabbath stringslinger's work here. Add to that mix Jimmy Copley on drums and Don Airey, Geoff Nichols and Mike Exeter on keyboards and you've got a collection of songs that just can't miss. And they don't.

Performing on "The 1996 Dep Sessions" are: Tony Iommi - guitar; Glenn Hughes - vocals, bass; Jimmy Copley - drums; Don Airey, Geoff Nichols and Mike Exeter - keyboards.

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"Iommi" (Divine/Priority; 2000)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

It didn't take a stretch of the imagination to believe that the first solo album from Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi, the man many call (and arguably so) the "father of heavy metal," would be a solid rock'n'roll treat. But who would have guessed it would wind up being such a kick ass classic? A collection of tunes that celebrates the vintage sound of the genre and gives a nod to the success of the new.

Following in the shoes (kinda) of Carlos Santana, Iommi has gathered together some of the best and biggest names in hard rock, heavy metal and other genres and has enlisted their aid in the vocals of the ten tracks contained herein. Henry Rollins, Dave Grohl, Phil Anselmo, Peter Steele, Billy Idol and former Sabbath bandmate, among others, trade places at the microphone.

Like Santana, Iommi smartly relies strongly on his trademark heavy sound (very heavy) and with powerful results. "Iommi," the CD, is about as down-tuned and hell-pounding as one can imagine. But it also boasts a more modern songwriting style than previous Black Sabbath efforts. This works particularly effective with "Meat" (with vocals by Skin) and "Black Oblivion" with Billy Corgan.

As for the most Sabbath-like tracks - "Time Is Mine" with Phil Anselmo kicks some serious butt, as does "Just Say No to Love" with Peter Steele and (surprise!) "Who's Fooling Who" with Ozzy. 

The album's only weak area - and it's brief - is during "Into the Night" sung by Billy Idol. Idol does a damn fine job, but the lyrics of "All the undead souls who walk the night, they can suck my dick," can't help but illicit snickers.

All told, however, "Iommi" is just a great frigging record. It's bombastic, bottom-heavy and a heavy metal blast. Fans of Black Sabbath simply must have this in their collection and anyone who's ever enjoyed any type of heavy music should thank Iommi for starting the whole thing - and then thank him again for continuing to crank it out.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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