Tony Iommi Talks New Epiphone SG

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It feels like Tony Iommi Week here at I Heart Guitar. I interviewed Tony the other day for Mixdown magazine (and they let me set aside a few questions for I Heart Guitar, which you can see here). I have an Epiphone Limited Edition Tony Iommi Signature SG Custom here to review. And now Epiphone has published a new interview with Tony talking about the new guitar. You can read the interview here, and there’s a press release and video below. Read More …

Tony Iommi Talks Black Sabbath’s Tony Martin Era

Tony Iommi

One of my favourite eras of Black Sabbath is the series of albums recorded with vocalist Tony Martin. Tony Iommi seemed to broaden his composing, he unleashed some of his greatest tones ever during this period, and he was pushed to new heights of lead guitar playing. Something about the Iommi/Martin dynamic seemed to bring great things out of both musicians. Today I had the honour of interviewing Tony Iommi for an upcoming Mixdown article about the final Black Sabbath tour, and the fine folks at that mag kindly allowed me to set aside a few minutes of the interview for an I Heart Guitar-exclusive diversion to talk about this era. In the wake of the recent news that Iommi hopes to record with Martin again, I thought we’d start there: Read More …

Tony Iommi and the Laney TI15-112

Check this out! Laney’s new TI15-112 Tony Iommi Signature Amp. Laney says it takes all the raw power and tone of the TI100’s high gain channel and crams it into a compact single channel all tube amp. Laney’s unique dual wattage input option means you can push the EL84 output section hard and get 15 watts RMS of full on tone or plug into the “less than 1 watt” and get exactly that – your same great tone but at less than 1 watt. There’s also a speaker-emulated recording out. More info here.

The Return Of The Epiphone Tony Iommi SG

Tony Iommi Epiphone

Aaah this is great news: Epiphone is reviving a version of its Tony Iommi SG. There are a few changes compared to the previous model. According to Epiphone.com: Later this summer, Epiphone will formally announce the new Ltd. Ed. Tony Iommi Signature SG Custom, which will be Tony’s second signature guitar for Epiphone. It features the historic SG profile–now a Tony Iommi trademark–with a Mahogany body finished in beautiful gloss Ebony. The Mahogany neck has a 1960’s SlimTaper™ D- profile and a black graphite nut and the Ebony fingerboard has Pearloid “Cross” inlays with white binding and a Tony Iommi signature on the back of the headstock. Read More …

Black Sabbath Melbourne Gigs Coming To DVD

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Is there anything sweeter than when one of your favourite bands releases a live DVD? Well, maybe when one of your favourite bands releases a live DVD of a concert that you yourself went to! While I can’t guarantee that this applies to your personal situation, if you’re like me and the other 30,000 or so people who saw Black Sabbath when they played in Melbourne, Australia a few months ago, you’re going to relive the experience on their new DVD, Gathered In Their Masses! Due for release on on November 26 via Vertigo/Republic, Gathered In Their Masses contains footage from Sabbath’s April 29 and May 1, 2013 concerts here in Melbourne. And it’s going to kick ass. Here’s the trailer. Read More …

Taylor’s Tony Iommi Sweepstakes

IommiAah, I always knew Tony Iommi was a man with impeccable taste in guitars. Turns out Mr. Iommi used several Taylor acoustic guitars during the creation of Black Sabbath’s awesome new album 13, and he’s teamed up with the good folks at Taylor for the ultimate sweepstakes, where you can win a trip to see Sabbath in Las Vegas staying at the MGM Grand, and receive your very own Taylor GS Mini signed by Iommi, as well as a Taylor Guitars prize pack and a signed copy of 13. Full details in the press release below. Read More …

REVIEW: Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know

Roadrunner (Worldwide), Rhino (US) Victor (Japan)

Q: When is Black Sabbath not Black Sabbath? A: When it’s Heaven & Hell. And even then … it’s still Black Sabbath. For the small handful of folks who have been living in a cave, under a rock or perhaps dwelling in a festering dungeon of misery in a barren, foggy and forsaken land time forgot, or something, Heaven & Hell is Black Sabbath’s Mob Rules-era line-up, trading under a new name so as to avoid confusion with the Ozzy-led incarnation of the band, which is still a going concern at least on paper. It’s not known even by the band members if or when the mighty Sabbath will reactivate (and I’m sure that largely depends on when they can fit in rehearsal between Osbourne photo opportunities and Botox appointments) but in the meantime, there’s Heaven & Hell.

CLICK HERE to buy The Devil You Know from Amazon.com.

Any assumption that Heaven & Hell’s The Devil You Know is a consolation prize pending new activity by Black Sabbath is crushingly put to rest within the first 5 seconds of album opener ‘Atom and Evil.’ After an opening drum salvo from Vinnie Appice, a lumbering, demonic Iommi riff lurches forward. If you listen with headphones you’ll hear a distant shimmery overdub which recalls the high-speed phaser sound of ‘Killing Yourself to Live’ from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. It’s a subtle reminder of Sabbath’s past, but don’t go looking to read too much into it because The Devil You Know is not a depository for sly back catalogue references. Oh, you’ll be able to tell from a cursory ear-glance that it’s Iommi, Butler, Dio and Appice, but even though the lyrical direction may lean towards themes explored on the line-up’s last studio album, Dehumanizer, there’s more than enough distinction to keep The Devil You Know from being Dehumanizer 2: Electric Boogaloo.

‘Atom and Evil’ has that dark, plodding tempo that made Dehumanizer’s ‘Letters From Earth,’ yet the orchestration is a little richer, Geezer Butler’s bass tone is more up-front (especially in the second verse), and Iommi’s double-tracked rhythm guitars sizzle and burn, no doubt the result of his extremely high output Gibson Tony Iommi humbuckers. I don’t know if my perception is influenced by the fire-and-brimstone look of the album cover, but compared to Dehumanizer, Iommi’s tone on The Devil You Know generally feels warmer and more organic than the often cold menace of its predecessor.

‘Fear’ picks up the pace a little but two songs in we’re still nowhere near the tempo of ‘Neon Knights’ or ‘The Mob Rules.’ Some darkly supportive vocal harmonies and considered use of backwards reverb ratchet up the menace level in Dio’s voice, which is as powerful and commanding as ever, despite his advancing years. Though Dio doesn’t quite reach for the high notes like he once did, and seems to sing in a lower register overall, it fits the material and adds yet more weight to his delivery. Oh and while I’m singling out individual band members, Vinny Appice’s drum sound is incredible, with just the right mix of ambience and directness. His playing sits so deeply within the pocket that sometimes your ear is drawn away from him, until he throws in a particular fill or accent – there are some great ones in ‘Atom and Evil’ – to kick the song up to another level.

For me, as brutals as this sounds, the key distinction between Ozzy-Sabbath and Dio-Sabbath is one of evil. In their classic 70s output, the band seemed to be stalked and tormented by darkness and doom, while Dio-led Sabbath seems to be in control and command of it. This really hits home with the single ‘Bible Black,’ which starts with a classic Iommi acoustic figure underneath a sombre blues-inspired lead line. A minute and a half into the song, the doom and menace kick in – perhaps recalling ‘Children of the Sea’ from the Heaven & Hell album, but with a little more power and drive. In this tale of an evil bible that leads its reader to commit vicious misdeeds, Dio sounds determined and powerful, sinking his teeth into the character of the protagonist with a sort of demonic relish that Ozzy could only reserve for bats and doves.

‘Double The Pain’ almost sounds like an Iommi-led attempt at covering Alice In Chains’ ‘We Die Young.’ Four songs in and we’ve started to reach the faster tempos that this line-up has always done so well. Of course it wouldn’t be Iommi without more of those famous, evil, snaking riffs, and this track includes a killer half-time line. I’m not sure if it’s in part an in-joke – double the pain, double the length of the bar of music – but it sure sounds cool. ‘Rock and Roll Angel’ has an almost psychedelic opening riff which is quickly pushed aside for a chugging, heavy groove not a million miles removed from Zakk Wylde’s rhythm playing in Black Label Society. Geezer’s tone has a kind of growl which is especially effective in the pre-chorus sections, where Butler and Iommi seem to swap their respective support and leadership roles. Such interplay is all over the album, and it serves as a reminder that while Iommi is the chief riff writer, Butler is absolutely indispensable and perfectly capable of leading the charge.

‘Turn of the Screw’ kinda reminds me of Tony Martin-era Sabbath, with a Butler-led verse riff that recalls that line-up’s criminally overlooked Cross Purposes album. It’s not one of the album’s stronger cuts, yet the band is very tight and they navigate the song’s twists, turns and time shifts with ease. ‘Eating The Cannibals’ is the album’s fastest cut, a high-energy call-to-action about holding big business fat-cats accountable for the current economic state of affairs. A few reviewers have said it’s this album’s ‘TV Crimes,’ and the tempo is similar, but the mood is more smart-ass and revolutionary than the cautionary, accusatory tone of that Dehumanizer track. Oh and Iommi lets rip with a blazing solo that kinda sounds like he’s been spending a lot of time around Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine. Little lead guitar interjections in the following verse are also a nice touch, then we’re given another wild solo. Iommi’s lead playing is in fine form indeed on this album, and it’s great to hear him really stretch out. The intro riff to ‘Follow the Tears’ is possibly the darkest, creepiest moment on the album, moving from ‘threatening’ to ‘menacing’ to all-out oppressive by the time the drums come in. This one is going to be a killer live, and it’s amazing to think that 40 years after ‘Black Sabbath’ the song, Iommi is still writing riffs of this quality, and playing them with such conviction.

‘Neverwhere’ is another fast-paced track which once again has a slight Tony Martin-era feel (astute listeners might recognise a few common intervals with ‘Glory Ride’ from Eternal Idol). It’s one of the few moments on the CD that isn’t particularly stand-out, but at the same time it provides a welcome up-tempo break from all the stomping, lumbering doom that characterises most of the album. Finally there’s ‘Breaking Into Heaven,’ which bookends the collection with a similar (actually about 10bpm slower) tempo as ‘Atom and Evil.’ A monster, anthemic chorus gives way to repeated lashings of doom riffage, before the tempo picks up for a bluesy, double-stop-accented guitar solo. After a return to the slow doom, The Devil You Know finally fades out on a single chord which, rather than signalling the end of the album and saying ‘There, that’s over and done with,’ seems to say ‘To be continued…’

Man, I hope it is.

CLICK HERE to buy the Gibson Tony Iommi humbucker from Musician’s Friend.

Gibson Tony Iommi Guitar Pickup BlackThe Gibson Tony Iommi Guitar Pickup is the same humbucker that Tony Iommi uses in his Signature Gibson SG to give Black Sabbath its legendary sound. Unique pickup design delivers heavy punch, balanced lows, blistering mids, and razor-edged highs. Patented magnet configuration and special wire winding ensure maximum sustain; wax and epoxy potting prevent unwanted feedback. Gibson uses 4-conductor wiring in the Tommy Iommi Pickup to make it adaptable for any desired wiring design.

NEWS: Heaven and Hell album pre-oders begin

Whoa. Check out that cover. I haven’t seen anything that evil since …well, since the last time I ate cheese before bedtime then had nightmares. So this is the new Heaven & Hell album (otherwise known as Black Sabbath’s Ronnie James Dio line-up with a different name).

CLICK HERE to pre-order The Devil You Know.

Here’s the press release:

After finishing several heralded world tours as HEAVEN & HELL last summer, Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Vinny Appice were tighter than ever before, both musically and personally.

Agreeing that it would be a shame to stop making music together at tour’s end, the quartet began writing, first in England at Iommi’s home studio and later in Los Angeles at Dio’s studio. “The band had gotten too good to just walk away,” Dio says. “We wanted to show people that we were still capable of giving them new music that measured up to what we’d done in the past.”

With that goal in mind, the band once again converged on Rockfield Studios in Wales last winter, the same place they used 17 years earlier to record their last album, “Dehumanizer”. The result is the long-awaited new album, “The Devil You Know”, featuring 10 soon-to-be-classic tracks from the Dio-fronted version of BLACK SABBATH. The highly anticipated set arrives on April 28 from Rhino for a suggested list price of $18.98 (physical) and $9.99 (digital).

It took less than three weeks to finish the album, with most of the songs only needing a couple of takes. “It was good to play them live in the studio. It keeps you on edge,” Iommi says. “I mean, somewhere along the line we were gonna have to play them live; might as well start in the studio.” Butler adds: “We’ve learned from the past that you can kill a song doing it over and over. The first SABBATH albums were done in two or three days. Technically they weren’t great, but vibe-wise they were great. If you capture that feeling, that’s all you need.”

“Bible Black”, the epic first single, begins with Iommi on acoustic guitar behind Dio’s plaintive wail before the rhythm shifts to a menacing stomp for the rest of this dark tale about a book of sinister scriptures. One of the first songs written for the album, Dio says it established a tone for the rest of the album. “When you start off with a blockbuster like that, it makes the rest of the album so much easier because it gives you a benchmark to measure the other songs against.”

Iommi proves he hasn’t lost the ability to inspire six-string envy, unleashing riffs like a pack of rabid hellhounds on “Atom And Evil”, “Fear”, “Neverwhere”, and “Eating The Cannibals”, a tune about doing more than biting the hand that feeds. Butler and Appice slow the pace while ramping up the intensity on “Follow The Tears” and “Double The Pain” and “Breaking Into Heaven”, the latter diverging from its glacial procession for Dio’s majestic chorus about fallen angels planning an attack on paradise.

“The Devil You Know” track listing:

01. Atom And Evil
02. Fear
03. Bible Black
04. Double The Pain
05. Rock And Roll Angel
06. The Turn Of The Screw
07. Eating The Cannibals
08. Follow The Tears
09. Neverwhere
10. Breaking Into Heaven

CLICK HERE to pre-order Heaven & Hell’s ‘The Devil You Know’ from Amazon.com.