He is the foundation of an ensemble whose influence, akin to The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin, is incalculable – and will be for as long as there is rock ‘n’ roll. Subtract Ozzy and Bill Ward at your own risk – however if you dare eliminate bassist Terence Michael Joseph “Geezer” Butler from any version of Black Sabbath; call it a Tony Iommi project, with all due deep respect to the iconic guitarist and the gifted musicians who nobly served in Sabbath. I truly wish more metal bassists – and players in general – would emulate the remarkable Mr. Butler. Geezer’s presence on this musical earth exudes the very essence of metal bass – likely because he wrote the book by way of his massive tone which fortifies the sound of metal; along with his execution, technique, and altered tunings; and intelligent use of pedals and effects. By positioning his right hand at the base of the neck or atop the pickups – Butler achieves a brutal crunching resonance that studio bassists and engineers once feared.
As such, the adventurous Geezer Butler transformed that aforementioned taboo into a language all its own. In fact, Butler’s technique is now an essential tool for all serious hard rock bassists. Geezer understands that the bass is not designed to be played fast or flashy – so he doesn’t! Butler’s bass artistry lies firmly in the manner in which he encircles the almighty riff – he dances around it akin to St. Vitus (pun intended)– embellishing Iommi’s maudlin motifs with sustained notes, hammer-ons, and glissandos. The entirety of Butler’s repertoire with Black Sabbath and Heaven & Hell is absolutely indispensable – however my two most revered Geezer works are found within the sinister, captivating grooves of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973) – an album in dire need of a re-master and deluxe edition treatment – and Sabotage (1975). Geezer’s playing on these albums is symphonic in scope – especially in the presence of Yes keyboard master Rick Wakeman. Geezer binds Ward’s jazz chops, Iommi’s wicked melodies, and Ozzy’s demonic wails with extended bass passages that continually unfold and never seem to end…or begin.
I’ve heard scores of metal bassists armed with dexterity and technology. But to my ears, none of them remotely approach the dark brilliance, imagination, and creativity of the originator and the undeniable master of heavy metal rock ‘n’ roll bass– Geezer Butler!