Metal bands had lit a fuse during the 1970’s without having any idea of the destructive power of a metal bomb. This metal bomb complex had left shrapnel deep in the skin of the 80’s. Like many freak accidents in the science lab – metal had not only grown to be a popular genre but it had deformed babies known as sub-genres, they were just as bold and relevant. The 1980’s were plentiful when it came to metal, in all flavors. The metal population was healthy and growing. Metal mommies and daddies were breeding new virtuosos to watch metal become even more popular. By now it wasn’t just a small lunch table with a few Black Sabbath lunch boxes. Metal had a following, metal had a community and the support was growing constantly.
In the early 1980’s “Mosh Pits” were becoming a popular part of the metal experience. It was something that began around the Hardcore punk scene but was just as quickly accepted into the metal culture. Moshing is basically a raw testosterone driven aggressive form of “dancing”, basically like the eye of a tornado with a bunch of grown men slamming into each other (occasionally you’ll see females). The best way to describe it is organized chaos, and as a seasoned veteran I can explain why. Nothing about a mosh pit aside from its uncertainty is certain. Knowing this when you enter a mosh pit puts all five senses on red alert, so after jumping into a few pits you become accustomed to the flying fists, the 7’ tall maniac causing body pile ups or even the lone slam dancer unaware of the other 35 guys wearing steel toe boots on a slippery beer coated wood floor. (Concrete underneath the ice rinks calls for less slipping but harder falls, wood has a softer response). A mosh pit can have a symmetry of fury or it can be total pandemonium. The town, the song, the crowd, the drugs, the alcohol and the band are all different variables as to how “severe”a pit can become. During Ozzfest 2001 at the PNC Bank arts center in New Jersey, we tore chunks of lawn and hauled it at each other until we all looked like we belonged to some undiscovered Amazonian tribe. During an unpredictable Motorhead pit I had my nose popped by a huge fist with a spiked leather bracelet. The next morning after a Type O Negative concert I woke up with a boot print on my neck. Anything can happen in the pit and upon jumping in you are basically signing a death waiver. Being a metal head was almost like being part of an ever growing fraternity with similar results of a drunken hockey game. Headbanging wasn’t to be ignored either, the injuries sustained from it are prevalent with both musicians and concertgoers. The injuries range from minor muscle pain to sometimes fatal bleeding. Eventually Metal, being as extreme as it is, had given birth to an exclusive style of mosh pit called The Wall of Death , this mosh pit splits into two sides until the break in the song when they run at each full force, similar to an old school battle before modern weaponry. The funny thing is during a mosh the second someone falls the mosh pauses to give a hand to the fallen. The camaraderie is obvious, we don’t need to know your life story to trust you. If metal flows inside, you automatically become a brother in metal.
Did Black Sabbath light the fuse and forget about their metal responsibilities? After Ronnie James Dio recorded Heaven and Hell and The Mob Rules. Ronnie parted ways with Black Sabbath in 1981 maybe 1982. While Dio was delivering his solo act, Ozzy was doing the same. Although Black Sabbath never really stopped touring during the 1980’s, I would dare to say they weren’t as monumental !? I wholeheartedly believe it was monumental. Bare with me, sure the songs might not be as memorable nor will they be played on any jukebox alongside classics of their own. Bottom line was Tony Iommi and Black Sabbath were still pumping out albums, the problem was it was with a lineup that would go through so many changes.
In 1983 the only original members of Black Sabbath were Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler. They recruited Ian Gillan from Deep Purple and a sober original member and drummer Bill Ward. At first they weren’t going to be using the moniker Black Sabbath but the record label insisted. The album was named Born Again. Even with reaching number four on the U.K. charts, the album wasn’t met with much love. It was kind of weird hearing standard metal riffage with a bluesy singer, he obviously had better chemistry with Ritchie Blackmore. I give him credit for trying anyway. Years ago I had seen an interview on VHS of Ian Gillan admitting that his voice sounded ridiculous over Black Sabbath music. Even his lyrics were too humorous for a band like Black Sabbath. They knew it might not have worked but it was way better than just throwing in the towel, especially being that they probably had obligations to the record company. Bill Ward recorded the albums on the drums but he never toured. Touring took its toll on Bill Ward and he couldn’t handle the stress so he opted out and Black Sabbath was again in need of drummer.
Like Born Again in 1984, Seventh Star (1986) was meant to be a solo Tony Iommi album but the big boys back in the mahogany finished office said otherwise and it again became a Black Sabbath album. The line up featured Glenn Hughes , another vocalist of Deep Purple along with the drummer Eric Singer. Again like Born Again, Seventh Star might have received higher acclaim had it been released as a solo project for Tony Iommi. The Black Sabbath name had a lot to live up to not to mention a specific sound.
Tony Martin came to save the day from the late 1980’s to the early 1990’s. Sure he wasn’t changing the world with his metal but I believe he gave us a few memorable metal albums. Tony Iommi was happy again and he was pumping out some sweet riffage. Eric Singer was back on the drums, Bob Daisley of Ozzy Osbourne on bass and Geoff Nicholls on keyboard. The album was Eternal Idol (1987) and Tony Martin’s vocals were something else. Powerful and bold without being too abrasive nor too soft. He was like a textbook metal singer from the 80’s and considering the talent from the singers in 1980’s that should be taken as a compliment.
In 1989 Tony Iommi, Tony Martin, Geoff Nicholls, Laurence Cottle on Bass (studio) and Cozy Powell on the drums reformed Black Sabbath to release Headless Cross (1989). Brian May of Queen even played a solo for one of the tracks. The album was met with great reviews, many claimed it be the best Black Sabbath since the Ozzy or Dio days. Headless Cross proved that Black Sabbath wasn’t dead just yet. Not too long after, following the same line-up minus the new bass player Neil Murray, they were at it again with their 15th studio album Tyr (1990). It leaned toward Norse mythology in some of the lyrical content and many thought of it as a concept album but it wasn’t a concept album at all.
Ronnie James Dio and Geezer joined Tony Iommi and Cozy Powell in 1990 to begin the next Black Sabbath record. During band practice, Powell suffered a broken hip when his horse fell on him. Unable to complete drumming for the album, Vinny Appice was called in to replace and poof we had the same exact lineup as Black Sabbath had during Mob Rules around 10 years before Dehumanizer (1992). The album was heavy both lyrically and musically. It weighed heavily on technology, god and televangelists to name a few. I liked it, it was hard for Ronnie James Dio to be part of something that wasn’t exceptional. He had that in common with Ozzy Osbourne.
Ronnie James Dio had departed once again and in 1994 Black Sabbath released Cross Purposes with the return of Tony Martin, but by then no matter how good metal had become something came along to hurt the metal, our Kryptonite . Grunge was officially the music of the new generation. It had the same attitude as Punk rock but with a bit more talent. Along with the punk attitude, it put an end to the virtuosos and show-offs that the 1980’s showered us with. Basically the musicians who had pride, talent, technique and Aqua Net hairspray. The Golden age of Metal, the 1980’s were gone forever. It has always been the reason that I held a grudge against punk, its influence on grunge was just as bad as it was good. Nonetheless I loved most of the grunge bands especially Alice in Chains.
Heavy Metal was a defense mechanism of the times, the product of generations searching for validation and by no means did Metal ever have a sexist agenda. It just happened to be a male driven art. Like certain things in life, it was better left to the men and especially since it made pretty much any female sound and look like a butch lesbian. When it came to technique and writing music women had no problem matching men but did they look and sound normal? The answer is no way Jose! Lita Ford might’ve made it look easy but the rest of the females who tried they get involved with metal in the 1980’s made really shitty music in my opinion. It doesn’t deserve to be compared. Females in punk rock is a whole other story, they fair well with punk rock because although it’s original recipe had testosterone, it wasn’t just about one thing. It was about rebellion in any way shape of form.
Grunge may have come in as the party pooper but it didn’t kill metal for good, a minor injury was sustained and it weeded out the weak. Similar to hand sanitizer killing all the weak germs and only leaving the .01 percent of the strongest most badass germs. Grunge made it harder for metal to thrive but at the same time made the metal stronger. The 1990’s gave way to the last of the Mohicans, in my opinion, it was truly the last decade that metal had any classic feel left to it. Most of my heroes are dead or close to it and every day I sound more and more like my mom complaining about how music used to be. The 1990’s was very personal to me as I was shaped by the music and movies that I engulfed myself in during that time (Born 85’). Stay tuned as the everlasting story of metal continues in part five. The 1990’s will come….