Considering how long Tony Iommi has been around, and the kind of lifestyle that he and his Black Sabbath cohorts enjoyed, it’s something of a wonder that this album wasn’t recorded in a nursing home for Rock Relics and that it isn’t called Confused.
Iommi, like his one time band mate Ozzy Osbourne, has managed to hang in there, and stay within the hearts and minds of today’s metal fraternity. It would easy to view Tony Iommi and his vocalist on this album Glenn Hughes (one time crooner with metal’s other legends Deep Purple) as curmudgeonly old men who should probably give up rocking before they embarrass themselves completely.
Fortunately, Tony Iommi invented metal – every metal band in the world today can trace their roots back to the doom laden riffs that propelled Black Sabbath towards legendary status. Without Iommi’s grinding blues metal fusion, we would have no Slipknot, no Slayer and no System Of A Down. You can’t blame him for Mötley Crüe though, sometimes anomalies happen.
Some things never leave you, and Iommi has obviously been in deep communion with the dark lord once again because Fused is jam packed with the kind of riffs that most bands would kill for. Each one is carved from granite and kicks like a mule wearing steel toecaps.
For example, opener Dopamine is tight and muscular, in places reminiscent of the stripped down riffs of hardcore bands like Helmet while the chorus opens up like the kind of thing that would fill arenas in LA during the ’80s.
Of course monster sized riffs are all very well, but you do need a vocalist that can hold his own. Glenn Hughes might well look like the inspiration for Bill Nighy’s ageing rocker in Love Actually, but he is in possession of a voice that was built for rock and roll.
Iommi could easily have stolen the show with his full on rifferama, but Hughes’ versatility and muscular vocals give the album a welcome kick in the pants. Obviously his particular style can be traced back to the likes of David Coverdale, and Ronnie James Dio, but in places Hughes’ similarity to Audioslave‘s Chris Cornell is truly striking.
Just occasionally, the band seem to forget that they pretty much invented this thing we call metal, and almost seem to try and tap into its more contemporary cousin Nu-Metal. Grace is terribly close to sounding like a Linkin Park or Puddle Of Mudd cast off. It’s saved midway through when Iommi seems to pause for a long pull on a spliff and unleashes one hell of a stoner riff. Hughes stops messing about with those distorted whispered vocals and just starts to wail. Instead of being a rock abortion, Grace turns out to be one of the high points on the album.
Fused is an album that cements Iommi’s status as a legend in metal (the riff for The Spell is enough to do that on it’s own), and while it may well sound a little dated in places (the lyrics for the Spell are enough to do that on their own) it’s a record that reminds you just how metal can be such an invigorating form of music, and why Tony Iommi is held in such high regard.