Album of the Week 49-2016: Iommi – Fused

Combine the talents of heavy metal’s original riff master and the most soulful singer Deep Purple has ever had and ‘Fused’ is what you get. Even though the band carries the last name of Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi, the album seems to be a perfect collaboration between him and singer bassist Glenn Hughes, hence the double billing on the cover. This is easily the heaviest thing Hughes has ever been involved with, but it’s also one of Iommi’s most inspired releases ever. Sometimes it sounds like they’re trying to blow each other off the record, but they’re just pushing each other towards their best performances.

The quality of Iommi’s riff work was never in question, but I didn’t quite like his tone on Black Sabbath’s earliest releases. On ‘Fused’, however, his guitar sounds huge, which already accounts for an overwhelming first impression. Luckily there’s more than just that; the exciting structure of songs like ‘Saviour Of The Real’ and a handful of almost ridiculously catchy choruses take care of the replay value. Admittedly, this riff-heavy approach always has the risk of the songs ending up a bit samey, but for the majority of the record, Iommi and his merry men seem to avoid that pitfall remarkably well.

Hughes, on the other hand, is the type of singer you either love or loathe. He’s never as over the top on the records as he is live, but he screams, croons and belts as if his life depends on it here. Personally, I love it. And although I’m really fond of the more soulful approach on his solo albums, Iommi’s monumental metal riffing pushes him to do a more raw, direct and angry approach than he usually adopts. This is something which is reflected in the lyrics as well, which are often composed in a confrontational manner.

Stylistically, ‘Fused’ isn’t miles away from the doom metal that Black Sabbath pioneered, but even the most doomy tracks like the amazing ‘The Spell’ have a greater deal of actual hook writing to them than is average in the genre. And on the limited number of occasions that the album does speed up a little – ‘What You’re Living For’ most notably – there’s a slight hardrock vibe, though Iommi’s riffs keep them firmly within the metal realm. ‘Deep Inside A Shall’ is a dark take on a ballad and ‘Grace’ successfully attempts a more modern vibe. The long, somewhat proggy closer ‘I Go Insane’ ties all the styles together in a truly engaging way.

Almost two decades after their first collaboration ‘Seventh Star’, Hughes and Iommi made another amazing record together. It’s sort of a pity that they never toured behind this record, because there’s a lot of live energy here. It’s certainly not a record you just put on in the background; it demands attention. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s the best record both men released in recent years, because I’m quite enamored with the solo records Hughes made around the same time, but it’s definitely a record I revisit often. Why? Because it’s a downright excellent contemporary metal record by two amazing musicians who were actively involved with the genesis of the genre.

Recommended tracks: ‘What You’re Living For’, ‘The Spell’, ‘I Go Insane’

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