COURTESY THE MUSIC CASTLE INC.
The phone rang and a violent, thunderous cacophony cracked the sky.
It was Paulette Adamec, lead singer of Mistress of Reality.
On the phone, that is.
The cacophony came from here, courtesy of the Air Force scream team the Thunderbirds, but the timing was apt because her band brings its own brand of ground-shaking din.
Mistress of Reality
» 8 p.m. Friday: Uncle Mikey's in Hilo with opening acts Callous and Twisted Tree (all ages, full bar with ID)
» 10 p.m. Saturday: Hard Rock Cafe in Honolulu with opener Cheesus ($15 tickets, 21 and over only)
Mistress of Reality, billed as the world's only all-female Black Sabbath tribute band, will generate a sonic boom on Friday in Hilo and Saturday at the Hard Rock Cafe in Honolulu.
Adamec, who goes by the stage name "Izzy" in a nod to Sabbath co-founder Ozzy Osbourne, has been singing the lyrics -- and praises -- of the seminal heavy metal band for almost a half-decade.
Put it this way: She's never been in a tribute to Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, or any other storied franchise. "It's been Sabbath from the beginning," she said, adding that the Birmingham, England, quartet is more musically sophisticated than its critics or even its fans realize. "There's a lot of material there. They were all over the place in terms of their writing, their music and their song structure: It's not just verse-verse-chorus, and some of the songs are up to 7 minutes long. There are the solos, and the drumwork -- there are a lot of signature drum rolls that are important to people."
There are a lot of things about Sabbath that are important to pop music in general. Amid the flames, and then ashes, really, of the groovy late-'60s Age of Aquarius, a hippie blues band called Earth turned the corner. "To get attention," as Adamec put it, they turned up their amps, turned spooky and turned into Black Sabbath. Taking their name from a Bela Lugosi horror film, they sang about horrors both real and imagined: the Vietnam War ("War Pigs," "Hand of Doom"), mental illness ("Paranoid," "Fairies Wear Boots") and vengeful robots from outer space ("Iron Man").
And it just so happens each of those little ditties comes from the 1970 album "Paranoid," which remains a staple of classic rock.
The lyrics aside, Black Sabbath could jostle the tectonic plates. There was a THUD, and from ore mined by Cream, Blue Cheer, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and Iron Butterfly, heavy metal was born. Most of it was still blues-based, but Sabbath swung hard. The musicianship was top-notch, especially guitarist Tony Iommi. Like a couple of likewise groundbreaking metal bands that would follow, namely Iron Maiden and Slayer, the attraction can be put thusly: Come for the guitar(s), stay for the rhythm section.
A CHECK of Mistress of Reality's MySpace page (beware the, uh, alternative lifestyle folks using the same name) will prove how well they perform their homage. Their versions of "Fairies Wear Boots" and "Symptom of the Universe" are dead-on, except that Izzy outsings Ozzy. Said Adamec, "We replicate Black Sabbath, but in a little more modern fashion, with a little more ... a harder edge."
"Fashion" is the operative word here, because, well, though the ebony-clad Sabbath's not known for sartorial splendor, these are ladies of style. "I design all the costumes, and each girl has a character, sort of." The bassist is a grunge rocker with a sexy, baby-doll face, Adamec said; the drummer, who is from Milan, Italy, is the "European rocker"; the guitar player is dark and dresses all in "black, like Tony Iommi would." Adamec got her own look from Ozzy's onstage appearance in 1978, his last year as Sabbath's singer. "It's more angelic," she says of her white leather top with fringes hanging off the arms.
There are plenty of tribute bands out there, even some Black Sabbath ones, but Mistress of Reality has earned its rock 'n' roll scars on America's highways. It's a point of pride for Adamec. "For a long time, we were the only tribute act out there that worked the road. We'd go out for three months at a time, up and down and all across the country. No other tribute act was doing that. And that laid the groundwork." In fact, she said, Hawaii is just about the only state they've yet to play.
Black Sabbath can seem a little scary, but when Mistress of Reality gets here, fans of heavy metal can expect more mirth than menace. "We do a couple of fun things with the audience, like when we do 'Iron Man,' we have an audience member come up and say the first line. And we do a cough-off for 'Sweetleaf' " -- in which three volunteers vie for a chance to start that hoary paean to pakalolo by displaying their best hacking spasms for the crowd to judge.
Adamec said her group's followers e-mail from all over the country and as far away as Germany. Metalheads at first came to their shows to see "if we were just gonna fall on our ass," but they didn't, and they won the crowds over.
Prepare to be won over, too.