Formed 45 years ago, in 1968, before some of us at Standing Room Only Magazine were even born, Black Sabbath came to pass. Hailing from Birmingham, England these young men first went by the name The Polka Tulk Blues Band, and then by the name Earth. Thanks be to the Gods of Metal that they didn’t settle with those, and instead adopted the moniker Black Sabbath. Nothing containing the word polka is about to strike fear and awe into a living soul. The original four that make this historic band what it is are as follows: guitarist- Tony Iommi, bassist- Geezer Butler, drummer- Bill Ward and singer- Ozzy Osbourne. Only Tony Iommi has remained the single constant throughout the history of Sabbath. The lineup of the band has changed many, many times in the course of 45 years. In 1979 Ozzy was released from the band due to his infamous drug abuse. Replacing him was the daunting task assumed by Ronnie James Dio, for a few albums. Then in the 80’s and 90’s turn-overs abounded again.
When you look back at the career of the Fathers of Heavy Metal, the new release “13” comes 43 years after the debut of their first album entitled simply, “Black Sabbath”. This was released on Friday the 13th, February 1970. The opening track of the same name begins with the sounds of pelting rain falling in a cold, dark thunderstorm. The mood set by this cascading torrent carries on into the music, and stays with you throughout, getting into your bones. The only word I can find to describe the very first track given to the world on their very first album is haunting. Now remember what I just described to you, dear reader, there will be a test shortly.
Not taking a moment to rest, just four months later work began on the second album Paranoid, and the title single was released in September, with the album following in October. The amazing thing to note about Paranoid, an anthem of historic rock legend, is that it was made up on the spot at the last-minute. There were not enough songs for the album and in a mad rush to fill the empty spot, Iommi played the famous rift that we all know so well, and in 25 minutes, Paranoid was born. To make it even more incredible, this remained the bands only top 10 single. The album was pushed to number one by the popularity of the song when it came out the following month. If you have a child between the ages of 5 and 15, they are probably huge fans of Paranoid, thanks to its new life through the video game Guitar Hero. I know my kids didn’t believe me when I told them I grew up to the song they jam to in front of the TV. The album Paranoid also spawned the hit song Iron Man, which to this day is still receiving radio air play. The album was credited by many critics as being the single most important and influential album to happen to heavy metal music.
The legacy of music created by Black Sabbath has born a total of 19 studio albums. The 1970’s Paranoid endeavor went quadruple platinum. The band has earned MTV’s “Greatest Metal Band of All Time” and ranked second on VH1’s “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock” behind Led Zeppelin. In the United States, Black Sabbath has sold over 15 million records, worldwide the total is a staggering 70 million. In 2006 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Needless to say, based on these merits, the fellows of Black Sabbath have more than earned the right to kick back and enjoy retirement, as the royalty checks continue to roll in. But that is not how these God’s of Rock choose to go down. The release of “13” this June is being accompanied by a worldwide tour to the absolute thrill of their fans.
***Allow me to digress please, but SOME of the staff here at SroMag.com are actually going to be attending the Tampa, Florida show July 29th. Friends of SRO and Nikki Savannah, I did not get a ticket. Yes… I know. Shocking! I feel this was a sad oversight by management, and please request that you join me in messaging Johnny Falcon on Facebook, to let him know that this injustice must be rectified. Rant finished, I thank you for your patience….***
Now I want to say for the record that 13 is in my opinion, brilliant! From the first time I heard the initial release “God is Dead?” they had me right back in their grip. Time absolutely ceases to exist when you listen to this album. I cannot say enough about the talents of Tony Iommi…and the amazing way he speaks through his guitar. Are these guys really in their late 60’s? Just to humor myself, I put on the headphones and would play a track from 13, and then a track from Paranoid. Back and forth I went, through their catalog of music, including the Dio era stuff. This is no last-ditch effort to make some money, or some poorly put together “old-timer’s” assortment for the Geritol crowd. Black Sabbath 13 brings it all and then some! Ozzy sounds better than ever. Geezer keeps the pulsing base thrumming in your veins. It is next to impossible to sit still while you listen. Brad Wilk is the man on the drums for 13, and he positively kills!!! If you don’t know who Brad is, think Audioslave and Rage Against the Machine.
The opening song “End of the Beginning” starts off with this slow, methodical heartbeat of old Sabbath and slowly builds to a mind-blowing, head banging rockfest. The music is so powerful and strong, but expertly blended with the vocals, which are strong and the best I can remember from Ozzy. The drums are powerful. Age of Reason showcases the musicians like no other on the album. But when I think that is my favorite track, Live Forever grabs me. Oh, wait… no Dear Father, yep, that’s my favorite, for the moment. The album contains eight tracks, some of which go for well over eight minutes. God is Dead? is just short of nine. These are classic Sabbath, in the ride you are taken for. Up, down, fast, slow, hypnotic to head banging… Iommi, Osbourne and Butler bring their very best to the fans. Oh, did I mention the three bonus tracks? If you have to pick with or without, the extra few bucks is more than worth it. Peace of Mind and Pariah both battle for my favorite. Yes, again? I really cannot pick just one. Now in closing, if you were paying attention earlier, I said there would be a quiz. I hope you paid attention, because I think it is beyond stellar!!!
On the first song of the very first album ever produced by Black Sabbath in 1970, the opening greets you to the sounds of a thunderstorm, setting a heady mood. On the last track, Dear Father, on the album 13, the last sound you hear is the storm closing in on you again. Goose bumps? I hope so, because that is how I reacted when I learned of it. Forty-three years in the making, the storm rages on. The circle is complete.
For more information on the members of Black Sabbath, please continue reading below….
Peace and Love <3,
The history of this band is so lengthy and full of amazing facts that just leave me in awe that they are alive and here to create for us over four decades later an album like 13. The cornerstone and anchor of the band, Tony Iommi announced in January of 2012 that he was battling lymphoma, a very serious form of cancer. Not to be stopped, Tony was in the studio with Ozzy and Geezer while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Thankfully he continues in his recovery and is on the road for the US tour by Sabbath beginning in Texas July 25th. His biography Iron Man is a best seller and must read for every true Sabbath fan.
Born Terence Michael Joseph Butler, Black Sabbath bassist Geezer, has gone by the nickname since childhood. He is also one of the primary lyricists for Black Sabbath, and pulls inspiration from his fascination with religion, the darkness of the human condition, science fiction and horror. During his off times from Sabbath, Geezer worked with solo projects and even opened for Ozzy on some tours. Projects that he pursued however never stopped him from finding his way home to Iommi when the family Sabbath beckoned.
Bill Ward was the founding drummer for Black Sabbath, and throughout the years has been a fairly constant in the band. However, health issues sidelined him for a time and other drummers were brought in as needed, most notably Vinny Appice. It was always a given however that Ward was THE drummer of Black Sabbath, so it has come as a shock and surprise to most everyone that when it came time to start work on 13, rumor has it that issues with his contract could not be ironed out. Therefore Ward is not the drummer on this latest album, nor at this time does it appear he will be performing with the band when touring starts. It is a real shame in my opinion that this historic event will not represent the full, original foursome. Some of the famous names in rock that credit Bill Ward as their inspiration include; Alex Van Halen, Lars Ulrich, Dave Grohl and Peter Criss. It is likely safe to say that he will be missed by the die-hard fans during this tour.
Last, but by no means least, the Prince of Darkness, the Godfather of Heavy Metal, Ozzy Osbourne, himself. There are no words to describe the odds this man has overcome to still be standing, let alone performing in a North American tour for the newly released 13! The years apart from Black Sabbath were no hardship on Ozzy’s career. My years of metal worship consisted of Diary of a Madman, Blizzard of Ozz and Bark at the Moon. My poor mother’s knees must have grown achy from her continual prayers that I not become demon-possessed, as she claimed I would because of her constantly finding me asleep with my headphones on, Ozzy whispering softly, seductively my ear, followed by that famous evil laugh.
Even though he was essentially kicked out of Black Sabbath in 1979 because of his excessive drug abuse, there never seemed to be a true break in the bond between the guys. Reunions and concerts were always bringing them back together. Despite his successes and the spotlight being on him, rumors have been going around that at the age of 65, Ozzy has again relapsed into drugs and alcohol. A public apology to his wife Sharon, his family and his fans was made via social media this past April. Here is my fervent prayer that he will again find the strength to get clean and sober, and that everyone that is fortunate enough to see him during this concert series will wish him love and strength. The Prince of Darkness has certainly had his own share of demons.
Then and Now…