Mac Sabbath - live in Mechanicsburg (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Mac Sabbath

live in Mechanicsburg (2016)

live show

If you’re going to take a joke too far, you had damn well better commit to it. The only way to push something from being silly to being groan worthy to being marvelous is to dedicate to craft, be unrelenting, and probably be a little insane. Mac Sabbath, who played Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania on March 24 have all three of these traits in spades.

In case you don’t know, Mac Sabbath is a… ahem… McDonalds themed Black Sabbath cover band. Yes, you did read that correctly.

Just before their March 24 gig began way out in rural PA, the audience was meandering around. Unlike their packed Lancaster show from last year, which was packed with metal-maniacs well aware of the joke, the Mechanicsburg show seemed to be filled with people who were vaguely aware of Black Sabbath and that some sort of Black Sabbath cover band was playing that night. Boy, did they get an ear (and mouth)ful.

A red, yellow, and white curtain was draped across the stage and suddenly, the lights cut out. Sinatra’s “Send in the Clowns” drifted across the speakers as Ol’ Blue Eyes gave his melancholy paean to the tortured entertainers. And then, in a fairly GWAR fashion, the curtain was torn down as the Mac Sabbathians stomped (or waddled) onto the stage as the lumbering bass of “More Ribs” rumbled across the audience. (Yes, the band did have the audacity to convert a song about the horror and brutality of war into being a request for a return of the “McRib.”)

Frankly, it all could have been very silly. (Okay, it is very silly.) It could have been stupid. But, to the contrary, it’s an extremely clever work of art and is certainly the best cover band I’ve ever seen. This all comes from the technique demonstrated in both the art and music.

If anything about this gag was tossed off or half-assed, it would have been boring. But, as Ronald Osbourne wailed away on “Sweet Beef” and “Pair-a-buns”, DAMN. The reason Ozzy is Ozzy despite all his flaws is because he has an immutable, inimitable voice. A blend of soul singer despair and archaic British pagan-wail, Ozzy is both human and inhuman at the same time while seeming totally genuine, even when he’s not.

Except that, maybe Ozzy isn’t so inimitable. Ronald Osbourne, despite singing about chicken McNuggets and getting the shits, inexplicably was able to conjure the depth and feeling from Oz’s own performance despite the fact that he was singing about hamburgers. Don’t ask me how this was possible, but it was. It doesn’t hurt that the songs are really, really funny.

Similarly, between each song, Ronald Osbourne adopted mannerisms similar to the prince of darkness- cackling, that rubberband arm clapping, telling people that “We love you all!- all while putting a sort of demented clown bend on the whole thing. Lest we forget, fast-food themed clowns are clowns and are sort of terrifying at that.

Likewise, the band had to silence any possible detractors. So, they played the Sabbath songs with that slow, lumbering, gravitas. Too many Sabbath covers are muted by too much energy and not enough bluesy-swing. Mac Sabbath seemed to be acutely aware of this and knew that the magic of the heavy metal titans comes not from sheer volume or force, but the ancient, rolling whomp of Bo Diddly and Howling Wolf. Also, guitarist Slayer McCheese has Warpig tusks and that is hilarious. Bassist Grimalice, despite being a large mound of purple, really did look evil with his clenched eyebrows. Drummer catburglar seems perhaps the most sinister- his counterpart steals burgs, but it seems as though Catburglar actually breaks into people’s houses which is a great deal more menacing.

Throughout the show, Ronald Osbourne would perform magic tricks, such as removing his underwear without taking off his pants- it was suitably goofy and perfectly perverted for an evil, fast food, heavy metal clown. My personal favorite trick was when he removed a 10 foot giant straw from his pants (no idea how he pulled that off) and then beer bonged from it while the band played.

I don’t know if there is any greater meaning from Mac Sabbath than the face value. What I do know, is that this should not work as well as it does. But, through the sheer force of willpower, and a great deal of craft, it goes from being a maybe-funny-3-minute joke, to a captivating 90 minutes. Maybe that’s the lesson. Black Sabbath was constantly searching for the meaning of life and the existence of a universal justice throughout their catalogue. Perhaps, MAC Sabbath, having 46 years of BLACK Sabbath’s research to go off of, have found the answer to be null, and that the only answer to existence is a sheer, grimacing absurdity. As I said, this should not work as well as it does, or at all, but it’s astounding- so, I’m inclined to agree with Mac Sabbath on this one.