Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2023
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

A massive echo from a distant past. - 88%

hells_unicorn, May 24th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, High Roller Records

For the casual consumer of the metal from a bygone era known as the NWOBHM, the name Quartz is likely best remembered as the outfit that introduced soon to be long-term Black Sabbath keyboardist Geoff Nicholls to the world. What is likely less known is that in their primordial days in 1977 it was none other than Tony Iommi that would co-produce their eponymous debut, thus bring a missing piece to the puzzle as to how Sabbath came across such a talent and why Iommi would continue to seek his services even as the aforementioned band was going through a veritable cacophony of lineup changes. Given the resulting small degree of separation that this band had shared with Sabbath, and by extension, Dio and Rainbow, it stands to reason that this connection would have had a lasting impact on their sound. True to form, after a little less than 30 years of wallowing in oblivion, this early entry into the NWOBHM would find itself reformed in 2011 and hitting the live circuit with the majority of its classic lineup, alongside former vocalist David Garner, who had a 2 year stint with this outfit in the early 80s but never recorded anything with them.

Although not recording an LP for a solid 33 years, in 2016 this aged veteran fold hit the ground running as if they were fresh off the road from their 3rd effort Against All Odds, almost as if there was some sort of rip in the space/time continuum that warped them into the present and gave them the corresponding access to up to date studio technology. In essence, Fear No Evil is a full on stylistic throwback to the primeval days of heavy metal when Sabbath and Rainbow were the forefathers to emulate and occult themes were a mere theatrical ploy rather than an excuse to murder your band mates. The resulting sound could be likened to a sort of consonant yet haunting middle ground between the epic heavy metal sounds of the first couple Dio-fronted Sabbath albums and the more doom-inspired material from the Ozzy years. Garner basically shifts between a very proficient Ozzy emulation and a passable albeit somewhat rough imitation of Ronnie that actually ends up in territory closer to what Ian Gillian has sounded like in recent years while trying to hit a lot of those insane high notes. But the real stars of this show are guitarist Mick Hopkins, who does a more than apt job of re-interpreting Blackmore's and Iommi's riffing style into a hi-fi production, and the dearly departed Geoff Nicholls, who's iconic atmospheric keyboard drones paint an additional level of mystique over an already quasi-psychedelic arrangement.

While definitely of a retro-character, this doesn't follow the overt throwback production practices common to a lot of epic revivalist outfits like Magic Circle or Slough Feg. The songs themselves tend to resemble a quasi-modern mode of heaviness that partly resembles the darkness of Sabbath's Cross Purposes and even Iommi's second solo album Fused at times, while the songwriting itself hearkens back to a much earlier period. Case and point being the old time rocking anthem "Rock Bottom", which could all but be considered an unofficial sequel to Rainbow's "Long Live Rock And Roll", though Garner's vocals come off more along the lines of a middle ranged styled NWOBHM vocalist trying to sing in Dio's expansive range. Of a similarly retro-character, yet reaching back a bit further to the mid-70s to revisit the proto-thrashing riffage of "Symptom Of The Universe" in the case of "Born To Rock The Nation", though the darker modern production and slightly more elaborate six-string work winds up giving it a bit of a "Trashed" vibe. Quartz pretty much runs the gambit of Sabbath eras throughout the album, with such highlights as the creepy doom number "Zombie Resurrection" hitting a 1970 note, while the melancholic splendor of "Walking On Holy Water" could all but pass for something from the Tony Martin era. Then again, when hearing more straight up catchy numbers like "Fear No Evil" and "Dangerous Game", they function more as a prototypical early 80s NWOBHM outfit.

Those who only carry an affinity for the Ozzy years of Black Sabbath will likely find this to be an impressive outing by an old British band that occasionally likes to emulate the old 1970s classics, but for those who are fully steeped in the entirety of the Sabbath mythos, Fear No Evil is something of a swansong for said band's unsung fifth member. It's a grand consolation to say that Geoff Nicholls went out with a bang as his presence on this album is what gives it its more unique charm, as showcased not only on brilliantly crafted instrumental interludes in "Rapture" and "Barren Land" that transport the listener back to the days of Seventh Star and Tyr, but throughout every song from beginning to end. This is naturally not to undercut a fine array of performances by four other highly competent musicians who were there back in the days when the NWOBHM was just beginning to take shape, but there is definitely something to be said for the man who stuck it out with Tony Iommi through all the highs and lows of the late 70s up until the mid 1990s, delivering one magical moment after the next to complement music that would largely go unnoticed due to an ongoing feud with Ozzy's vindictive dragon of a wife and being overshadowed by the musical exploits of Dio's solo career. Rest in pace, man behind the curtain, and thank you again for this one final glory ride before ascending to the unknown.