VERSUS: Iommi vs Plastic Planet

VERSUS: Iommi vs Plastic Planet

Welcome to Versus. The series where we look at two albums in metal history, compare them, and see which one was the better record.

In this edition of Versus, we are tackling two solo albums from two members of the most influential metal band of all time, Black Sabbath. Both members took their solo albums in different directions. One took their debut solo album into the hard rock and heavy metal with their debut. Along with a star-studded list of guest vocalists on the album. The other, took their debut solo album into an alternative metal sound with elements of groove and industrial metal influences, including one of the most well-known vocalists in the industrial metal scene. Let's listen to these classic solo albums from these musicians in a battle I'm calling "Straying From The Sabbath".

In this corner is guitarist Tony Iommi's debut solo album Iommi in 2000. Iommi would load his debut album with countless popular metal singers of the late 90's and 2000's, along with different musicians on each track. With even one track on the album featuring former Sabbath members Ozzy Osbourne and Bill Ward. How does Iommi's debut solo record stand the test of time almost 25 years later?

The album opens with "Laughing Man (in The Devil Mask)" which features Henry Rollins on lead vocals. With a grimy, 2000's nu-metal sounding opening riff, the heavily reverbed drums kick in along with it. Rollins delivers his assertive, aggressive talking/singing vocal style. His phlegmy delivery of the song's title can be comedic and catchy at some points. It is a very Rollins Band sounding track, even without having Rollins on vocals. I like the short guitar solo near the close of the track. A unique sound that I wasn't expecting on first listen of the album. Next is "Meat" featuring Skin on vocals and John Tempesta on drums. A atmospheric, uneasy and jangly guitar with rising bass plucks start the song off. Skin's whimpering but soulful vocals get more gravitas as the chorus kicks in, with a track creating a bluesy, gritty metal riff with an almost R&B vocal delivery by Skin. Sounding like a Halestorm track, with the vocals, the sound of the guitar tone, and overall attitude of the track. Iommi delivers a strong guitar solo above the choir-like vocals of Skin before descending back to the depths to let Skin show off her stuff for the rest of the track. "Goodbye Lament" features Dave Grohl on vocals with Brian May of Queen adding additional guitars on the track. With a 90's drum beat and eerie, ominous guitars that you'd hear off a Korn track, Grohl comes in vocally with a darker vocal delivery. With a tone akin to a more angrier Foo Fighters song, Grohl belts out his vocals with his gritty delivery amidst a half upbeat chorus and melancholy verses section. Hopping back to that 90's electronic drum beat after the chorus does throw me off a bit, not making me a fan of it. I kind wish it was just not in the track. Feeling that it throws the vibe of the track off in my opinion.

"Time is Mine" features Phil Anselmo of Pantera and Matt Cameron of Pearl Jam on drums. VERY Black Sabbath sounding opening riff and drums. Anselmo's vocals have that weighty heft in his performance, before he turns the aggression on with the pissed-off energy on the chorus. He really shines with the track, matching the cadence and punch of the guitars. Baring similarities to his other band Down, the song isn't anything new for Anselmo as he nails the track's emotional feel and dark tone. Iommi delivers a very doom heavy sounding guitar solo as the bass rings underneath him. My favorite track of the album so far. "Patterns" has Serj Tankian of System of A Down on vocals. Opening with industrial elements of drums and sounds before the doom-heavy opening riff kicks in with a pounding drum section behind it. Tankian's vocals are gonna be divisive to some people on the track. Very vibrato-heavy on the vocals during the verse, which some may like/dislike depending on if you are a fan of System of A Down or his solo work. I like them on the track, he isn't belting out his wild, random vocal cadence on the track. Showing a unique, more restrained and defined sound that fits the song's motif. The main riff is catchy and I was bobbing my head along to the riff and the snare hits. The closing shows Tankian becoming his trademark angrier self as the closing riff ends with a heavy punch with the drums. "Black Oblivion" features Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins on vocals. VERY Alice in Chains vibe musically and in Corgan's vocals. Unfortunately, Corgan is not the right pick to nail that sound vocally. They would have been better getting Jerry Cantrell for the track, since his solo work even nails the Alice in Chains feel vocally. Musically, it is a strong track, and really delivers that doomy, sludgy feeling of depressing 90's grunge. Even with it's over eight minute runtime, but Corgan just doesn't work with me and I'm not a fan of this one.

"Flame On" has Ian Astbury of The Cult, along with May and Cameron again for the second time on the album. With a pulsing kick and matching guitar strikes in the background, it builds with anticipation and feeling as the rest of the band kicks the door in to the track. Astbury fits the track well, delivering that powerful vocal prowess he made famous with The Cult. The chorus is catchy lyrically and I love Astbury's belting of "suicide mother fucker" at the close of the chorus. Although, I do wonder if the song was meant for Glenn Danzig to be on the track, since the song does definitely have a Danzig vibe in the music and lyrics, as well as reference to dirty black summer in the chorus. That's just my conspiracy theorist thought though. Good song overall, strong guitars, catchy riff and chorus, and Astbury really knocks the track out of the park. "Just Say No To Love" has the late Peter Steele of Type O Negative, as well as Cameron on the track. With a hauting opening guitar beneath him, Steele delivers his deep vocals in the opening verses. Making all the goth girls swoon for him. Steele's vocals do go higher range, which is a nice touch to the track, especially with the harmonies going into the chorus and his singing of the song's title. "Who's Fooling Who" features Ozzy Osbourne and Bill Ward on drums for this track. Creating an almost mini-Sabbath reunion. Definitely nailing that Black Sabbath sound with modern day production. Ozzy's vocals are soaked in reverb and chorus on the track, while Iommi's low-end guitar rings beneath the vocals and bell rings of the track. To be honest, it's an ok track. The riff is kind of cookie-cutter in my opinion, maybe coming off as an Ozzy solo B-side track. Even the guitar kind of reminds me of Zakk Wylde playing it, minus the pinch harmonics he is known for. Album closer "Into The Night" has 80's icon Billy Idol on the track. While also having Cameron and Soundgarden bassist Ben Shepherd on the song. Idol's crooning vocals open the track, amidst the pounding kick drum and low guitar playing. Similar to "Flame On" with Astbury on vocals, Idol delivers that gusto, testosterone fueled energy on the chorus. With his "ow's" kicking off the chorus, it adds his trademark style to the song. Musically, it is a classic heavy metal sounding track, then the tempo picks up a notch at the halfway mark. Idol belts out and speeds up with the track, with the riff and drums creating a nice, bouncy energy before Iommi's solo. A good song, although I don't think it was a very strong closing track for Iommi's solo debut, but overall a diverse and good record from the legendary axeman.

In the opposite corner, we have bassist Geezer Butler's solo project GZR's debut album Plastic Planet in 1995. The album had a more consistent lineup throughout the entire record, with all vocal duties being handled by Fear Factory vocalist Burton C. Bell. With songs dealing with Black Sabbath related issues, comic book themes and an appearance in the 1995 film Mortal Kombat, the album would become a popular release and the start of GZR's solo career. How does the record stand up against his former Sabbath band member's debut?

The album opens with "Catatonic Eclipse". With very, low and heavy sounding guitars by Pedro Howse and Butler adding a thumping and high bass. Deen Castronovo's drums have so much punch in the mix as vocalist Burton C. Bell joins in with his gruff and gritty vocals on the chorus. The riff has a nice groove metal sound to it, especially with Bell's vocals on the chorus accenting the riff. I was instantly banging my head along with the riff, while the nice synth strings behind the riff were a nice touch. I love the pace pick up and synths behind them near the three quarters mark as Bell goes full Fear Factory shouting on the bridge. Before going back to his almost clean/crooning vocals on the chorus as the song comes to a heavy and driving close. "Drive Boy, Shooting" opens with an opening palm-mute heavy riff and in-the-pocket drumming. Bell has more grit in his delivery during the verses in a unique way, before delivering his trademark shouting vocals on the bouncy chorus. I like the guitar solo by Howse near the halfway mark before we return to the demanding opening riff of the song. The layering of vocals at the halfway mark add more weight to Bell's vocals, matching the pummeling aggression of the riff at that point as it leads into another Howse solo. STRONG and heavy track, so much punch and power in the vocals and from the band musically.

"Giving Up The Ghost" is next, and opens with a commanding bass line from Butler and double bass by Castronovo. A song was aimed at Iommi for continuing the Black Sabbath name at the time without the rest of the core members. The lyrics and music is very intense, along with Bell's shouting and clean vocals on the chorus. Even with the song having a Sabbath feel to it. With double bass and Bell almost doing a Ozzy-like impression on the chorus. Very bitter lyrics, accented by Bell's vocal delivery after the halfway mark, but damn the song is heavy as hell. Probably my favorite track on the album. The album's title track opens with a Monster Magnet sounding riff, before pounding drums beneath it kick up the groove of the track as Castronovo flies all over the kit into the verses. Bell shreds his vocals on the verses, as Castronovo speeds up and Butler joins him into the chorus. Castronovo is the real showcase of the track, with so much speed and power in his playing, while also keeping a nice, groovy bounce to the track.

"The Invisible", which was featured on the Mortal Kombat soundtrack, has a nice lead drum opening with ringing guitars randomly popping in and out through the intro. A chuggy riff with Butler's bass ringing at points. Bell's vocals are good, but I think so far, this isn't as strong as the rest of the songs so far on the album. The riff interludes throughout it is heavy, but I don't know if its the vocals, the "rap-like" vocal delivery after the halfway mark, or the not-as-strong riff, but it just doesn't have the same oomph as the other songs so far to me. "Seance Fiction" opens with eerie ambience and samples from the British TV movie The Woman in Black, the subtle bass beneath it helps build tension and depth in the opening moments. Very doom metal sounding in the opening guitar and drums, especially into the clean guitars before the verses. I like Bell's vocal cadence matching the clean guitar playing, before going full ominous reverbed vocals of the chorus. The ambience of the song and dark tone is done so well. "House of Clouds" opens with punk-like drumming and we are off to the races with the matching guitar and bass. I was instantly banging my head along with the snare hits and the palm-muted riffage. It almost has a thrash metal tinge to the track, with the overall aggression, along with no clean vocals until the halfway mark. Clean vocals are more prominent near the close of the track, but overall the song is driving, fast-paced and full of piss and vinegar from the band and is one of the heaviest songs on the album.

"Detective 27" has a very 2000's opening riff and drum combo. The lyrics, about Batman's first appearance in the 27th issue of Detective Comics, is a very straightforward and driving metal track. The double bass hits hard on the chorus. Bell's vocals are singing/talking through most of the track, especially on the verses, which is an interesting choice, but overall a good track. I do wonder if Batman himself would have dug it. On "X13", the pounding drums and low-tuned guitars start the song with Bell's crooning clean vocals opening it. I love the double bass and drum fills through the lyrical breaks of the song, showing how talented Castronovo is on the kit. Howse continues the riffage throughout the track, creating a heavy, chugging riff throughout. "Sci-Clone" has Butler and Howse gelling well together with Castronovo playing nicely in the pocket. Bell is full Fear Factory gritty and gravelly vocals on the track, which the riff has a very Fear Factory vibe minus synths. Pretty heavy track as I was digging the track and air drumming along to Castronovo throughout the song. The album closes with "Cycle of Sixty". A clean guitar tone, and I think windchimes, open the track, as Bell's vocals join in. An acoustic number, with just acoustic guitar and bass with Bell showcasing a more restrained and whispering vocal delivery. A somber close to an overall heavy record from Butler and company.

So between those two influential heavy metal musicians, which solo album do I declare the winner? In my opinion, the winner is Iommi's debut album. Granted, yes there was one song I really wasn't a fan of, but the rest of the album I did like more than GZR's debut. Many of the songs were standouts and were diverse enough to go with the guest vocalists very well and I was singing some of those after the album was done. GZR's album was really strong and Bell was a good choice to match the direction of the album musically, but I do feel like some of the songs were a little too similar or were on the verge of being one solid and almost being indistinguishable from the others. Both albums are pretty good for their time and solid debuts from both artists, but I will declare Iommi the winner of this matchup.

Iommi would follow the debut album with 2004's The 1996 DEP Sessions. A collaborative album with Glenn Hughes. Though not receiving the praise and success as much as his debut solo album, he would record one more solo album 2005's Fused. Hughes would again appear on the album as lead vocalist. This would be Iommi's final solo album as he would form Heaven & Hell with Dio, Butler and Vinny Appice. He would reunite with Black Sabbath for their final album and tour for 2013's 13.

GZR would release two more albums, 1997's Black Science and 2005's Ohmwork. The project would disband as Butler would then play in the band Heaven & Hell and release their only album The Devil You Know in 2009. He would return to Black Sabbath and appear on the band's final album. He would tour in support of the album before officially retiring from making music in 2022.  

Do you agree with my decision? Who do you think should have won? Cast your vote on the poll below, leave your comments on our social media, and your suggestions who you think should step in the ring next. I’m Justin, your friendly neighborhood metalhead, for This Day in Metal and this has been Versus.

VS: Iommi vs Plastic Planet - Online Poll - StrawPoll
What’s your opinion? Vote now: Iommi, Plastic Planet…

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