For a side-project to a side-project, Brown Sabbath makes some serious music. An alternate identity for Austin “hardcore Latin funk” band Brownout—which itself began as a side project to the nine-piece funk group (and occasional Prince backing band) Grupo Fantasma, Brown Sabbath is exactly what it sounds like: A Latin-tinged tribute to the music of Black Sabbath that—for reasons that’ll become obvious by the time you click “play” on that link below—quickly took on a life of its own after the band announced it.

“We booked a residency last September at a local club [in Austin] where the plan was to play every Thursday and to do a different theme each week,” Brownout’s Greg Gonzalez says. “One night was break-dancing music called Brownout II: Electric Boogaloo; another night we played the entire James Brown album Black Caesar as ‘Brown Caesar’; one week was a hip hop night called Fear Of A Brown Planet; and for the last night, we did a Black Sabbath tribute show as ‘Brown Sabbath.'”

All of the shows went well for the band, but Brown Sabbath was something special. “It sold out, there was a line around the corner, etc,” Gonzalez says. “As a result, we decided to record an EP of covers, and once Ubiquity Records got wind of the idea, they asked if we would consider doing a full-length—the rest is history.”

There’s a risk involved when you’re a band with three albums of original music who are releasing a record of high-profile covers—that people might forget Brownout in favor of Brown Sabbath. “Ultimately, we are Brownout, and we don’t want people to disregard our three albums of original music and ten years of history to become strictly a Black Sabbath tribute band, no matter how well we can do it,” he says. But when you listen to the band’s instrumental, funky take on “Iron Man,” it’s easy to both want more from Brown Sabbath and to want to hear more of any kind of music from the guys who recorded it. 

That’s part of a lesson, Gonzalez says, that he learned from another high-profile artist: Prince. “I feel that our goal all along was to infuse all of the songs with our own uniquely Brownout character, while still maintaining their essential Sabbath qualities,” he says. “We didn’t want to be a verbatim cover band. Like Prince told us, ‘The key is interpretation not imitation.'” 

“Iron Man” contains a lot of the raw power of the original, but with horns in place of the vocals and a low end that would make Geezer Butler and Bill Ward jealous, it definitely captures Gonzalez’s ambitions. 

Brown Sabbath tour dates (more Texas dates coming soon):

6/5 Los Angeles Satellite
6/6 Las Vegas Brooklyn Bowl
6/7 Las Vegas Brooklyn Bowl
6/8 San Diego Casbah
6/10 Santa Ana Constellation Room
6/11 San Luis Obispo SLO Brew
6/12 Sacramento Harlows
6/13 Hayfork Northern Delights
6/14 Reno Cargo Whitney Peak
6/15 San Francisco independent
6/27 Austin Empire Control Room and Garage
8/2 Portland Pickathon
8/3 Portland Pickathon

(image via Suzanne Cordeiro | Corbis)