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In 1996, Black Sabbath were on hiatus again, having just released what would stand to be their last official album to date, Forbidden. So you know what that means…another Tony Iommi solo effort is to be had. Reuniting with Glenn Hughes, the singer from his last ‘solo’ album Seventh Star, Iommi records the 1996 DEP sessions. It sounds exactly like a 90’s rock/metal album and sounds very little like a Sabbath album, yet somehow it’s really quite good, something that can’t be said about the proper Iommi debut a few years later.
The sound Tony was going for here most resembles King’s X (Hughes vocals add immensely to this) with touches of Soundgarden in the heavier moments. His guitar tone is weighty, but the album really isn’t, as the riffs aim more towards atmosphere than pure crushing density. Everything is kept at a slow, sullen pace with moments of melodic solace appearing but occasionally, like sunlight peeking through dark clouds. Not unlike the classic Sabbath approach really, but more like the Alice in Chains interpretation of that approach than the genuine thing. Iommi’s entire style of playing, minus a few mandatory doom riffs (“Gone” and “Time is the Healer”), is quite different from what you might expect from him. Some moments even remind me of Dream Theater’s more straightforward material. “From Another World” and “Don’t Drag the River” play with melodic arrangements (the former recalls “Crying” by Yngwie), allowing Glenn Hughes to really shine as a vocalist. His approach is incredibly soulful and worlds above his performance on Seventh Star, so much so that I’m actually quite glad that he was re-recruited for this album. The backing band is adequate, but it is Tony and Glenn that take the spotlight here.
Not exactly essential listening for the Sabbath fan, but for those that want to hear a different side of Tony Iommi that is still very, very listenable, you’ve come to the right place.