A few months back, a friend and i exchanged some CDs to fill out the space on our MP3 players. I am sure that this is entirely illegal, and the RIAA is going to hunt me down for this, but i am also sure that lots of folks do this all the time.
Anyway, in this illegal activity, i ended up with the first eleven Black Sabbath records (that is everything up to Mob Rules, for those of you keeping score at home) residing on my Zune, alongside the complete works of Cocteau Twins and a lot of shoegaze, dreampop, and electronica. Yes, i like Black Sabbath -- they are one of those bands that almost all males enjoy at some point. For me, it was my early teen years, back before punk rock made it to suburban Georgia in the mid 1980s. I had really forgotten how great Black Sabbath were.
You see, Black Sabbath might be considered the first heavy metal band, but what they really were was a psychedelic blues outfit. Go back and listen to those early records (i have been stuck on Technical Ecstasy a lot lately) and they were doing the blues. Ward and Butler laid down a steady groove (a god-awful heavy and dense groove, but a steady groove nonetheless), Osborne wailed a little, and then Tony Iommi played blues chords really fast on his guitar. Black Sabbath songs are in the same format that Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn played -- the songs are essentially the same.
But the minor details made all the difference. Sabbath's blues were sludgy and dark and loud and fast. Clapton and Vaughn always seemed (to me at least) to be rich white guys playing in such a way as to make it seem like they had passio;, but when Sabbath played the blues, they were screaming all their rage at the sheer boredom of suburbaness in a way that the punks were later to do.
Now, i am sure that you are fascinated by this discussion, but i bet you are wondering what is up. Why am i ranting about the merits of Black Sabbath in a review about the 2009 EP by Brooklyn-based act Naam?
Because, gentle reader, although many acts (many many acts) have tried to sound like Black Sabbath, they have all failed. Bands either descend into jam-rock wankery by emphasizing the blues aspect too much, or metal hardness by emphasizing the rhythm too much. Naam is the first act i have come across that has that balance, the blues played hard and fast, but not too hard and without too many wandering solos.
In short, Naam carry on the legacy of Black Sabbath. The true legacy.
Kingdom is their first release, three sludgy tunes that clock in at over 23 minutes. Vocalist/guitarist Ryan Lugar howls through echo and plays fast riffs, while bassist John Bundy hits fuzzy deep notes, and drummer Eli Pizzuto beats the tar out of his drums.
Each song ebbs and flows, speeding up at times, slowing down at others, getting dense, and spreading out thin. It is a beautiful thing.
All three of the tunes here work exceptionally well. For what they are. I admit that this music has a very limited appeal. Many listeners will not care for the deep sludginess of Naam's playing. However, if Black Sabbath spoke to you, you need to check out this EP.