The concept behind Emerald Sabbath is rather interesting. Take one life-long Black Sabbath fan, add a musical vision and plenty of people who have been involved with Black Sabbath over the years (engineers, producers, former members & artists) and throw in some guest musical performers like choirs and string quartets, and basically cover a few of the songs the true founders of metal have recorded over the years. In a way, it comes across similar to those releases which labels like Nuclear Blast and Century Media have released cover albums which feature notable musicians from their extensive rosters, but this album is a tribute to Sabbath, by Sabbath. Perhaps you could just call this a compilation by Black Sabbath or a simple tribute album from members who maybe never got the chance to really shine/stand out over the band’s long career… Either way, it’s Sabbath, so pay some respect!
The first thing of note about this release is its track list. Several tracks are instrumental numbers, some of which (Embryo, Fluff) are short and served more as prequels to the songs they transitioned into on their original releases. This cuts the number of tracks with vocal content significantly, which could be a blessing or a curse on your outlook of the tracks on offer. Speaking of tracks, there is something for everyone on offer, from Ozzy era through to Tony Martin’s time at the helm. You won’t find the expected tracks here though, the likes of N.I.B, Black Sabbath, Iron Man, Children Of the Grave etc are all absent, the bigger name tracks you’ll find are the severely underrated “Hole In The Sky”, The dull “Changes” and the rapid-fire “Die Young”, along with a much more reimagined “Supertzar” and “In For The Kill”. With this in mind, this release seems more geared up to look more like the mastermind of the project’s (Michael Suilleabhain Bundade) personal ‘best of Black Sabbath’.
Still, you cannot fault the thought, planning and dedication which has gone into this release in order to make it happen. Getting former members of his favourite band to perform renditions of their own material with a little more creative freedom in some lights or even perform songs they only ever did on the live circuit with the band, it has allowed for some pretty extensive creative freedoms to surface and taking the track “She’s Gone”, it completely overhauls it and gives it a totally new identity yet still remains firmly identifiable as Black Sabbath in how the end product sounds. The addition of wind instruments and strings to some of the instrumentals adds a newer, more oppressive and haunting edge to how it comes across, and in other areas, the straight forward approach which is taken, like on “Hole In The Sky” (One of my personal favourite Sabbath tracks) works excellently. The overhaul to “Changes”, the only track to feature Michael on it, works better than the dreary original one. There’s a bit more expression and the eerie harmony in the vocals later in the song works well enough. The choir vocals on “Supertzar” though, I’m still undecided with them, maybe they will grow on me, maybe they’ll still put me off it.
In all, it’s a good project and I would like to see it expanded to include a few more tracks rather than instrumentals if a second release follows it. The choice to skirt around the more well known songs was a good touch, but maybe if there was more of a familiar/well known presence, then there might have been more on offer musically or more to rework. A re-hash of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath with an intense string accompaniment to arguably one of the greatest metal riffs ever! The possibilities are endless and hopefully we could get more.