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Mac Sabbath’s ‘drive-thru metal’ an acquired taste

Mac Sabbath | Jeremy Saffer Photo

Mac Sabbath | Jeremy Saffer Photo

Ronald McDonald’s Playhouse has been crashed by a group of instrument-wielding heathens bringing a new kind of milkshake to the yard — a sweet blend of anti-fast-food manifestos spun to the tune of Black Sabbath’s greatest hits delivered by horror versions of the lovable children’s characters. Mac Sabbath, the creators of the “drive-thru metal” genre (population: 1), don’t even have a recording to their name yet but have steadily been building a following the past four years for their over-the-top mash-up of comedy rock and bizarre theatrics.

MAC SABBATH
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 18
Where: Durty Nellie’s, 180 N. Smith St., Palatine
Tickets: $15 (in advance)
Information: ticketweb.com

On first look, singer Ronald Osbourne, guitarist Slayer MacCheeze, bassist Grimalice and drummer the Catburglar may come off as GWAR on one too many Happy Meals, but there is a PSA mission behind their slapstick. Parodied songs like “Pair-a-Buns” (in the style of “Paranoid”) and “Frying Pan” (“Iron Man”) politicize the fast-food industry, decrying its lack of nutritional value and role in a myriad of health problems and obesity, its use of genetically modified food and low-paying jobs as well as its hypnotic hold on children.

“Ronald Osbourne, this crazed clown, told me that he had traveled here through the time-space continuum to change the current state of food and music and bring us back to a time when both were real and organic,” says Mike Odd, the band’s affable manager and mouthpiece, since no one exactly knows who is behind the masks in Mac Sabbath. Since “coming above ground” in Los Angeles in 2014, the quartet has miraculously been able to stay anonymous and keep spinning its crazy yarn about the band’s origins. Odd, who had previously run a museum called the Rosemary’s Billygoat Odditorium in East Hollywood and is the frontman of the shock-rock, horror-punk band of the same name, said he received a random phone call one day to come to a burger franchise for a “show that would change [his] life.”

Mac Sabbath| Paul Koudounaris Photo

Mac Sabbath| Paul Koudounaris Photo

“So I think I’m going to see like a hamburger bun with Virgin Mary toasted on it or something like that, and I end up in this bomb shelter-like basement in this place for this secret show, leaning up against a package of bleached hamburger buns and watching these fast-food mascots all mutated, screaming about GMOs and Monsanto and playing these Black Sabbath riffs, like nothing I ever experienced,” he recalls. “I wanted to be a part.”

Live shows carry on with that trajectory. Village Voice once said the spectacle feels something like “Hieronymus Bosch’s My Little Pony,” while Buzzfeed has heralded them as a “metal band you don’t know how to react to” in recent years.

“It’s a feast for the senses, with laser-eyed clowns, giant inflatable burgers bopping around the crowd, a big smoking grill as Ronald is flipping burgers,” says Odd. “I don’t want to spoil it too much, but it’s really like a giant multimedia arena stage rock show smashed onto a club stage, and the audience is right up in there and involved. It’s just something you cannot experience on video, even though some think you can.”

Odd is referring to a popular series of music videos and performance footage (their latest, for “Sweet Beef,” was just released and reimagines the band in marionette), which have helped grow Mac Sabbath’s following.

“One of our first gigs was at the Zombie Walk in Long Beach [California], and I filmed some songs and put one on YouTube, and Fox News got a hold of it and said horrible things about it, of course, but that caused other people to catch on. And then even MTV News picked it up and Black Sabbath posted it,” Odd says, recalling how quickly the offers started rolling in. “Before the band even left California we were invited to play the Download Festival in England with Kiss and Judas Priest and then came right back here to play Outside Lands in San Francisco. We went on right before Elton John.”

While Black Sabbath is a fan (Mac recently posted a photo meeting Ozzy Osbourne), Mac Sabbath is not trying to fill any kind of gap now that the metal gods have retired. “But what I do think is important,” says Odd, “is that Mac Sabbath is turning a lot of kids on to music they wouldn’t have normally found out about.” The band’s only physical releases thus far — a demented coloring book and flexi disc (“like you might find in a cereal box”) — drives home that point.

“That was the intention in the beginning: Ronald wants to bring this to the kids. We started playing elementary schools and thought we could get some of that Michelle Obama money,” jokes Odd, “you know, play for the kids during the day and the drunks at night in every city, and hopefully we’ll get back to that since we can’t do too many all-ages shows now,” he continues, asserting the band only eats healthy organic food while on the road. “People expect Mac Sabbath to be some gnarly, evil, metal thing. But there are no references to Satan or sex or drugs. It’s as child-friendly as a birthday party clown could be.”

Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.