By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The instrumental counterpart of celebrated Grammy Award winning Latin groove ensemble Groupo Fantasma, Austin, TX-based band Brownout has been cultivating a reputation for both fiery live performances and the gritty funk sounds heard on such releases as Homenaje and Aguilas and Cobras that mix heavily fuzzed-out guitars with percolating percussion and intricate horn work reminiscent of ’70s heroes like Mandrill and War.
During a residency at an Austin club, Brownout decided to dedicate certain nights to covering the material of specific artists including a rendition of James Brown’s classic blaxploitation soundtrack “Black Caesar” and an evening dedicated to the music of heavy metal godfathers Black Sabbath. The crowd response and the musicians’ enjoyment in recasting iconic riff-based songs like “Iron Man” and “The Wizard” with multiple percussionists and heavy horn arrangements (put together by trombone player Mark “Speedy” Gonzales) led to the recording of 2014’s surprise hit collection Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath.
Bringing on guest vocalists Black Angels member Alex Maas and longtime Brownout friend Alex Marrero (who additionally tours with the band), the recording offered some of the most inventive versions of songs from the Black Sabbath cannon ever heard, with the dreamy psych tune “Planet Caravan” morphed into a smoldering Fela Kuti-styled Afrobeat jam and “Iron Man” transformed into swinging, horn-fueled instrumental track. The album still gave plenty of room for guitarists Beto Martinez and Adrian Quesada to show of their riffs and ended up on numerous “Best of” lists for 2014 as Brown Sabbath played to delighted crowds across the country.
Brown Sabbath would go on hiatus for a time as Grupo Fantasma reconvened in 2016 to tour in support of that band’s celebrated release Problemas. But late last October the ensemble issued it’s highly anticipated sophomore collection of revamped metal classics, Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath, Vol. II on Ubiquity Records. The album includes dramatically reconfigured takes of such essential tracks as the Paranoid closer “Fairies Wear Boots” and Vol. 4 hits “Snowblind” and “Supernaut.”
The group also welcomed a new studio collaborator with Ghostland Observatory’s Aaron Behrens, who sang vocals on “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” and “Symptom of the Universe.” The band returns to San Francisco this Saturday as the nine-piece funk juggernaut takes the stage at the Independent to deliver its hard-grooving interpretations of standards from the Black Sabbath catalog. Trashy East Bay electro/garage-rock outfit the Midnight Snackers opens the show with songs from their latest album Transfer.
Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath
Saturday, Jan. 14, 8:30 p.m. $15