By about a thousand lengths, Black Sabbath’s best song is “Supernaut” from Black Sabbath Vol.4. You’re free to argue the point, but you won’t change my mind. Yeah, “Paranoid” and “Iron Man” are obviously among metal’s greatest works, and the MONSTER riffs from “N.I.B.” and “Into the Void” are indelible. But “Supernaut?” BEST. PERIOD. The hefty physicality of Tony Iommi’s performance of the main guitar riff melts me down into a puddle every time I hear it, and when Ozzy wails “I wanna reach out and touch the sky / I wanna touch the sun but I don’t need to fly” I goddamn believe HE CAN, with or without mountains of drugs. It’s absolutely perfect.
For laughs, check out this live performance from 1974. Think the video and sound seem way out of sync? Nope. That’s the cocaine.
I’m also really keen on the earliest years of Ministry, the Chicago band that lurched headlong from Anglophile pop into industrial metal brutality. Their first four albums, from With Sympathy to The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste show a band in constant flux, as though ringleader Al Jourgensen was in a state of permanent artistic transition. He was everywhere in those years, and with multiple side projects—all of which were every bit as worthy as the Ministry mothership—he seemed for a while like a bottomless well of creativity. Watching that band transform into its own polar opposite over the span of those few albums was fascinating to me. (After that I began to find them tedious, but fuck it, plenty of bands don’t even get four interesting records.)
So in 1990, when Jourgensen’s 1000 Homo DJs project (named in honor of the only people Jourgensen thought would embrace the material) released a blistering remake of “Supernaut,” I kind of pantsploded. It’s a reverent cover, one that preserves the excitement of the original, but with industrial production tropes that make it feel meaner, more sinister, an apt home for lyrics like “Don’t try to reach me ‘cause I’d tear up your mind.” The remake also had controversy going for it. Rumor—later established as partly true—had it that the vocalist on the track was Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, whose label, TVT, wouldn’t authorize his appearance on a Wax Trax! release, so Jourgensen had effected his vocals into unrecognizability in post-production. The true part is that Reznor DID record a vocal, but it was scrapped altogether; it was Jourgensen’s distorted singing on the final release.
Reznor’s original vocal track was restored to athe version of the song on the Black Box compilation of Wax Trax! rarites, and just yesterday, a Die Krupps remix of the song, featuring the original Reznor vocal, was released for the first time, having been executed in 1990 but shelved for 25 years. It’s on the new Occult Box compilation, a five-disc trove which also boasts Christian Death’s version of “Venus in Furs” and Psychic TV’s remake of “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun,” among many, many other dark goodies. It’s limited to 666 copies. Ave Satanas.
Previously on Dangerous Minds
Ministry’s first video was for a song that has never been released. Until today. Sort of.
Goofy young Trent Reznor plays a Billy Idol song in his early ‘80s ‘New Wave” cover band