Devin Townsend: 'I Can't Listen to New Black Sabbath, Drums Are Distracting'

"It's not Bill Ward, so it's not Black Sabbath to me," the frontman explains.

Ultimate Guitar

Ever since Bill Ward's departure from Black Sabbath, there's been an ongoing discussion on whether the band's latest effort "13" can be considered a true Sabbath effort. Joining the side that thinks "13" simply isn't Sabbath comes Devin Townsend, who touched on the subject of metal icons during an interview with Dead Rhetoric. "I bought the new Black Sabbath record and I can't listen to it because the drums are distracting," Townsend explained. "It’s not Bill Ward. It has nothing to do with the drums being not-Black Sabbath or poor performance or poorly recorded, or anything - it's just that I can't shake it’s not Bill Ward, so it's not Black Sabbath to me." Devin explained further, "I know that it’s a naive way of looking at it, but I feel the same way about anything I do. Unless it's completely me, I don't want to be that guy, I don't want to be that guy that goes up and plays Strapping Young Lad songs." As you might have noticed, the frontman reached the Sabbath matter while discussing constant Strapping Young Lad reunion demands. In a nutshell, Townsend noted that he simply can't understand the urge people have when it comes to reunions of rock icons. "I don't understand the process people go through in terms of assuming that if the band was still active right now, they'd be like the period that was of emotional significance to them," he explained. But back to the current state of affairs, Devin discussed the Ziltoid sequel, as well as other projects he's working on. "I think the goal with anything I’m working on right now is to take my time with things. If it takes five to ten years, that’s what it takes. If it takes two months, it takes two months," the frontman said. "The record I’m working on now, 'Casualties of Cool,' it's the first record I've made since 'Ocean Machine' that I've been able to think it out. Everything else has been 'Go, go, go, we need another record, you have to get it out.'" Townsend concluded by noting that finding other ways of making income allowed him to take all the time he needs with his music. "I'm doing seminars, I do a radio show, there’s a lot of different things are letting me take more time with 'Ziltoid Part II' or 'Casualties of Cool,' because I'm past that point where it was need to produce is of any interest to me."

88 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Personally I just hate Rick Rubin's production, it sounds too modern and sterile for my tastes.
    Is it just me or is everything he produces SUPER compressed? Not just the Metallica record, but the album he did with Slayer not too long ago and the Chili Peppers last album too.
    Definitely the RHCP album. I cringe every time I hear Brendan's Death Song, in particular.
    On top of Brendan's Death Song, I immediately think of Look Around and when the chorus kicks in during Monarchy of Roses. Btw, I really dig Brendan's Death Song aside from the production lol.
    "Californication" is also a pretty bad sounding album, in terms of production. There's so much overcompression and audio clipping. Everything sounds so muddy. For me, the production on "Death Magnetic" kills the album. It's so bad. The early unmastered versions of those two songs they sent to Guitar Hero sound better than the actual album versions.
    Californication is actually somewhat hard to listen to. Sad because song wise it's arguably their best record.
    Agreed. I love the album song-wise too. The production is just so terrible!
    I hadn't listened to it since middle and school and I went to listen to Parallel Universe a few weeks ago and I thought I was just listening to a low quality version.
    He doesn't do the mixing/mastering of songs. That job goes to his own engineers.
    But if everything he does sounds like that, either his engineers are bad, or he instructs the engineers to smash the records.
    Yep. It's not really the engineers fault. The producers work is to get the engineer to understand what he's looking for. And if the output isn't what the producer was looking for, they either go in to the studio and change it, or he hires another engineer.
    I disagree, i think they captured a mix of modern and vintage feelings on the 13 record. You can read it on the interview with the mixing engineer on Sound on Sound magazine, they even recorded less tracks to achieve this feeling.
    Well, as much as I'm glad to see at least something related to this wonderful musician (whom Devin definitely is), I'm quite dissappointed with the topic UG has chosen. There is plenty of stuff going in Devin's professional and music life (last paragraph clearly shows it) which is a lot more interesting than his opinion about Sabbath album.
    I didn't find them "distracting" really. I just found them to be not up to "Sabbath" standards. I found the shitty Rubin production to be more distracting.
    It seems Rubin's mission in life is to win the loudness war. I'm not sure why, because it seems that most listeners do not want the music to blow out their eardrums while also sounding like crap.
    I wish people would give it a rest about Bill not being on the album. Brad did a fantastic job on the album.
    I wish people would give it a rest about taking criticism of a band, as a personal attack against them.
    I still found it a Sabbath record. It still maintained the style and sound that only they could do. The drums probably were the weakest part for me though, studio and live. But I can live with it.
    It's not really a Black Sabbath reunion as it was promoted, but it's definitely Sabbath. Mob Rules was a strong effort from Sabbath that didn't have Bill Ward on drums (nor did it have Ozzy on vocals) and if that can be considered Sabbath, so can 13. I love it.
    Totally bullshit IMO. If there's Tony with Geezer on the board, then it is Black Sabbath.
    Well why not Bill? Oh right. He's just the drummer...
    While I think Ward is a great drummer, I think Wilk did a good job. Sabbath still never ceases to amaze me, with or without Ward. I personally think Ward didn't stick in with his fans and tried to get a little greedy with the other bandmates, but that's just me.
    Devin Townsend is awesome, but this opinion is just an opinion. One i don't agree with.
    Don't Agree with Devin...I like Bill Ward too but I don't think Brad Wilk is too bad on the album...By the way, "13" is a good album...
    He didn't said Wilk did bad. He just wanted, as many of us wanted, Bill ****ing Ward on the drums. That's all.
    but Ward isn't on the album, and nothing is going to change that... not even *gasp* complaining about it. Wilk fills in nicely, and to pass up on listening to the album because one guy isn't on it seems immature.
    [b] "'s just that I can't shake it’s not Bill Ward, so it's not Black Sabbath to me." So, I guess the Dio years weren't Black Sabbath either...?
    Black Sabbath is definitly linked with Ozzy as the singer. I love Dio, but when he fronted BS, it was no more BS, but just Dio featuring Iommi.
    Sammy Mantis
    Yep. With Dio it just didn't sound like Sabbath anymore. Not saying the Dio years were bad, but the band's sound changed in a big way during that time.
    in a good way. Ozzy sabbath started off epic and started to wane towards leaving for a solo career. I disagree that Dio sabbath didn't sound like sabbath should, that's just idiocy. Iommi and Butler still had a lot of input, just a new source of inspiration from their ENTIRELY MORE PROFESSIONAL frontman allowed for a new sound to emerge out of them. Saying Dio sabbath doesn't sound like sabbath should is just stupid.
    Sammy Mantis
    No one is saying what Sabbath should or shouldn't sound like. The point was that the original sound they established during the Ozzy era was lost during the Dio era. Whether that's good or bad is simply a matter of opinion.
    However, they are saying Sabbath minus an original member doesn't sound as Sabbath DID. No one said they should sound like Sabbath, they say they don't sound like the original Sabbath anymore.
    The music they wrote was written to suit Dio's vocals, whereas Ozzy came up with the vocal melodies to suit the riffs. Despite the fact that Ozzy hardly wrote any lyrics, he did actually come up with the vocal lines. Geezer Butler and Bill ward would then do the lyrics. Dio becoming the focal point of the band changed it enough to where it was no longer a similar-sounding band.
    It was Heaven and Hell to me when Dio fronted BS. Ozzy is Sabbath's singer.
    No, it was Sabbath. Says so on the album covers.
    In Tony Iommi autobiography he says clearly he had to put Sabbath's name on it. The record company forced him to otherwise they wouldn't have released it. He had no choice.
    I hate this. Iommi is Black Sabbath. No matter if Bill Ward's not the drummer or if Tony Martin was lead singer. It was still Black Sabbath.
    That's bullshit. It was still Sabbath, just a worse version of it than the one of Ozzy.
    Drums are much easier to replace in a band then a writer/guitarist or a singer...luckily for BS, they found excellent replacements in Dio and Tony Martin.
    Not necessarily true. I can think of plenty of times where a songwriter change didn't change the actual music, and I can think of plenty of times where a drummer change makes a big difference. People need to stop thinking that there are levels of importance with musicians. What's important is the whole, nobody is more or less replaceable.
    Well, belive it or not Mr.Townsend not everybody can be in a legendary metal band twice
    ow boohoo
    I know right? Everybody is a bunch of crybabies when it comes to this album. They can't see a good thing for what it is.
    It's wrong to say that it has nothing to do with Sabbath. The Drummer is not Bill Ward, but he stays true to his Style. It definately Sounds like Sabbath. Undenyably!!!
    I'm sorry, but just because its different doesn't mean its not BS. Thats like saying a pb and j isn't a pb and j just because there is different bread.
    not sure I agree with the PB+J thing, but...I don't see why one member lacking makes it no longer Black Sabbath, especially when the previous album only had Tony Iommi from the original lineup. Nobody cares that this is the closest we've gotten to the classic lineup since the 70's because one member is missing. Oh boo hoo. People need to learn to be more appreciative.
    Reunite the Vai Band! Seriously though, I know what he means, as much as I like Brad it doesn't sound quite right, it's a decent impression but it's just that, he uses Bill-type fills which sound convincing enough but then overuses them so it spoils the illusion.
    It doesn't help that the mixing has the vocals so up front, either, louder than everything else. In that aspect, it sounds more like an Ozzy solo album. Actually, I think I would like it more if it were an Ozzy solo album, especially considering the last few he's put out. As a Black Sabbath album, though, it just feels lackluster - like it's a collection of re-recorded B-sides that weren't good enough for any of their old albums, and it's just got too clean and crisp of a sound (not to mention all the compression) in contrast with their other work.
    I agree with this, there are actually large portions of some of the songs that sounds like Ozzmoses era Ozzy material.
    The drummer they have is fine....probably a better drummer at the moment than Bill ever was. I think that is kind of what Devin is saying. You have a human metronone in there now, when before Sabbath always had a little ebb and flow with the tempo. It doesn't sound like Sabbath (drums) because Sabbath was never too concerned with perfectly aligning beats with lines on a computer screen.
    I don't know what album you were listening to, but the drums on 13 are far from sounding perfect, and they shift all the time. Listen to Damaged Soul and tell me Brad Wilk is trying to sound like a human metronome, let alone that it's in his capabilities to do so. Run a metronome along to 13 and tell me it sounds quantized. He's definitely not a better drummer than Bill was in his prime, and he's not a 'machine' metal-type drummer. People say his playing doesn't sound like Ward on 13, which is ironic, because it's the closest Sabbath drum performance to that era SINCE that era.
    At this point, it's simply trendy to say "No Ward, No Sabbath", or "No Ozzy, No Sabbath." It's not even a particularly well thought out argument, let alone original, and it seems dumb coming from people who don't have the genuine nostalgia to remember Black Sabbath as anything other than a legacy act. It's a moot point when it comes from people who weren't alive at a time time when Bill Ward could play his own parts. If a band's sound doesn't change in one way or another with new members, then those members amount to employees working for a franchise, putting out music like product. A band is the sum of their work collectively and artistically, not whatever lineup you have a chub for. It's pretty dumb to be aware that your enjoyment of something is based entirely on your perception or hangups; why cheat yourself out of something you may enjoy if it's simply a matter of opinion?
    I really don't care who's playing on a record as long as it sounds good. If I always used Townsend's reasoning here, I would hate a ton of albums that I consider my favorites.
    When I listen to Wilk and Commerford in RATM or Audioslave, I think they sound like Ward and Butler. He sounds like Ward on this album. The production and lyrics are the only part of the songs I dislike. The bass sounds better than it has since Masters of Reality. Since Vol 4, he's just been following Iommi. Ozzy's voice sounds good, although over-produced.
    What if Sabbath came out and just said hey Bill Ward did the drums in the record ... and see how this pretentious bastard try and take his word back..
    Dear Dead God...stop crying cos of Bill Ward - yea it´s pity that he doesnt perform drums there but we should be happy for what we got - ****ing great album and great songs - music is the only thing that matters...nevermind who holds the sticks
    I like how the title is about Devin's views on 13, yet nearly half the article is about SYL. Which isn't mentioned.
    And this is somekind of news? They didnt find any new Dave Mustaine, Courtney Love, Axl Rose or Foo Fighters related "news"?
    Actually, 13 is a great album.. my favorite songs are "God is Dead?" and "Zeitgeist". Awesome Album!
    I hate this attitude about bands. Band members change. It's not as if they lost Ozzy and Iommi and are trying to pass it off as a Sabbath album. In a perfect world no one would die and no one would leave or join your favorite band... but that's not how life is. "13" is a Black Sabbath record - albeit a mediocre one with a good drummer but one that's arguably not Bill Ward. Let's just relax and enjoy music. Or not I guess.
    Love Ward. Loved Wilk's drumming on the album. Also loved Clufetos live. Black Sabbath is solid in the drum department. Accept the fact that Ward isn't on the album, and enjoy the massive drums that Wilk lays down. Would Devin Townsend pass up seeing Sabbath live too because Ward isn't with them? He's missing out...
    "I think the goal with anything I’m working on right now is to take my time with things. If it takes five to ten years, that’s what it takes. If it takes two months, it takes two months," the frontman said. Yeah, say that to Axl Rose...
    "I think the goal with anything I’m working on right now is to take my time with things. If it takes five to ten years, that’s what it takes. If it takes two months, it takes two months," the frontman said." Yeah, tell that to Axl Rose when it came to Chinese Democracy...
    No, I mean, any band without every original member should totally change their name and style, that's what everyone does, right?
    why do i care what devin townsend thinks of black sabbath? it's not like his opinion really counts for anything. i never understood why people have a huge boner for him. quantity over quality lots of albums. not much stand out
    If you don't think any of Townsends albums stand out then must not have listened to any of them. I think every SYL album would beg to differ.
    i'm not saying any of them are bad. but there's sorta no definitive classic dev album' they're all just sort of collections nothing that feels like a cohesive front to back album even zto and decon dont feel that closely linked even as concept albums. he makes lots of good music. but nothing GREAT
    It's simple.They have the naming rights for the name "Black Sabbath", so they are Black Sabbath.