Friday, June 27, 2014
Visiting the Dark Side...A Review of Brownout presents Brown Sabbath (Ubiquity Records)
(photo by focalchrome)
This is the highly publicized Black Sabbath tribute from members of Brownout and Grupo Fantasma. I have seen both of those bands several times and have been continually amazed by their tight live shows with swingin' horns and rippin' grooves. Intrigued further, I decided to gain access into their world and tried to find out what makes them so sick.
I was told to meet them in some late night Texas heat (I took a left at the longhorn, vultures circling). When I arrived on the scene there was a wicked feeling that came over me. The entire area was reeking of witches' herbs and I was told to sit tight and wait for a Brownout rep. I could see the flickering night sky and lots of smoke from fires burning just yonder. Guitarist Beto Martinez met me and he seemed different than usual. I had never noticed his fangs before! I assured him that I was ready for whatever initiation awaited me. He led me into the Brownout camp and I felt the chills as we walked past a boiling pit of something. Beto explained that they were cooking up a concoction of goat blood, wax and the boiled remains of record industry do-wrongers. "That splatter vinyl Brown Sabbath 10" you have? It is made from this stuff." Wow. I took warning.
As we passed a line-up of virgins awaiting initiation from bassist Goyo, I could make out some voodoo rhythms. As we got nearer, I could see the trance that percussionists Sweet Lou and John Speice were in, playing batás, congas and drumkit to awake the evil spirits. Speice in particular was scary with his burning eyes and his beard totally on fire. These dudes looked like serious mad men! And I spotted a black-cloaked figure over on the side. On closer inspection it was none other than Adrian Quesada, mixing the Brown Sabbath music by torchlight! This whole scene was giving me the heebie-jeebies. Trumpeter Gil told me, "This is how we get ourselves ready for all the shows we do. We have to sacrifice animals and sometimes people too so that we can get the vibe right. In fact, just last night we nearly sacrificed our trombonist Speedy until he stepped forward and blew a tremendous solo. It was that action only that allowed himself to be saved from slaughter." I heard evil laughs all around. As the band moved toward me I got the feeling that I should escape. I took off running, trying to get off this evil ranch. I sped past zombified cattle and petrified cacti. The only time I even dared to look back I saw Beto with a bat head hanging in his mouth and vowed from that day on I would never, ever inquire about a band's pre-gig rituals ever again.
And the album? Fucking great, a sonic dream come true. If you are a child of heavy music like I am then you may find excitement in Sabbath tunes played with batá and funk horns. "Iron Man" in particular is given epic treatment here. "Hand of Doom" thrills like a good horror flick, pushing you into madness. "Planet Caravan" is a smoky trip. The best part about this awesome concept is that it remains very Sabbathy, not some gimmicky funk bullshit trying to force someone else's music into what it is not. The guitars are still heavy (Beto said he started playing guitar because he wanted to be in a metal band: this is the closest he's come.) This is very clearly a work of appreciation, not novelty. And perhaps making it lifestyle might be the ticket to better understanding the black (or brown) arts. And why is there not vocals on every song? Probably because both singers got their organs ripped out and eaten backstage on the last tour. I am glad I got to see this monster project before the true darkness prevails on all of us. The LP, the 10" and the live show are all evil. Do it. Do it. Do it...
Brownout website here
Ubiquity Records here