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Various Artists

Sweet Leaf - A Stoner Rock Salute To Black Sabbath

Review by Gary Hill

I will make no excuses about it, I’m a big Black Sabbath fan. For that reason, I was looking forward to this release. It doesn’t disappoint. There is quite a range of musical styles here. I’ve always thought that if you are going to cover a song (unless you are tribute band) you should try to make it your own. Unfortunately, not enough acts here do that. Still, when the source material is Black Sabbath, you can only go so wrong. I like pretty much everything here.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
   
Cancer Bats - Into the Void

On the one hand this is pretty faithful. Yet there is a modern groove edge to it. There are also even some hints of rap metal built into it. It’s very much got a Clutch vibe in some ways. The instrumental section brings some change to it.

Mos Generator - Dirty Women
This is incredibly faithful. The vocals sound so much like Ozzy Osbourne’s original singing that I had to look at the credits to make sure he wasn’t singing it here. This is cool, but I think if you are going to cover a song, you should bring something fresh to it – make it your own. They really don’t do this. This sounds just like a slightly different recording of it by Sabbath.
Bloody Hammers – Changes
Now, this is intriguing. They keep the piano and vocal concept and deliver the songs in a fairly faithful way. That said, there is a bit of a twist toward electronic music that’s almost space rock in style. There are hints of psychedelia, too.
Wo Fat – The Warning
Talking of psychedelia, there is definitely a health dosage of that here. It’s a killer cut that works well. It is instantly recognizable as the source song, but definitely has a much different flavor in a lot of ways. The extended jam segment later definitely takes it into new directions. There is a journey toward Jimi Hendrix at points along the road. They bring things back in with style as they come out of that movement.
Stoned Jesus – The Writ
They definitely make this their own. It has a more modern rock sound built into it. Yet, there is plenty of the Sabbath original included, too.
Scorpion Child – Hole in the Sky
The vocals make me think of Motley Crue, but beyond that, this is pretty faithful. It’s a solid rendition for sure.
Death Hawks – Hand of Doom
This is dramatically different. It has a trippy mellow rock vibe to it. It’s rather dreamy and like psychedelically based prog rock in some ways. Even the faster paced section is more melodic rock than it is anything close to metal.
Disc 2
  
House of Broken Promises – Lady Evil
This hard rocker feels pretty close to the original tune. It’s solid, but not really anything special. They play it a bit too safe. I’d like to hear something original on this.
Machuca – Planet Caravan
Now, this is cool. The song was always one of the stretches for Sabbath, blending some jam band and jazzy elements with trippy psychedelia. Here the jam band things seem to get more of a pronounced control of the number. It’s not a big change, but there is enough difference to keep it fresh.
Witch Mountain – Sleeping Village
With female vocals, this short number has some great proggy sound to it. It’s a cool shift and twist.
Solace – Electric Funeral
Here’s another amazing version. They take this metal classic and turn it into trippy psychedelia. It’s dark and a bit on the creepy side. It’s also just so cool. They do take it out into some screaming hot stuff mid-track, though. It drops back down from there to return to the song proper.
Ulver – Solitude
Some horn is added on this cut. That along with a trippy psychedelic vibe work really well to make this intriguing.
Pentagram – Tomorrow’s Dream
On the album this is listed as “After Forever,” but it’s actually “Tomorrow’s Dream.” Either way, this is quite a heavy take on the piece. That said, it’s not a huge change. Still, when it’s this good, it doesn’t matter.
Weedpecker – Sweet Leaf
Opening with the sound of someone drawing on a bong, they take it out from there into a trippy kind of psychedelic rock jam. It gets heavied up after a time toward the metallic roots of the song. Parts of this are close to the original. Other parts are quite distant from it. There are sections that land more along the lines of space rock in some ways.
Golden Void - Paranoid
I really like this. The wah guitar on it and trippy vocals somehow really work. It’s a completely different vibe from the original. It’s also a lot of fun.
William Shatner feat. Zakk Wylde & Mike Inez - Iron Man
Shatner tackles the Sabbath classic with the help of Ozzy and Black Label Society guitarist Zakk Wylde along with Mike Inez of Alice in Chains. Musically it works, OK, although I’m not crazy about the raw, overtly metal approach to the music, taking a lot of the inherent charm away in favor of crunch. When I first heard this, Shatner’s vocal delivery really threw me off. After time, though, it worked much better.
 
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