Josefus is one of the greatest heavy metal bands you’ve never heard. Their sound is a blend of blues-rock and heavy metal. One might be tempted to label them as followers of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, but to do so might prove slightly incorrect, as the Houston-based band formed at roughly the same time, with their first recordings coming out before Sabbath’s, and while one might rightly compare Pete Bailey’s falsetto to Ozzy‘s, it in fact sounds like a dead ringer (ahem) for Jeff Buckley.
The album exists in two parts: sides one and two. The first side features five songs of compact, succinct hard rock. “Crazy Man” and “Country Boy’ feel like the blueprints for the burgeoning Southern rock scene, especially Lynyrd Skynyrd. “I Need a Woman” follows, and it’s an amazing workout for Bailey’s powerful voice; he’s singing from a very powerful place, unlike anything else being heard in 1970. Their cover of Rolling Stones classic “Gimme Shelter” feels more like a Rosetta Stone for appreciating the place where Josefus was coming from, as does the obvious lift The Beatles “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” riff in the menacing scorcher, “Proposition.” The seventeen minute jam of “Dead Man,” a dark, ominous rocker that builds and burns, and while it reaches great heights, one can imagine, though, that this was a highlight of the band’s live sets; this studio version of the song has an almost restrained feel to it, one that would surely come out in live performance, and makes one long to see the band onstage to do just that.
On the back of the album cover, the following statement is made: “This record should be played LOUD.” What truer words have been spoken? Dead Man was self-released in 1970, and though it was only heard regionally at the time, it has since became an underground cult classic.
It’s really not hard to understand why.