Cast your minds back to a time when metal music was not cool. Nay, indeed, a time when metal was anathema to all that was considered to be “chic” and “in.” A time when your favorite bands were actually encouraged by the music industry to play slower, cut their hair, and write sensitive lyrics about their childhoods. Yes, this unfortunately really happened. 

Our semi-irregular feature “90s Metal Weirdness” focuses on albums released between 1992 and 2001 and which we all probably would rather forget. But in the service of publicly shaming the musicians involved, we have pushed forward. — AMG

G/Z/R: Plastic Planet (1995)

The Back Story:  Not even legendary bassist Geezer Butler was immune to the exotic charms of 90’s Metal Weirdness. Fresh off one of his many hiatuses from Black Sabbath, Butler conceived a new project, based upon a heavier, more modern style of metal. For this new endeavor, he recruited drummer Deen Castronovo (the two had recently collaborated on Ozzy Osbourne‘s Ozzmosis album), and his nephew Pedro Howse on guitar.

Given that the new band was influenced considerably by Fear Factory, it made sense to recruit a vocalist directly from the source. Vocals on Plastic Planet were performed by Burton C. Bell, who had just finished recording a little album called Demanufacture.

What Does It Sound Like: Above-average groove/modern metal, with occasional bursts of really cool bass playing. Fear Factory and Pantera are obvious reference points; there are occasional textures that recall Ministry‘s heavier moments as well. At the time, I was pretty shocked that an old-schooler like Butler would be involved in a record this abrasive.

Opener “Catatonic Eclipse” sets the tone with some vaguely progressive, keyboard-accented groove metal, while first single “Drive Boy Shooting” is an almost-industrial slogfest. The title track features near-hardcore riffage, a powerhouse performance by Castronovo, and Butler’s trademark walking basslines. “Seance Fiction” is more on the doom side, and would have made an excellent Sabbath track. The sparse, acoustic “Cycle of Sixty” closes the album on a haunting note, tarnished only by some absolutely terrible singing (subtlety was never Bell’s thing).

Awkward Personal or Political Lyrics? Only a fool would underestimate Butler’s lyrical prowess, considering that he wrote nearly every word on the first eight Sabbath discs. A lot of Plastic Planet seems to explore technological or sci-fi themes, not far removed from the subject matter on Sabbath‘s Dehumanizer album. This occasionally results in some terminology that has not aged well (cyberspace!), but the overall dystopian vibe is conveyed very clearly.

Social issues are tackled on “Drive Boy Shooting” and “The Invisible,” while “House Of Clouds” seems to address mental illness. “Giving Up The Ghost” lashes out at Tony Iommi for refusing to pull the plug on Sabbath, and somehow works in a reference to the Rosanna Arquette film Desperately Seeking Susan as well. Oh, and “Detective 27” is awesome in spite of (because of?) literally being a song about Batman.

Were Haircuts Involved? Butler may have upgraded his sound for the alt-metal era, but visually, he would make no such compromise. Much to his credit, his long hair and porno mustache would remain intact for the rest of the 20th century. The other three guys could be from any R.I.P. magazine band photo circa the mid-1990s.

How Bad Was It Really? I can honestly rank this album above all of Fear Factory‘s output except Demanufacture (OK, maybe Obsolete too). It also kicks the living shit out of Black Sabbath‘s Geezer-less Forbidden record, which came out around the same time. Plastic Planet is very much of its era, but manages to incorporate a lot of 90’s Metal’s strengths and few of its weaknesses. The album’s mix, by Paul Northfield (Rush, Queensryche), has also aged pretty well compared to most metal albums from 1995.

The Aftermath: The original G/Z/R lineup didn’t do much to support Plastic Planet. Bell obviously had business to tend to with Fear Factory, and Butler made nice with Tony Iommi in time for Sabbath‘s 1997 reunion. Castronovo eventually enjoyed a lengthy tenure with Journey, but lost that gig after being arrested for assault in June 2015.

Butler and Howse continued to make records under the G/Z/R name (or some variation thereof) occasionally. Vocalist Clark Brown replaced Bell for Black Science (1997) and Ohmwork (2005). Butler has mostly been focused on Black Sabbath since then, but with that band’s farewell tour coming to a close, could a G/Z/R resurgence be in the cards? Only time will tell.

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  • This thing has held up better than one would expect.

  • RF2000

    A most excellent album

  • Bas

    I liked this quite a bit back then. Havent listened to it for a long time.. Thanks for reminding me. I will listen to it tonight.. How are the other GZR albums? I didnt know there were other ones!

    • I own all 3 records by Geezer (or however the band name is written), and although I don’t listen to them that often, I usually pick Black Science. Until writing this, I never thought about why that album is my preferred Geezer album, but I think it’s because I like Clark Brown’s vocals better than Burton C. Bell’s on Plastic Planet. Musically, both albums are similar.
      Avoid Ohmwork at any cost! (Unless you’re into uninspired nu-metal, then go ahead and listen).

      BTW, dr. Fisting, thanks for the post! 90s Metal Weirdness is a fun series :) I didn’t expect to read about this album. I’ll give it one more spin tomorrow.

      • Yay for Black Science! Came here to make the point that I STILL really like that album. In terms of it being dated, it was never even remotely cool, even back then, which helps it when I give it a spin now…

    • Dr_Fisting

      I recall “Black Science” having its moments. Never really heard “Ohmwork” but people seem to dislike it.

    • Carl Anderson

      I rate Black Science a bit higher — but, really, it’s all gonna depend on your particular mid-’90s metal perversions. :)

  • DrewMusic

    Indeed, a time when Anathama was metal.

  • LExpoZiod

    Nothing says 90’s like badly photostitched cover art!

    • BilboBaggins

      The early days of Photoshop


      And a band name that is a nonsensical combo of letters, numbers, and/or punctuation.

      Come to think of it, there was probably a 90’s band called And/Or.

      • [not a Dr]

        It’s far from nonsensical. it’s the consonants of Geezer. Jawas have a language like that. I understand, basic arab writing often ommits the “accents” or markers that indicate what vowel to use in a word and only indicate the consonant sounds. Mainframe programmers also slash down the vowels to get their keywords to fit in under 8 characters.

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    Killed many brain cells listening to this!

  • Norfair Legend

    I remember seeing G/Z/R at the Metro here in Chicago for the first album tour. Was a weird show because G/Z/R was listed as the headliner but Life of Agony played after and were not even on the ticket.

    I don’t think anyone knew because after G/Z/R, everyone left. There were about 10 people including my friend and I watching Life of Agony.

    G/Z/R was good though, forgot about them shortly after but for the moment it was cool.

    • Dr_Fisting

      That sounds like a very weird and extremely ’90s show. I wish I’d seen it.

  • Carlos Proaño

    Hey, it´s preety good. The 90’s weren’t such shit after all. By the way, why the hell does the record ot the month from last March appear as the background to ATM? I mean, I like King Goat, but still, why?

    • Because that was selected as Record o’ the Year.

      • André Snyde Lopes

        You guys didn’t update the side bar. I can see how it could be confusing.

      • Carlos Proaño

        Oh, I was rooting for Khemmis, but still, awesome record

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        When is the Award Ceremony going to take place?

        • It already occurred when AMG named King Parrot his Album o’ the Year.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra
          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            For real lolz

          • Dead1

            Erm there was no King Parrot album out this year. Otherwise it would’ve been my album of the year as well.
            It was King Goat.

          • Yep, King Goat. I misspoke. Erm.

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            Can you go back in and edit AMGs post so that King Parrots last album is AMGs 2016 RotY…

            It would be pretty funny…

            Think of it as revenge for Glory Hammer…

          • Thatguy

            King Parrot!
            Shit on the Liver is song of the week every week.

  • Luke_22

    I need to dust this off again. Strange album indeed, but a pretty cool one when it moves beyond the cheese.

  • Dead1

    Never heard of this so thanks for dredging it up.
    Looking forward to checking it out!

  • Wilhelm

    I look back on this with nostalgia, never did actually listen to this one many times (Because I think that I only had a dubbed cassette that was of bad quality) but listening to it now, it’s pretty good mainstream metal.

  • Captain Craig MacKenzie

    Managed to catch the Black Science tour at Grafitti when they opened for Bruce Dickinson. Hung out at the bar with Clark & Pedro after the show. Really great down to earth guys. Clark reminded me of Mike Patton (whom I had met before as well). Great voice, wild stage antics, and fun to party with.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    This is why I love these semi irregular features!
    I have no idea wether or not I completely missed this or have completely forgotten about it! The album art is so bad it loops into being kind of retro and nostalgically good… more 90s hypnotic weirdness!
    Thanks Dr I’ve always admired Geezer. I’ll look forward to checking this out.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      If this was a book it REALLY should not be judged by its cover.

  • Thais Munk

    Apart from Butler, those guys looks like they just stepped off the set of Clerks or something equally extremely nineties.

    Great write-up, thanks!

    • Dr_Fisting

      I was thinking “Airheads,” but yeah, same difference.

  • SuzyC

    This album is sublimely heavy, but the songwriting quality is inconsistent. The good songs are great. The others, easily forgetable. I liked Black Science a lot more though it wasn’t nearly as heavy.

  • gus rodrigues

    I remember listening to it at the time it was launched and I thinking it wasn’t a bad effort! but it wasn’t good enough for me to spend my money on it. I don’t know why, but seeing this reminded me of Fight… loved their first album (saw them live just after they launched their debut) but never ended up buying their second…

  • Treble Yell

    How did I not know about this? To Spotify!

  • Rob

    I respect the 90’s for being as experimental as it was, and being the last decade to have some kind of aesthetic identity, even if that was to be fucking strange. Most artists felt safe just throwing everything at the wall to see what stuck. Some worked, but even the stuff that didn’t is today regarded with kind nostalgia. This is definitely a product of the times, but damn if that tone and groove isn’t fucking tasty.

  • Sophocles

    Although I bought it back then, I have no recollection of the cover. The embedded music helped me remember it. 90’s was a black hole for some of us regarding metal…

  • basshole

    Had a few decent songs. It is in no way, shape or form, better than Mechanize or Soul of a New Machine.

    • Dr_Fisting

      You’re probably right about Soul Of A New Machine, I kinda forgot about that one. But Mechanize? Nah.

      • basshole

        Mechanize fucking crushes. The simple fact that Hoglan is on it makes it better than g/z/r. Final Exit? Fear Campaign? Powershifter? Oxidizer? I’d have to pull this album out again, but from what I remember only like 2 songs were any good.

        • Dr_Fisting

          Gene Hoglan is great, but his presence doesn’t automatically make a record better (see also Dethklok, Testament).

        • Ted Nü-Djent ™

          Agreed on Mechanize

  • DrChocolate

    I actually found my copy of this in storage a little over a year ago and spun it a bunch then. Oddly and inexplicably, it’s very dated sounding, but it has aged well at the same time. Man, I loved Fear Factory back then…whole reason I bought this record.

    As a side note: I’m shocked, and a little disappointed, that there has yet been no ’90’s Metal Weirdness for Grip Inc. ‘The Power of Inner Strength’ is begging for one of these features, high quality record with all the requisite ’90’s-ness to it.

    • Dr_Fisting

      Ooooh, that would be a good one. Noted!

  • h_f_m

    Pantera and Sweden basically kept metal alive in the mid-late 90s.