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Not Worthy of the Name "Eighth Star" - 68%

Superchard, October 5th, 2018

Likely originally intended to be a spiritual successor to Black Sabbath's Seventh Star as it was dubbed Eighth Star when it was circulating around as a bootleg in 1996, The 1996 Dep Sessions reunites Tony Iommi with Glenn Hughes. The whole thing is really fitting considering that Seventh Star was originally intended to be an Iommi solo album as well. It was recorded, as the name would suggest in 1996 coming off the heels of the failed Black Sabbath album Forbidden but hadn't been released for eight years until 2004 saw its proper release. I have no idea what halted Tony Iommi from getting this released, but I do know he had a rough time disassociating himself from the Black Sabbath name, despite being the only original member on a few later releases in their discography. Thusly, these recordings were brushed aside and instead Tony Iommi wouldn't get his big break until Divine Recordings offered him a chance to finally get started on his own solo career with his self-titled album, one which I'm sure he was probably not too happy with the result as it was marketed to a younger generation of metal heads that think that System of a Down is thrash metal. It's no wonder The 1996 Dep Sessions finds Iommi taking sanctuary with Sanctuary Records, especially considering Eminem was supposed to be one of the guest vocalists on 2000's Iommi.

The result is an album I think most fans will agree that this is a project they can get behind. If you ask me, Seventh Star wasn't the greatest thing in the world, but I'm happy to see Tony working with Glenn. Glenn seems to bring out a different side of Iommi's musicianship, but that could just be because this isn't a Black Sabbath album. Still though, Seventh Star was a Black Sabbath album, and Iommi certainly didn't seem like he had traditionalism on the mind when coming up with guitar parts for "No Stranger to Love" and "Sphinx (The Guardian)". Much the same can be said for this album and 2005's followup, Fused. Still though, the former Black Sabbath album was a much heavier album than this. there is very little heavy metal here apart from "Time is the Healer" and "I'm Not the Same Man" which will give those hanging onto the past something to wet their appetite. The rest offered here is for those willing to embrace something that's more akin to 90's alternative rock mixed with a little bit of funk such as Living Colour, The Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies and Collective Soul.

In all honesty, I'd be fibbing if I were to say the heavier moments are among the most interesting presented here. They're still fine, but really pale in comparison to the rest of the album. "From Another World" lays down about three different guitar tracks; two acoustic, one electric. Glenn's singing is quite literally from another world, not just here, but especially on "Fine"; the best track the album has to offer. It's jarring at first, with its cheery stoner rock setup and chorus that will make you question whether this is actually Tony on guitar, much like the jazzy acoustic styling of "Don't Drag the River". Above all though, these songs jam pack more ideas in them than anything that was on Seventh Star or of course the album's awful predecessor, Forbidden. The same cannot be said for everything on here, unfortunately "Gone" just rolls on, it's a head-bobbing hard rock tune that plods along. It's decent, but never really amounts to much. "It Falls Through Me" ends the album on a lackluster 90's style power ballad that makes "No Stranger to Love" look like a work of Mozart by comparison. It's pretty trite; at least Glenn's vocals are second to none but great vocals a great song doth not make, a perfect example of a better vocalist not necessarily equating to better music.

I haven't mentioned anyone else in the band at this point yet, and there's a very good reason for that. It's notable that Dave Holland from Judas Priest was the original drummer for the album but was scrapped for Jimmy Copley when he was found guilty of rape. Much like Down before him on their album Nola, Iommi didn't want his album to be associated with a sex offender and had him rightfully replaced. Copley's drumming is unremarkable, but at least you can hear it which is saying more than I can say for Neil Murray's bass or Don Airey's keys. I know that Don Airey is on the album, but I haven't been able to pinpoint exactly which songs he pops up on because his parts are so minor he might as well not even be here.

Overall, The 1996 Dep Sessions is an eclectic bunch of songs that have no business being on the same album as one another, but this is rock n' roll and breaking the rules is the name of the game. It makes for an entertaining listen every now and then, but is held back by some production inadequacies. At least it doesn't sound like the Eighth Star bootleg which had absolutely no bottom end whatsoever and gave me PTSD flashbacks of listening to awful MP3 format songs in the early days of finding music on online platforms. Seriously though, if I'm straining to hear Neil Murray's bass on the acoustic parts of the album, the production's got a kink that needs to be ironed out. Glenn sounds great, his voice has aged like a fine wine and personally I like the sound of his voice more in recent years than some of his earlier work. Very few singers can actually get better as they continue in their career, but Hughes definitely ages backwards like Keith Richards. Hey, there's a reason everyone calls him the "voice of rock".

This album does bring Iommi and Hughes into a unity that feels a little more appropriate than their first encounter with one another, though. I love the experimentation on Iommi's end and having the freedom of writing for a solo project as opposed to having to conform to his own standards for yet another Black Sabbath project. This was definitely the next step Iommi needed in his career as later Black Sabbath outings saw him clearly growing bored and uninspired, and being boxed in. That being said, The 1996 Dep Sessions doesn't really live up to its bootleg title Eighth Star as it strays far away from the hard rock Whitesnake sound that album had going for it.

Superchard gets super hard for:
I'm Not the Same Man
From Another World

Iommi Embraces the 90’s; Somehow Doesn’t Blow It - 77%

DawnoftheShred, June 10th, 2009

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.

Two tracks short of perfect - 85%

Vegetaman, February 22nd, 2006

I have to give this album this rating for a simple reason. While I have the bootleg known as Eighth Star and have enjoyed it, this was definitely needed to be done. There were only two guitar parts that I found noticibly different between the bootleg and this album, and it was nice that they took care of the sound quality and made it sound like a studio album instead of what the previous incarnation was - a mere demo.

The problem is, this album is only 8 tracks long, and they're not even overly lengthy (they're all about 4 or 5 minutes long, with one song being 6). I mean, at 37:41 long, it's more like an EP than a full-length album (and should be priced as so; but that's besides the point). But other than that, all the songs on this album are great. It's basically like a precursor to Fused, though oddly enough being made almost 10 years before Fused was merely released a year before it!

Tony Iommi's guitar playing on this album is top notch as usual. And somehow Glenn Hughes' voice is more soulfoul here than it is on Fused (though they both fit their respective albums quite well). I'll just run down all the tracks, since there's only 8 of them. The album has a good vibe that holds throughout, which is part of what makes it great. And it's ironically good for a quick listen, thanks to it being so short.

First track is Gone, which is arguably the best track on the album. Glenn's voice is at it's best here, and this is a very doomy song. No tempo change or anything here, and a really good bluesy guitar solo from Tony with some nice bends and vibrato. Good lyrics too, stuff like "And I'm gone! Gone just like the past." You have to read it in the context of the whole song to understand what I mean; but the lyrics are really good though. I like it when Glenn screams out "YOU LIE!" during the song too, it somehow fits perfectly.

Then come From Another World which starts with a great little intro arpeggio that Tony plays bluesy style leads over (he really is underrated as a blues musician). Then some chord strumming (actually it's real chords coupled with power chords, a very cool mix). More overdriven bluesy soloing with a steady drum beat that doesn't overpower the vocals or the clean electric arpeggios. Oh, then there's an actual guitar solo that comes in with a heavy power chord riff that puts all the fills in the song to shame. No insanely fast stuff, but some really sharp bends that are unexpected. The outro solo is sick as hell, too. It's like listening to Tony tear up his fretboard on Black Sabbath - Computer God (both the solo and outro solo for both songs).

After that comes Don't You Tell Me which has some good lyrics and vocal fills that only Glenn Hughes and Ronnie James Dio can seem to pull off on their albums. Things like a great placed "oooh yeah". Good chorus of many voices (assumedly multi-tracking of Glenn's) singing "Don't you tell me you don't know". It's really catchy and cool. The song is based off a rather upbeat tempo doom riff that Tony Iommi basically invented. Seriously, the man practically wrote the book on doom metal. This solo is very nice because it's a compilation of short licks, with each lick ending in a great bend with vibrato and some pinch harmonics applied. Different feel from the others on this album completely. Same with the outro solo.

Don't Drag The River starts out with chord strumming and an upbeat chord strumming that makes you wonder if this is going to be a metal song. And all doubts are soon put aside as a heavy and fast riff comes in. The solo for this song starts off on the low strings and through some great phrasing climbs its way up to the high strings with a good use of noticible sliding; alas the solo is very short though. Cool outro solo here too.

Then comes Fine, which is my least favorite track on the album. It's a Technical Ecstasy style song in terms of the guitar playing, and it's mediocre in my opinion. Softer singing too. In the middle of the song the guitar does a War Pigs style guitar part where you get a quick guitar riff, followed by vocals, followed by a quick guitar riff. The solo is kinda cool because it plays under the riff and the vocals.

Time Is The Healer is the heaviest song on here. A great doom riff that's nice and slow that halfway through the song goes to a crazy bridge riff. Then Tony varies the main riff before going back to the original for awhile.

I'm Not The Same Man starts out with some really fast overdriven electric arpeggios before the distortion is turned on and a very fast song ensues. I was surprised, since most of this album was doomy, to get a track similar to Time Machine off of Dehumanizer (if you detuned your guitar about 3 half-steps). Some cool vocal lines that extend over the fast solo that ends the song, as well.

Then the album finishes with It Falls Through Me. A nice mix of clean electric and overdriven (possibly distorted) electric arpeggios, with the former playing high and the latter playing low. It's a nice compliment that I hadn't heard Tony do quite like this since he panned his switched up soloing on N.I.B. The solo is cool because it is nice and bluesy flavored and ends with a great pinch harmonic. And then around the time the solo is coming in, you get a really heavy guitar riff that carries the song out until an accoustic and clean electric rendition of the arpeggios rolls that Tony does the sweetest melodic outro solo lead guitar part on. A great way to finish the album.

So really, you can't go wrong with this album. If you bought Fused and you want more, then yes this is a very good deal. But if you don't have any Tony Iommi solo albums, then I suggest you go out and buy Fused. NOW! Seriously, that album is flawless. This one is great, but as I mentioned it's just two tracks too short of extreme awesomeness (it's shorter than Paranoid for Christ sakes, and even that album was like 42 minutes long with 8 tracks, and one of them was only 2 and a half minutes long). I recommend this over his self-titled solo album too. Also, if you're a Black Sabbath or Tony Iommi completist, then you're definitely going to want to pick this up!