REVIEW: ZAKK SABBATH – “Vertigo”
Fifty years ago thunder crashed, a funeral bell tolled, and music changed forever. Heavy metal was born with the release of Black Sabbath’s self-title debut in 1970 on Vertigo records. Now in 2020 as the world reels under the black wings of a pandemic, Zakk Sabbath unleash their tribute to this masterpiece called Vertigo on September 4th via Magnetic Eye Records.
Zakk Sabbath is the Black Sabbath tribute cover band featuring Zakk Wylde (guitar/vocals), Blasko (bass), and Joey Castillo (drums). The band recorded a live EP called Live In Detroit featuring covers of “War Pigs”, “Supernaut”, and “Fairies Wear Boots” in 2016. The Vertigo release is Zakk Sabbath’s first studio recording.
It takes real nerve to cover Black Sabbath. The music from this iconic band is held in such reverence that you need to have a PHD is Black Sabbath riffology to pull off a single cover song, let alone a whole album. Years spent delving into classic Black Sabbath compositions gives Zakk Sabbath the credentials. The question is, will this tribute stand up to the scrutiny of the Black Sabbath faithful?
Amid the pouring rain and thunder crashes, a funerary bell tolls on the first track “Black Sabbath”. As the lightning strikes at the 32 second, it is met with the roaring open E chord that fuels one of the most powerful and demonic riffs in rock music. Our journey into the dark maw of Vertigo begins.
If you listen to the original record synced up with Vertigo, you’ll find Zakk Sabbath staying very true to the original timing and tuning. They may extend a section hear or slow the vocal delivery there, but overall the original context remains. The instruments are hotter in the mix, but you still have an authentic Sabbath feel. As you would expect the guitars are a bit more driven. This includes Blasko’s bass which has a decidedly grittier tone.
“The Wizard” opens with the weirdly wonderful harmonica courtesy of Mr. Wylde. Zakk’s vocal timbre casts the same Ozzy spell. This tune rocks and Zakk Sabbath do it loving justice. In particular, a shout out to Joey Castillo’s concussive kick and cracking snare that make this song pop.
One curious aspect of the Vertigo album by Zakk Sabbath is that while it takes its name from the label that released Black Sabbath in the UK, the track listing follows the Warner Bros. release. That track listing includes the added titles “A Bit Of Finger” and “Wasp”. However Zakk Sabbath ditch the track name “Bassically” while keeping the bass solo intact in the recording. This will add a bit of metal nerd trivia fun when you are jamming this record with friends.
As on the original, the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation song “The Warning” exudes the heavy blues riffs that Sabbath transformed into metal music. As Tony had on the original, Zakk cuts loose with a hypersonic pinch harmonic tribute to one of his guitar heroes. This faithfulness to the overall Sabbath songwriting while adding in the Zakk Sabbath special sauce make this a tribute album worthy of any Black Sabbath fans collection.
Vertigo by Zakk Sabbath is a triumphant tribute to one of the greatest bands of all time; Black Sabbath. Zakk Sabbath retain the monstrous integrity of this epic album while giving it their own voice. It is also gratifying that Zakk Sabbath plans to focus the release on vinyl to retain the tactile joy of a record album. Vertigo is a fantastic salute to an album that continues to launch thousands of bands into the void of heavy metal. I can’t wait to get my own copy and shake the rafters with these glorious riffs.