According to guitarist and composer Adrian Quesada, if you told members of Brownout a year ago that the band would spend the summer of 2014 promoting a new album of Black Sabbath covers, they probably would have laughed.
“We’re all pushing 40 and we’re living out our high school fantasies,” Quesada said less than half an hour after Brownout-as-Brown-Sabbath unleashed a guitar-screaming, head-banging, teeth-rattling barrage of weirdly funky heavy metal that raged for more than 90 minutes in April at the Mohawk.
The idea for the project was almost a joke. The band did a month-long residency last September at Frank, and they explored a different kind of music each week. “We’re all (Black Sabbath) fans,” bassist Greg Gonzalez said before the Mohawk gig. “It just seemed like something we could do ‘like, oh yeah this could be easy.’”
The music was more complex than anticipated, but the end result, which finds the band infusing the raw material of classic metal with elements of “pan global funk” — Afro-Cuban and African rhythms and furious blasts of brass — is an obvious hit.
They sold out the Frank shows, and with a new management team that Gonzalez said saw footage from the show and “really bit on the idea,” the band developed a set and recorded a few Brown Sabbath tracks to shop to record labels. Ubiquity Records picked up the project, and the band recorded the album at Cacophony Recorders in Austin over the winter.
Brownout is an ensemble instrumental powerhouse best known for their tightly arranged funk jams, and as such some of the band’s reimagined Sabbath tracks unfold as lengthy instrumentals with ample guitar-hero shredding. But the group clearly understands the importance of Ozzy. On the album, Alex Maas from Black Angels, Alex Marrero and David Jimenez all take turns on vocals. At the Mohawk show Marrero harnessed his inner rock god to destroy the set.
“Alex (Marrero) was a total surprise,” Gonzalez said. “He was like, ‘Man I want to do this, I’m a huge Sabbath fan.’” Marrero is an accomplished drummer and guitarist best known around town for his work with Topaz & Mudphonic and the now defunct long-running local fusion project Ghandaia.
At first the band figured Marrero might add percussion on the tracks he didn’t sing on, but Marrero had other plans. On his own, he developed an elaborate stage routine with half a dozen costume changes, many of which involve different colored guayabera (Mexican wedding) shirts. He felt the gig called for a “go big or go home” approach, and he decided to go huge.
“He just blew our minds,” Gonzalez said.
Minds also were blown in the packed house at the Mohawk. Marrero worked his magic on a sinister rendition of “The Wizard” near the beginning of the set, an epic take on “War Pigs” near the end and others in between.
Brown Sabbath has already sold out the Brooklyn Bowl in NYC and done a run of Colorado dates. They just returned from New Orleans, where they played at Tipitina’s. Debut single “Hand of Doom” featuring Maas on vocals will be released as a vinyl 10-inch on May 27. The full-length album will follow on June 24, and they’ll take their face-melting metal fusion show on the road this summer. The band will preview the madness and mayhem when they show up to “do the devil’s work” at Pachanga Fest.
Brown Sabbath at Pachanga
4:20 p.m. Saturday on the Hierba stage.