The Battle of Heaven and Hell



The Battle of Heaven and Hell, Where the Mob Rules, and the Dehumanizer is the Devil You Know

The Neon Knights and the Children of the Sea met Lady Evil in the battle of Heaven and Hell. Or so they thought. They met at the Wishing Well, there to see who would Die Young and who would Walk Away. Win or lose, all combatants knew that in battle, Lonely Is the Word.


And the two sides did Turn up the Night. Voodoo flourished even in the very Sign of the Southern Cross, neither side knowing that E5150 was the code of their demise. First the Mob Rules, then the embittered County Girl retaliates as souls are Slipping Away, Falling off the Edge of the World Over and Over.

As the battle raged, the Computer God tallied the lost, for After All (The Dead) alone continue beyond the computer-generated TV Crimes, to send Letters from Earth to the Master of Insanity, hoping he will use his Time Machine to erase the Sins of the Father before it is Too Late, before each I is Buried Alive.

And The Devil Cried as the Shadow of the Wind shrieked against the Ear in the Wall.


Ultimately, Atom and Evil unleashed Fear once kept inside the Bible Black, to Double the Pain beyond the ministrations of even a Rock and Roll Angel. The Turn of the Screw proved so painful that it led to even the most sane and compassionate toward Eating the Cannibals, to Follow the Tears to Neverwhere, losing the last vestige of hope for Breaking into Heaven.

Black Sabbath – Heaven And Hell (Live In N.Y 1980)


Written By Dr. Metal  <Martin Jacobsen>

The Story of The Black Sabbath

The Story of the Black Sabbath That Made All Citizens Paranoid Because the Master of Reality Opened Volume Four of the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath in Order to Sabotage the World Via Technical Ecstasy until the Citizens Said Never Say Die!

At a Black Sabbath I met The Wizard Behind the Wall of Sleep, where N.I.B. created a Wicked World from a Sleeping Village, which did not heed the Warning.  

The War Pigs made all citizens Paranoid. They fled on a Planet Caravan to find the Iron Man at his Electric Funeral. A Hand of Doom served Rat Salad, and the citizens knew they were in a land where Fairies Wear Boots.

And in this land, a Sweet Leaf grew until After Forever. As Embryo after embryo grew into the Children of the Grave, an Orchid bloomed, heralding the Lord of this World, who dragged the citizens toward the Solitude possible only after falling Into the Void.

And the Wheels of Confusion clouded Tomorrow’s Dream, and any Changes or FX that followed only made it easier for the Supernaut to make the citizens Snowblind, assuming a Cornucopia existed at every Laguna Sunrise, inciting a St. Vitus’ Dance Under the Sun as Every Day Comes & Goes.

But it was not really so, and the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath presided over by A National Acrobat dispelled the Fluff with one utterance of “Sabbra Cadabra.” Then the citizens said to their culture, you are Killing Yourself to Live. They then asked themselves Who are You? Are you Looking for Today? Do you expect to be saved by a Spiral Architect?

And then opened Hole in the Sky, and the citizens said to themselves “Don’t Start (Too Late), or you’ll fail to see the Symptom of the Universe, the Megalomania disguised as The Thrill of it All. Beware the Supertzar, and always ask Am I Going Insane? They did not know about The Writ, where the answers lay.

And the citizens became dehumanized, acting either as Back Street Kids shouting You Won’t Change Me or descending into denial saying “It’s Alright, the Gypsy will see to it that All Moving Parts (Stand Still), and the Rock ‘N’ Roll Doctor will say “She’s Gone” to all Dirty Women.

But hope again emerged among the citizens, who shouted “Never Say Die”! Johnny Blade was stopped from gouging out Junior’s Eyes, and even though A Hard Road had been created by the Shock Wave, the citizens were able to unite in an Air Dance, hoisting a banner of cooperation reading “Over To You” and marshalling their forces to Breakout by Swinging the Chain that had heretofore bound them to their own darkness.
Written By Dr. Metal <Martin Jacobsen>

THE END Brought the Beginning Once More: A Personal Note on Black Sabbath’s Final Tour


February 4, 2017, Black Sabbath retired as a touring band, playing their final show at the Genting Arena in their hometown, Birmingham, UK.  Whether they play together again or not, I believe it’s fair to say that they exited the stage with grace. They toured for over a year-reaching 1.6 million fans in 26 countries on 4 continents. Make no mistake: it was a lucrative enterprise.  They surely didn’t go into it for altruistic purposes alone.  But they did chose to commune with fans one last time, and I find it a dignified-perhaps even gracious-note to go out on.  Until long after forever (and Bill Ward is included here because he too created the music this tour championed), Black Sabbath will be among those whose genius became a genus.  They will forever be the founders of heavy metal.

Source: Tony Iommi Facebook Page

Black Sabbath exhibits perhaps the preeminent paradoxical property of genius: knowing the best without knowing any better.  They were four kids from a decaying society who didn’t realize they shouldn’t try to be what they wanted to be.  They didn’t realize that they couldn’t rise from their circumstances-like foliage from humus-and create something completely new all by themselves, without permission, without planning.  What they knew was that what they had created was true and that its truth lay in its own properties.  And they knew that they may as well make this truth their lives because there was nothing to lose.  They knew being broke playing music was better than being broke some other way.  They discovered that when up is the only direction left to look, they found beauty waiting for them.

Source: Official Black Sabbath Website

Perhaps this example can lead us to look up as well.

Perhaps we did that when we went to see The End.

When we went to see the end, we went to see the beginning.  We went to receive a blessing from The Elders.  We went to witness the progenitors of an entire genre of music (perhaps a new philosophy),  the iterations of which continue to descend into our consciousness-a magnificent cascade of shimmering perceptions allowing us all to glimpse the deeper beauty of the reality we inhabit. The End gave Black Sabbath an opportunity once again to reach into our less comfortable selves and bring out unsettling fears and feelings.  By re-presenting these fears and feelings through their music, Black Sabbath helped us recognize that these emotions are also part of our humanity.  The 1.6 million fans who attended The End tour shared that moment of humanity.

Photo Credit: Phil Davies, Global Black Sabbath Convention, at Genting Arena, 2/4/2017

And here’s the genius: In The End, it makes us feel happy.  We feel purged of our fears and failings.  We feel as if we are understood and accepted from the inside out.  When we looked up at the stage or the screen at The End, we were all-Black Sabbath included-looking up, experiencing the most salient symptom of the universe: the beauty waiting for us.


Written by Dr. Metal

Vinyl Analysis #6

Special thanks to Michelle Johnson, Carly Carthel and Rick Ossian for reading the draft.

Special thanks to Phil Davies of Global Black Sabbath Convention for sharing his photo for this post.

Exit, Stage Left: Black Sabbath Plays Final North American Show

The End has come.  Or, actually, has gone.  Black Sabbath completed the North American leg of The End, their final world tour, on November 12, 2016 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.

Photo Credit: Black Sabbath Facebook Page

They did exit stage left, left-handed Tony Iommi’s side of the stage.  Iommi was the last to leave the stage.  As the only member to have always sustained the Black Sabbath phenomenon over the decades, and thus, to have made this possible, his leaving last was as it should be.

The history of it is setting in now.  It’s The End.  That fact was brought home earlier this week when Tony Iommi posted this on his Facebook Page:

Photo Credit: Tony Iommi Facebook Page

I’m glad I got to see the show when they stopped in Albuquerque, NM (you can share my experience here).  For those who did not get to see The End, here is a picture of their last North American bow.

Photo Credit: Marcos Javier Soria, Black Sabbath Global Convention

I want to thank Black Sabbath for their astonishing grace.  They have offered The End to as many of us as they can reach.  They have extended and expanded the tour more than once for us.  They have played the same set for much of the tour and, thus, given us all an experience that can be more easily shared.  Going out in style is one thing, but when you are the ones who have determined the style, then going out with class rises to the level of a blessing.

Thank you for blessing us all.

In the name of the Geezer

and of the Ozzy

and of the Tony



Written by Dr. Metal, Vinyl Lair

November 13, 2016




Black Sabbath Classic Paranoid Released 46 Years Ago Today

Black Sabbath’s classic heavy metal album Paranoid debuted in the UK 46 years ago today, September 18, 1970.  Black Sabbath is currently on the road with their The End tour, a worldwide tour aimed at cementing their legacy.  I just saw their The End show in Albuquerque on September 9, and I can confirm that their setlist includes 6 of Paranoid‘s 8 tracks-more than any of the other albums they’ve chosen to represent (with 3 tracks from Black Sabbath, 3 from Master of Reality, 1 from Volume 4, and 1 from Technical Ecstasy [Full Albuquerque Setlist]).  While two of the three selections from Black Sabbath are technically suites, the fact remains that Paranoid provides the bulk of material for The End.  Tracks from Paranoid are “War Pigs,” “Iron Man,” “Hand of Doom,” “Rat Salad,” “Faries Wear Boots,” and the title track, which serves as the  concert’s encore.  There seems little doubt that Black Sabbath considers this album representative of their contribution to heavy metal


Written by Dr. Metal

Acknowledgement: Black Sabbath superfan Robin Scott posted the release anniversary on another forum today, inspiring this post.

Black Sabbath-The End Tour / September 9, 2016 / Albuquerque, NM


Vinyl Lair reflects on how music makes us feel.  I saw Black Sabbath’s legendary The End tour Friday night (9/9/16) in Albuquerque, NM, at the Isleta Amphitheater.  I may never stop feeling.

The Isleta Amphitheater Gate

Incidentally, Albuquerque was my first hometown.  I visited the neighborhood where my earliest memories were formed.  I even took a walk in the park I remembered going to-the one with a mountain in the background-before the show.


In Taylor Park
Sandia Mountains Seen from Taylor Park

So I had nostalgia before I even got to the venue.  I’ve got plenty of feels to share.  I will also offer some analysis and some philosophy.  It’s how I go about feeling my feelings.


First, some premises.  One, I’m reviewing the show I saw Friday night. My purpose is to demonstrate how what I saw in this show reflects what Black Sabbath means to me and perhaps to heavy music generally.  I will not offer a song-by-song write-up.  The entire show was consistently well done.  Unless I specifically mention a song, the reader may assume that the songs were slightly slower and heavier versions of the studio recordings with some improvised guitar work and audience participation.  Finally, I took all of the photographs used in this review.  I confirmed setlist information on  Two, I’m not going to engage in any setlist “what ifs.”  Much discussion has surrounded their setlist (which I will provide later in the review).  I’m not going there.  They’ve chosen the songs they’ve chosen.  The setlist has settled into its current form, and it will become a world-wide shared experience. So, I will discuss what I find there.  It’s Black Sabbath, after all, and I will celebrate the value of what they offer rather than lament the fact that their setlist wasn’t somehow a catalog of my personal favorites (although many favorites are surely included).  I’m going to put embracing the blessing above second guessing.  I like how most of it comes from the first three albums and how the first five songs represent the first four albums in order (both the third and fourth songs are off Master of Reality).  The End goes back to the beginning.  Three, I will not discuss Bill Ward’s absence.  It’s beside the point for this review.  Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi, and Ozzy Osbourne are enough for me.  Tommy Clufetos played with great energy and fidelity to the original recordings.  His drum solo was impressive and well received by the audience.  Four, I will mention Adam Wakeman’s presence.  The band acknowledged his “behind the curtain” performances on keyboards and guitar, and I thought it was altogether fitting and proper to do so.  Five, I saw Black Sabbath’s Dio-fronted Mob Rules tour in 1982 and Ozzy’s Bark at the Moon tour in 1984.  I’m not going to compare The End to these other shows.

Tommy Clufetos
Adam Wakeman on the Big Screen

A Review of The End-Opening Act Rival Sons

The opening band, Rival Sons, took the stage with great enthusiasm, treating us to a retro, blues-rock sound reminiscent of the era we would inhabit for the evening.  After the first song, vocalist Jay Buchanan said “We’re the Rival Sons, and we play rock and roll music.”  And so they did, the they being Buchanan; Scott Holiday, lead guitar; Dave Beste, bass; Mike Miley, drums; and touring musician Todd Ögren-Brooks, keyboards.

Rival Sons

I’d heard some of their music, and was curious how they’d fit the bill.  I found that they recalled the 70s era and literally set the stage for Black Sabbath. Later, Buchanan dedicated their song “Fade Out” to a friend of his who’d passed away, and his gentle charisma made the audience feel the way you feel when a friend has lost a friend.  We were all in after that.

This review would be incomplete without saying that Jay Buchanan has a voice and a half-a touch of Paul Rogers here, a touch of Robert Plant there, and touch of Glenn Hughes everywhere.  I wonder if this touch of Glenn Hughes played a role in Rival Sons getting the nod.  Maybe Tony and Jay will work together after The End.  Anyway, they played a great set with some stylistic range and warmed up an already warm night with this setlist:

  1. Electric Man
  2. Secret
  3. Pressure and Time
  4. Hollow Bones Pt. 1
  5. Torture
  6. Fade Out
  7. Open My Eyes
  8. Keep On Swinging

A Review of The End-Headliner Black Sabbath

Fan Boy

Call me predictable. Call me a fan boy who has never quite gotten over the stirring compositions and menacing riffs unleashed onto his consciousness by the first hearing of his first Black Sabbath album.  My main reason for going to was see Tony Iommi play. Watching Tony play live again had been my deepest wish for many, many years, and in more recent times I have been formulating a hypothesis which posits that Tony Iommi is as much a composer-in the classical sense-as he is a musician.  When I was ushered to my seat and saw that it was stage right, about 6 rows back, I actually went weak in the knees.  It was perfect.  Maybe I would gather the crucial data to upgrade my hypothesis to a theory.

From My Seat-Section 1, Row J, Seat 20

After all, with a seat like this, I would see every chord, every bend, every trill, every “shake.”  “The Shake,” as I call it, is when he puts vibrato on a power chord. It’s a hallmark of his playing and an important element of the Sabbath sound.

The Stage Awaits Black Sabbath


The Moment Nears

Data Collection-The Show Begins

The show began, as it apparently does for this tour, with a video of evil beings ending the world as the rain and bell sound effect from “Black Sabbath” played.

The Door

Then the guys took the stage and the real thunder began.  There may never again be anything like the tri-tone of “Black Sabbath.”

The guys all looked terrific, and you may not imagine that when you realize that the original three members are all past traditional retirement age.  They entered in the order they stand-Geezer first, then Ozzy, then Tony.  When Tony came out, I felt like I was under a spell.  More on that later.

Black Sabbath on Stage

The sound was magnificent-loud but clear-with perfect tone and perfect separation.  Most songs were just a little slower and heavier than the studio versions, creating a darkness within the darkness of the clear summer night we were all blessed with, a hand of doom pulling us into the void that exists after forever and behind the wall of sleep that all children of the grave inevitably face.

The setlist only left the first three albums three times, and one of those was the studio version of “Zeitgeist” off 13 played as exit music. The setlist included:

  1. Black Sabbath
  2. Fairies Wear Boots
  3. After Forever
  4. Into the Void
  5. Snowblind
  6. War Pigs
  7. Behind the Wall of Sleep (with ‘Wasp’ intro)
  8. N.I.B. (with ‘Bassically’ intro)
  9. Hand of Doom
  10. Rat Salad (with Tommy Clufetos drum solo)
  11. Iron Man
  12. Dirty Women
  13. Children of the Grave (with ‘Embryo’ intro)
  14. Encore:
  15. Paranoid
  16. Zeitgeist (recoding, exit music)

Geezer Butler

Geezer Butler, In Color

Geezer Butler entered first.  Geezer was all business.  His playing was spot on, and he was a staid anchor throughout the show, belying the unsettling and penetrating images his lyrics evoked throughout the show and in the minds of fans for decades.

Geezer-In Black Light

Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy Osbourne was next.  Ozzy was Ozzy, but a mature and clear Ozzy.  His energy never faltered, but his voice did here and there as the show wore on-never to the point of distraction and certainly not as much as one might expect from someone who has strained at the top of his range for fifty years.

Ozzy Osbourne-The Prince of Darkness

He stomped his feet to the riffs and he was all smiles, constantly telling us all that they loved us.  He encouraged us to sing verses and riffs in all the old familiar places and to chant “Hey” here and there. He managed the show well, introducing the songs and the other band members with very little banter.  It seemed a bit scripted, perhaps for legacy purposes.

Ozzy during “Children of the Grave”

Toni Iommi-The Man, The Master, The Legend

And then Tony Iommi appeared-a figure in black.   I could feel his presence from my seat. Time stood still. I could hardly breathe.  I just could not believe I was finally realizing my dream of seeing him perform his compositions.

Tony Iommi-A Figure in Black

Tony had us in mind in the opening song, “Black Sabbath.”  He extended the solo to three times its normal duration, knowing that we would certainly want an extra dose of his playing right away.

The G5 Power Chord

As I watched, I started to note his odd way of fingering, which deepened his distinctiveness.  As I said earlier, it was like being under a spell.  It goes without saying that his playing was spot on and his moments of improvisation worked every time. But the playing was only part of the picture.  From the moment he took the stage, I felt as if I was in the presence of someone with a greater understanding of music and emotion and eternity: a composer in the classical sense.  Would witnessing him play his creations round out my hypothesis?  He walked around some, never crossing past the drummer’s stand.  Most of the time, he focused on his playing with an almost Zen-like calmness.  He played the heaviest, most unsettling riffs, ripped solos that covered the fretboard (sometimes sliding up a string very fast), and shook power chords with such force that the rest of the world seemed to vibrate, and yet he himself maintained a measured demeanor.

A Measured Demeanor

A Surprise Confirms a Hypothesis

And then-AND THEN-he would do something that I could never have anticipated.  I’ve always considered Tony Iommi an extraordinarily serious man with an unparalleled intellect and an intuition that gives him a special gift for understanding the uneasiness in people and making music that draws it out and lets us see it.

The Serious Man

As I watched him playing a riff or a solo or an improvisation-anything that would constitute an identifiable segment of a song- I noticed that he would approach the edge of the stage, look at someone in the audience with an aura of goodwill radiating from his features, finish that part of the song…and smile and nod at the person he’d chosen.  He did it again and again.

The Aura of Good Will

I wondered: What  was he trying to say?  He had such a friendly expression on his face.  It was a little like he meant to say “There you are; I like that part too,” knowing that we were familiar with his work and waiting for each part and that he somehow understood the gift it was to us.  It was a little like he meant to say “I wrote that, isn’t it something,” not in a boastful way but like he was sharing something so interesting to him that he hoped we were interested in it too.  It was a little like he meant to say “I’m so glad to be here playing this music for you, and this smile and nod is my way of saying ‘thanks for the opportunity.’”

I was not prepared for the openness and joy he expressed.  Somehow, I missed it.  Somehow, I missed the fact that his intuition must also work for the other emotions, and that he divined the exuberant emotions of the audience at a live show and shared them back with that smile and nod.

The Smile and Nod

This is what rounds out my hypothesis.  This smile and nod were not random acts.  They punctuated identifiable segments of his songs. It is the approach a composer would take.  He knew what parts of his compositions people would respond to and acknowledged that understanding. The archetypal darkness and pain that his riffs bring forth when we listen privately transmogrified into an archetypal joy at the show, the joy we all experience when we share a deep feeling with another person.  Surely, Tony could not help but feel it, and he was sharing it with thousands of us. Surely, that aura of goodwill came from it.

Shared Joy


As the last tones faded and the band took their curtain call, the light struck them as I took this picture, capturing them with a ghostly glistening that the audience reached out toward. They move on to retirement after The End, and for most intents and purposes, they will exist for us as ghosts-haunting our hearts with a heavy happiness that only spirits can sufficiently sustain: Spirits born of music and made ethereal and eternal in our very being through recurring electric resurrection until The End comes for each of us.

Ethereal and Eternal Spirits

The End


Written by Dr. Metal (aka Martin Jacobsen, Ph.D.)




Vinyl Analysis: Metal IRONy: Installment #1-The Philosophy of “The Philosopher”

Heavy metal questions nearly everything.  It’s the purpose of the genre, really.  It pushes musical boundaries.  It challenges time-honored assumptions.  Metal is not afraid of God. Or Satan.  Or…Plato?

In teaching my Heavy Metal as a Literary Genre class, I have had many students present the Death song “The Philosopher” off their 1993 album Individual Thought Patterns.  The basic theme of the song lies in the chorus: “Lies feed your judgement of others / Behold how the blind lead each other / The philosopher: You know so much about nothing at all.” The attitude here is one of the first or second year college student.  The questions that arise early in a university education ultimately lead to a reexamination of basic assumptions.  As evidenced by the lyrics above, “The Philosopher” strikes a defiant tone, giving the student an opportunity to challenge the university, the underpinnings of the Western intellectual tradition, and perhaps the basic philosophical bent of this humanities professor.


The Metal IRONy lies in fact that this song, this album, and this band sustain the Western philosophical tradition.

W.K.C. Guthrie argues in The Greek Philosophers from Thales to Aristotle that “[t]he lifeblood of philosophy is controversy” (67).  Thus, the student, who undoubtedly finds this song, and its use in a class presentation, to be an act of defiance, in truth engages in the controversy that makes philosophy philosophy.  Perhaps the student didn’t stop to think that a heavy metal class in a university in the Bible Belt providing a safe space for this defiance had already spilled a little of this lifeblood on his or her behalf.

But for all the defiance assumed to reside in using this song in class, the initial choice of the song probably lies in the premise that the song itself defies philosophical thought.

Not on your lifeblood.

The challenges articulated in this song derive from basic western philosophy.  In the main, an introduction to philosophy course will offer a view of philosophy dividing the discipline into five branches, following, more or less, depending on the book you use, this model:

  1. Metaphysics-the study of reality
  2. Epistemology-the study of knowledge
  3. Logic-the study of thought patterns
  4. Ethics-the study of proper behavior
  5. Aesthetics-the study of beauty and perception

Of course, the beauty of the model is that you can suddenly find yourself in the middle of a different branch than you thought you were in the middle of.  While the divisions comfort us with uniformity, taxonomy, and the ever-reassuring numbered list, the truth is that there are no branches of philosophy “but thinking makes it so.”

So, as we will see, the lyrics of this song actually harness the five branches model.  To be fair,  philosophy has done a remarkable job building a framework for our thoughts.  It’s likely that  Chuck Schuldiner and my students and the university and you and me cannot really escape the model.  We are so accustomed to it that it’s there whether we mean for it to be there or not.

For convenience, let’s have a look at the lyrics:

Do you feel what I feel?  See what I see.  Hear what I hear?
There is a line you must draw between your dream world and reality.
Do you live my life or share the breath I breathe?

Lies feed your judgement of others.
Behold how the blind lead each other.
The philosopher: You know so much about nothing at all

Ideas that fall under shadows of theories that stand tall
Thoughts that grow narrow upon being verbally released
Your mind is not your own; what sounds more mentally stimulating is how you make your choice
So you preach about how I’m supposed to be, yet you don’t know your own sexuality

Lies feed your judgement of others.
Behold how the blind lead each other.
The philosopher: You know so much about nothing at all

So, the first three lines fall under the standard philosophical branches of metaphysics and epistemology (which go together like peas and carrots because you can’t know reality without thinking about how you know).  We see three (touch, vision, hearing) of the five senses referenced, the epistemological method of empiricism (philosophy based on the five senses).  Then the question of perception the emerges between dreams, reality, and what constitutes life-the distinctions between them falling rather firmly under metaphysics.  Taken together, the use of these questions-that we feel, see, hear, dream, and breathe-reflects a basic use of logic; that is to say, if the number of common elements amasses sufficiently, we must be more or less endowed with similar capacities-a standard act of classification required by most philosophers before a question is interrogated.

Next, the chorus adopts an ethical stance, asserting that our knowledge lies in “lies” and that the “blind lead each other,” a sense-based metaphor criticizing the fact that we are being led by the philosopher who claims to know but does not.  This notion calls up the Socratic Irony of who knows that he knows not knows more than he who thinks he knows but does not know.  IRONically, when this death metal song (think aesthetic defiance) is used in class, it seems to be chosen to illustrate that the university-symbolized by the philosopher and/or my class and/or myself-may “know so much about nothing at all.”  Somehow, however, (perhaps it’s all that defiance), the fact remains that the premise of this song is a “judgment of others” based on the thoughts of someone who has given no real reason for us to believe him.

Then the next verse holds that theories control ideas, and then ideas are weakened once spoken, that our mind becomes so deprived of thought that all we really think about is how we think we think about how we think.  Intended or not, there seems a touch of deconstruction in this progression, and this is undoubtedly an epistemological discussion.  The next line-“So you preach about how I’m supposed to be, yet you don’t know your own sexuality”-steps from epistemology to ethics, seemingly reasserting the premise that the blind lead the blind, that those who presume to tell us how to act are no more prepared to contemplate choices than we are, suggesting that anyone telling anyone how to act is inherently unethical.  Again, the IRONy rises to the surface.  We are being exhorted to question the right of another to guide our thoughts by someone telling us not to allow another to guide our thoughts.  Somehow, the aesthetic form of a death metal song-because metal questions everything-makes the arguments offered here authoritative by the mere suggestion of controversy, which makes the IRONy doubly IRONic because controversy is the lifeblood of philosophy.

But the fact may well be that we are being led by lies to judge others by someone who knows an equal amount about nothing at all as anyone else.  I’m a doctor of philosophy, so who knows what I do or don’t know, or know I know, or know I don’t know, or don’t know I don’t know.  After all, I’m talking about the guy who’s talking about the guy who knows about nothing at all.

Think about it.


Written by Dr. Metal

Vinyl Analysis #3

Vinyl Analysis: I Need “Help!”


“Help! I need somebody”!

A song that starts by shouting “Help!” is hard to ignore. It’s my favorite Beatles song, hands down.

When I hear “Help!,” I sometimes think I need to get some help. It drives me entirely crazy. If I were to openly weep and jump up and down screaming like I want to between 00:50-1:00 in, I might end up getting some help whether I want it or not. I understand why Beatlemania happened when I hear those ten seconds. In an effort to get my feet back on the ground, I’ll try to examine and understand, You Know, That Part When…

A few years ago, when I was younger than today, I noticed a detail in the song that made me feel totally stupid. I have known this song all my life. I think the discovery of the phenomenon here under study comes from what was my favorite part of the song until now, which is the sound of the vocals when they sing “my independence seems to vanish in the haze.” That part of the song has always stood out for me. I always thought it was the timbre in their voices on “vanish in the haze,” but now, I find I’ve changed my mind. It’s opened up the doors to a new understanding.

Perhaps I should start at the beginning. The phenomenon begins at 00:10-00:20 with the lines “When I was younger, so much younger than today / I never needed anybody’s help in any way.” They shorten “younger” to “young” and “needed” to “need” in the backing vocals. I’m not sure the idea of lead and backing vocals even applies, given that it’s an internal dialogue. That’s the brilliance of it. Sequentially, it seems to be a systematic exchange, but in terms of narrative structure, it’s fluid, and any voice can repeat or sustain the story, and the rheme or closing of the predicate comprises all the voices. Take the lines above for instance. The single voice and the backing vocals are not the typical pop music echo. It goes like this (backing vocals in parentheses):

When I was younger
(when I was young)
so much younger than today
(I never need)
I never needed anybody’s
RHEME [all voices]: help in any way

 There’s a sustain/introduce pattern. See it? Interestingly, they use those shortened forms. We linguists refer to these deleted suffixes {-er, -ed} as inflectional morphemes, which means that they only enhance a word’s grammatical function. The words don’t mean anything new, with or without the suffix. It’s only a grammatical detail. And it fits the meter better to shorten them. And maybe even more importantly, it foreshadows another morphological reduction that I daresay makes the entire song work, both narratively and musically.

In the next verse, at 00:50-1:00, we find that they have tried to replicate the narrative structure I noted above. I’ve copied the lyrics below from A-Z Lyrics.

(Now) And now my life has changed in oh so many ways
(My independence) My independence seems to vanish in the haze
(But) But every now (Every now and then) and then I feel so insecure
(I know that I) I know that I just need you like I’ve never done before

But this is not how The Beatles have done this. Here’s how it really goes and why it makes me so crazy.

And now my life has changed
(My life has changed)
In oh so many ways
(My indepen…)
My independence seems to
RHEME (all voices): vanish in the haze

There’s the same sustain/introduce narrative pattern, but this time, they shorten “independence” to “indepen.” which is an entirely different morphological operation. They clipped a derivational morpheme {-ence}, which does affect meaning, and in this instance, the entire word loses its meaning because the stem “independ,” although it feels verby with a nouny modifier, does not inhabit any part of speech category. You can’t “independ” no matter how hard you try (no wonder he feels so insecure). “Independence” actually vanishes at this moment.  Not only have they clipped the noun suffix, they also leave off the /d/ phoneme. It’s so subtle. If they had tried to sing “independence” there, it never would have fit. They made it fit the meter by just cutting it off. There’s something innovative, even brave, about that.

And then, AND THEN-when they actually do sing “independence,” they defiantly enunciate each of the syllables, only to find that the rheme, the final word-“seems to vanish in the haze” with all the internal voices confirming the loss.

Think about it. Everything lines up. He needs help, his independence is incomplete, then when he tries to assert it, it vanishes. That’s the story line and the psychological state it articulates. It all fits musically because the shortened form preserves the meter, thus sustaining the narrative AND musical elements.

I don’t know if I can say this changes my life in oh, so many, ways. However, I’m not feeling down about having missed this element for so long. Those days are gone. I’m feeling more self-assured about having at least noted that something special exists, even if it took this long to figure out, you know, that part when…

Written by Martin Jacobsen (aka Dr. Metal)

Vinyl Analysis #2



The Beatles – Help

Vinyl Analysis: The Influence of UFO’s Phenomenon (1974) on the Formation of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal

NOTE: This will be the inaugural column for a series called Vinyl Analysis.  The purpose of this column will be to offer a hypothesis about an event in the history of popular music.  While these analyses may apply to any genre or era, most will focus on the history and development of heavy metal.  They will focus on some sort of turning point.  These arguments will generally seek to add to the record rather than overturn it.  The overall purpose will be to offer something to think about.  At least for the moment, these columns will neither seek to identify these turning points chronologically from the beginning nor suggest a comprehensive treatment of any given issue.  It’s not about knowing it all; it’s about finding some more of it. (VL)


The subject of this inaugural column will be the 1974 album Phenomenon, the third studio outing by British heavy metal band UFO, released on the Chrysalis label and featuring vocalist Phil Mogg, guitar virtuoso Michael Schenker, pioneering bassist Pete Way, and drummer Andy Parker.  As the band’s name may suggest, UFO began with a “space rock” ethos.  But many of the songs on the album here under examination mark a sudden and definitive change of direction toward a heavier, edgier sound.  The track listing is as follows:

Side One

Album Cover-Front
  1. Oh My
  2. Crystal Light
  3. Doctor Doctor
  4. Space Child
  5. Rock Bottom

Side Two

  1.  Too Young to Know
  2.  Time on My Hands
  3.  Built for Comfort
  4.  Lipstick Traces
  5. Queen of the Deep


In fact, this shift in ethos has more profound ramifications than a mere change in direction for a single band.  I will advance the hypothesis that this album pioneers numerous elements of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM).  This will not be the first time UFO and NWOBHM are mentioned in the same breath, but I hope to substantiate the importance of this album as a part of the development of this subgenre.  The evidence for this thesis will be drawn almost entirely from the music on the album (focusing on the artifact itself will typically be the case for Vinyl Analysis).

Most people agree that Motörhead and Judas Priest pioneered NWOBHM and that Iron Maiden confirmed it.  The faster tempos, heavy drumming, operatic vocals, and intricate guitar work established a new template for heavy metal.  In fact, a strong argument surely exists for the UFO album Lights Out (1977) standing alongside the early work of these three bands as an early NWOBHM document.

However, I believe Phenomenon heralds NWOBHM in 1974.  One hearing of the album should be enough to confirm it.  While some of the music on this album (such as “Crystal Light” and “Space Child”) sustains the space rock model of the first two studio albums or conforms to other stylistic approaches (see below), the songs examined here show advances in speed, technical proficiency, and raw power that herald the NWOBHM approach.   “Oh My” offers a brief, up-tempo song of the sort that would become coin of the metal realm for an opening track during the 1980s.  The riffs, fills, and solo reflect the urgency of the coming subgenre.  “Doctor, Doctor” opens slowly, but the bridge to the faster main riff, as well as the twin leads reprised throughout the song, sound very much like what would be heard from Iron Maiden years later.  Side One ends with metal juggernaut “Rock Bottom,” which almost single-handedly sums up NWOBHM in its six-and-a-half minutes.  Opening with an uncompromisingly fast riff for the time, the intensity grows exponentially as the song progresses.  After a tempo change into a slower, epic passage (with lyrics actually heralding death metal), Pete Way’s driving bass line carries the song into an astonishingly intense solo section by then 19-year-old Michael Schenker.  There seems little doubt that this solo is among the best of its time, and it still holds up.  The legato style suggests an influence on Iron Maiden, and the sheer speed of the entire passage seems characteristic of the increased intensity that would come to distinguish the NWOBHM movement.

Album cover-Back (Remaster)

The first track of Side Two, “Too Young to Know,” features an opening lead characteristic of NWOBHM.  Again, the tempo, driving bass line, guitar solo, and lead fills also seem typical of things to come.  As the second first song, “Too Young to Know” asserts its command of Side Two in the same way as “Oh My” opens Side One.  The use of similar opening songs for each side indicates planning on the album level.  This is not merely a collection of songs.  UFO manifestly intends to establish a shift in approach.  Side Two does lean on the blues during the almost southern rock song “Time on My Hands,” “Built for Comfort”( Willie Dixon cover), and “Lipstick Traces.”  “Queen of the Deep” seems to follow suit at first but then shifts to a dark, doomy riff reminiscent of early metal.  The solo section of this closing song again brings the virtuosity of the NWOBHM movement to mind.  The closing power metal motifs sustain the overall NWOBHM ethos.

Additionally, though less coherently elaborated than the other NWOBHM elements noted in this examination, “Space Child” and “Time on My Hands” have occasional touches of another NWOBHM staple, the power ballad.  Neither song completely fits the model for the power ballads that would proliferate throughout metal during the NWOBHM/Power/Glam era, but some elements—especially the solo section in “Space Child” and the acoustic opening of “Too Much Time on My Hands”—seem to presage the elements associated with power ballads.  They’re missing the crushing power-chord chorus (and seem more organic than the prefabricated, market-tinged format that would ultimately prevail), but they do create softer moments on a heavy album and perhaps even a skeletal outline for the future form.

Well, there you have it.  I hope I’ve given you something to think about.  Many see the boundary between classic metal and NWOBHM as a mark on a timeline, a straight line between one band like Motörhead or Judas Priest or Iron Maiden and the rest of metal history, but I believe that such a line meanders through time, with one element established early here or another late to develop there.  The evidence I’ve offered suggests that UFO’s Phenomenon is one of the curves forward in the line of metal demarcation.

Thanks so much for your fine attention.  And remember, this is not the last word; it’s only a Vinyl Analysis.

Dr. Martin Jacobsen (Dr. Metal)-Vinyl Lair

Vinyl Analysis #1


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