If you were going to create the ultimate band line-up, it’d go a little something like this: a member of Black Sabbath, a member of Velvet Revolver (which was a supergroup itself), a guitarist who can more than hold his own without the need for a second set of six strings and a frontman with a voice so versatile it can handle their respective back catalogues with ease. Well, now there is – Deadland Ritual. Made up of Geezer Butler, Matt Sorum, Steve Stevens and Franky Perez, their respective pedigrees guarantee this is going to be a great night.
Fresh from the annual mudfest which is Download, Deadland Ritual take to the stage of the Garage and whilst the room has seen busier nights, the band don’t bat an eyelid. It should be acknowledged that had this gig been on any other night when most of Glasgow’s rock scene weren’t revelling in mud a few hundred miles south, it would have been far more packed. As it is, the band batter through their set for the best part of eighty minutes, pulling from all corners of their catalogue as well as showing off their original material. When you put those four people together, it becomes a sum of their respective parts – dark, foreboding basslines, bombastic drums, massive riffs with powerful vocals on top of them. It’s grungy, dark and heavy.
What is obvious from the first song, despite less than a dozen performances and their first UK visit, is how tight they are as a live act. But anything less would have been the more shocking revelation. You put four artists like this together and you’re going to get an incredibly polished performance. The chemistry between the quartet is there for all to see and like the consummate professionals they are, they’re giving it their all. This isn’t just a project or an exercise, this is four people intent on creating something new and different from their usual outputs.
Whilst the band do show off their original material, the two singles which are already available are receiving hearty cheers with people singing along and crowd participation at the intended moments. Meanwhile, certain songs do draw the biggest reactions of the night, namely the Black Sabbath material (both Ozzy and Dio incarnations are represented), “Slither” and “Rebel Yell”. As the only Velvet Revolver track on display, as they tease the intro before getting into it, it’s obvious that’s where they’re headed and it’s a bassline which will always have the hairs on the back of my neck standing to attention. However, it’s not the most interesting part of it. I’ve seen a number of bands with only one guitar attempt this and it’s always fell flat because it’s missed the rhythm guitar. Here, they only went and nailed it and Stevens showed it can be done. Meanwhile, Franky Perez did Scott Weiland proud and if Velvet Revolver ever come back off their indefinite hiatus, a more perfect fit, you’d be hard pushed to find.
Meanwhile, there’s a short solo from Stevens which is kept tight and brief and cut before becoming wearisome and leads right into “Rebel Yell”. And it’s here where Stevens loosens up. Whilst both he and Perez make full use of the stage and the guitarist is full of energy throughout, this is his true chance to shine, hammering through a song can probably play if he was in a coma. Butler, on the other hand, keeps his own performance true to form: cool, calm and collected, letting his counterparts bring the energy, such as Perez jumping down to mingle with the crowd at various points on the barrier. Because if you’re Geezer Butler, you just need to let the work speak for itself and it’s the Black Sabbath songs which get the loudest response from the crowd.
While Matt Sorum may be tucked behind the drumkit, he’s as much of a showman as Perez and Stevens. Performing with an equal measure of skill and flare, he handles the songs which aren’t his as if they were, owning them and bringing a presence to drumming as if he was front and centre with the other three quarters of the band. Equally, Perez attacks the vocals of all of these songs in his own style, not trying to imitate some of the most recognisable vocalists which brought these songs to life. And it’s also where the band as a whole shines greatest; as they hit these iconic songs, they don’t just play them verbatim, they play them as Deadland Ritual.
Performances and bands like this can go one of two ways: they’re either dreadful or amazing. This was neither. It was surreal, it was special, it was a masterclass. With a deft balance of paying tribute to their respective heritage and some strong original material, played by seasoned performers, this was the equivalent of a band who have been playing together for several years, not months. But given the pedigree, none of this should come as a surprise. And as “War Pigs” closes out the night, there’s a definite feel that if you weren’t there, you missed a bit of history.
- Symptom of the Universe
- Neon Knights
- City of Night
- Fade and Disappear
- Sweet Leaf
- Guitar Solo
- Rebel Yell
- Broken and Bruised
- Dead Before Sunrise
- Down in Flames
- War Pigs
Header image by Jonas Akerlund