Hand of Doom

Live in Los Angeles

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Ozzy Osbourne was a charismatic banshee, pronouncing his words with a smooth clarity and chilling detachment that made him stand out among the many traditional blues-rock vocalists during the early years of metal. Few could possibly manage to harness that unique style, let alone inject their own personality into it. Luckily, one of those few singers is Melissa Auf Der Maur, alternative rock diva and survivor of two of the most trouble-ridden bands of the '90s, Hole and the Smashing Pumpkins. Handling lead vocal duties for the first time in her career, Auf Der Maur mimics Osbourne's delivery perfectly, but she also adds a bit of irony and a heaping helping of sexual tension to make it distinctly her own. There are a lot of cover bands out there, and the superstar lineup (which includes guitarist Guy Stevens, filmmaker Joey Garfield, bassist Molly R. Stern, and drummer Peter Yanowitz) doesn't make Hand of Doom any more important, or better, than the rest. It is Auf Der Maur herself who is the very key to the album, because she does the one thing least expected of an Osbourne cover band: she makes Black Sabbath sexy. Cooing about mass destruction one moment, while delicately mourning lost loves the next, she tears open the mythos behind Black Sabbath and drags out the band's human element, which has rarely been emphasized. Auf Der Maur may not take the same attitude toward the material as Osbourne did, but she understands that his power hinged on the way he sounded when personally affected by the song's topics. In her own twisted, ironic way, she almost seems like the devilish flip side to Osbourne's preachy wail; it's like she invites his "death and hatred to mankind" ethos and could care less about warning the listener. It may not have been her intention (to be honest, it all sounds like drunken fun more than anything), but it is her potent personality that transforms Live in Los Angeles into the cocky slab of heavy rock that it is. To add a final touch of levity, a guest appearance from Queens of the Stone Age vocalist Nick Oliveri provides "The Mob Rules" with every bit of Dungeons and Dragons drama that Ronnie James Dio brought to the original. Where Auf Der Maur's impressions are distinctly her own, Oliveri wraps his voice around the track and delivers a note-perfect impression of Dio that would entertain anyone familiar with the original. Fun, groovy, and strangely sensual, Hand of Doom finds the soul behind all the years of posturing, and reminds listeners that before Black Sabbath were the legendary grandfathers of metal, they were just four guys who made vital, heavy rock.

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