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Hearts in the Right Place - 50%

Cat III, November 20th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Pathogenic Records

Tribute albums which bring together various, usually obscure, bands are similar to horror anthology films: the variety in approaches is both feature and bug. Chances are good that some segments will appeal to you, but the reverse is also true. Tributes created by a single band don't have the greatest reputation either, but your opinion of a particular track is likelier applicable to the album as a whole. The Doom in Us All can't be defined as either type. Ted Kirkpatrick plays on every track and this is his vision, but he brings different guest musicians for each song. Coming from various corners of the metal world, these guests include some who have achieved commercial success as well as legends of the underground.

The song selection takes two tracks from Paranoid and four from Master of Reality. Sticking to Black Sabbath's two most iconic, influential and popular albums, means we get some obvious picks. More devoted fans may scoff at yet more covers of “War Pigs”, “Into the Void”, “Electric Funeral” and “Children of the Grave” and in their defense, searching all of these titles on the Archives brings over 1,000 results. Even factoring in the duplicates from various compilations and unrelated songs containing the same words, that's impressive (and surely there's plenty more from bands not listed on this site). We also get two deep cuts. Only those with oddball tastes or desperate to prove their fan cred would claim “Lord of this World” or the drum-less instrumental “Embryo” as their favorite from Black Sabbath's third LP, but they're both fine songs and their relative unfamiliarity is appreciated. Since the source albums were released within a year of each other, there's greater stylistic consistency than if Kirkpatrick had chosen some cuts from Technical Ecstasy or the Dio-era.

Covers are tricky. Stay too close to the original and listeners wonder why bother in the first place; deviate too far and you'll be accused of disrespecting the artist's vision. Kirkpatrick and co take the conservative route. Arrangements remain the same, down to the sirens in “War Pigs” and the wah abuse of “Electric Funeral”. Changes are present in the production which has a modern metal sound, most evident in the cranked up gain on the guitars. Sorry, Geezer fans; the bass has been downgraded in audibility with the exception of “Children of the Grave” which gives it a distinct clunk instead of the more traditional tone of the original. That song illustrates one of the issues with this album. Nile guitarist Karl Sanders plays on the track, and despite being a fantastic tune, it doesn't provide opportunity to show off the pyrotechnics he's known for, even if he noodles up the solo. Similarly the playing of the other instrumentalists is competent, but not exciting. As the various vocalists wisely avoid Ozzy impersonation, the vocals provide the clearest departure from the source material.

If your knowledge of Living Colour stops with “Cult of Personality” and the title of an Anal Cunt song then we're in the same boat. With that said, Corey Glover brings some freshness to “Into the Void” with his emotive but not soaring voice. Fozzy is another band with only one song I've heard, and I can't even remember its name, though it was better than expected. Chris Jericho's singing on “War Pigs” is fine, but something about it comes off more like an impression of a hard rock singer. The rest of the singers have a similar, though less pronounced, effect. Tim “Ripper” Owens, Trevor McNevan and Eric Wagner are all good singers—technically better than any I've yet reviewed—but they're conventional, on this album at least. Disclosure: as much as I love powerhouses like Dickinson and Halford, rougher voices like Tim Baker and Mark Shelton appeal more to my tastes.

There is a single improvement: that part in the middle of “Electric Funeral” where the title is repeated sounds less goofy than the one from 1971. None of the tweaks are bold enough to be terrible or awesome. Covering the songs in a different genre might have given more interesting results. A certain dreadlocked burnout and his increasingly risible band have given such covers a bad name, but there's greater potential in this method. Jiggering classic songs poses risks, but makes it possible to recontextualize familiar music. To be sure, The Doom in Us All isn't a disgrace to Iommi, Osbourne, Butler and Ward. It's a perfect example of a 50% album: not good enough to recommend, but not unpleasant enough to dislike. Even if it would be more at home on a goth album, I must commend using Consuelo Parra's “Tragedy of Love” as the cover art. Normally I dislike digital art, but this piece is creepy, forlorn and beautiful.