Saturday, November 12, 2011

Black Sabbath reuniting—blech

My love for heavy metal is well documented here. So is my love for Black Sabbath, a band which I consider among the best heavy metal bands of all time (this is hardly a controversial statement, though perhaps some would quarrel with my placing them behind Judas Priest and Iron Maiden). Their first few albums—Black Sabbath, Sabotage, Paranoid, and Master of Reality—are among the greatest the genre has produced. In my mind they are the first heavy metal band (sorry Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple), and so are responsible for launching my favorite genre of music. For that reason alone, Black Sabbath will have my eternal gratitude.

Given those facts, you would think that I’d be doing proverbial backflips over the news that the original Ozzy-fronted Black Sabbath has reunited yet again.

But then, you’d be wrong. I am decidedly less than enthusiastic. The reason is that Ozzy is completely and utterly shot.


I don’t gloat in saying this, it’s just a simple observation. I’ve seen Ozzy in concert many times. I used to go to the Ozzfest every year, until it began drifting from its metal roots into alternative and nu-metal. Once he was great, with a distinctive and wickedly evil voice that puts him in my top 10 greatest metal vocalists ever. No More Tears (1991) was his last decent album, and that was 20 years ago, but when he put his mind to it he could still summon good performances throughout the 1990s. I saw him with Black Sabbath on their 1999 reunion tour and as a unit they were excellent. Tony Iommi played like a metal god, and Geezer Butler and Bill Ward were great as well. They were tight and heavy, and hearing the old familiar riffs of songs like “Children of the Grave” and “Into the Void” was a thrill. Ozzy buckled down and gave a solid performance, if not at the level of the rest of the band.

Much time has passed since then, during which Ozzy has morphed into a full-blown clown. As I continued to go to Ozzfests I witnessed his steady deterioration. He let the crowd sing (without exaggeration) roughly 50% of the material. He forgot the lyrics. When he did sing, he sounded terrible. He became a statue on stage, except when he was turning a water cannon on the crowd, or bobbing up and down in place like a burned-out marionette.

Added to my deep reservations with Ozzy is my general annoyance with the news releases of the event, which have all but erased Ronnie James Dio from memory (this crappy Reuters article seems to imply Black Sabbath disbanded entirely back in 1978). I’m still pissed that Ozzy and wife Sharon forbade the Dio-fronted Heaven and Hell (which included Butler and Iommi) from using the Black Sabbath name in a widely-publicized legal dispute. The last I checked Dio collaborated with the band on three Black Sabbath studio albums, two of which were spectacular, and one of which (Heaven and Hell) I would argue is better than anything the classic Ozzy lineup ever produced. Heaven and Hell (the band) was a vital, creative force, too: Their The Devil You Know is a very underrated album. Sabbath's attempts to record an album with Ozzy in 2001 were a bitter failure.

Now, I will guarantee that the musicianship of the reunited Black Sabbath will be excellent. The guitars, bass, and drums will sound very, very good. Perhaps even great. Iommi is perhaps my favorite all time metal guitarist and seems to have lost nothing off his fast ball. Butler and Ward will slip into their old routines and do just fine.

But Ozzy won’t be able to hold up his end of the bargain.

Who knows? Maybe their forthcoming studio album will rock, they’ll sound great on tour, the old energy and darkness will be back, and I’ll be proven dead wrong. But my heart tells me that it’s time for these guys to let it go.

6 comments:

epg said...

You can't really blame the media for reporting the reunion this way; they largely don't know anything about Black Sabbath, and they've already forgotten Ronnie James Dio's death. So all they have to go on is the press release, which says:

"BLACK SABBATH
REUNITES TO RECORD FIRST NEW STUDIO ALBUM IN 33 YEARS"

http://tonyiommi.com/news.php?story=144

Sad :(

Brian Murphy said...

I'm not as forgiving as you, epg. A 5-second glance at Black Sabbath's Wikipedia page is all that's required of the media. If they can't do that, they're not doing their jobs.

But yeah, it's a lousy press release, and deceptively written. It uses the weasel-y qualifier "original four members" when explaining it will be their first studio album in 33 years.

SubZero Media said...

I was so disappointed not to have seen Dio with Heaven and Hell when he toured Australia a few years back. In my opinion Sabbath was always better with Dio than Ozzy.

Andy said...

The marginalizing of not only Dio, but EVERY member of Black Sabbath beyond the original lineup, to the degree that the originals are the only ones in the Hall of Fame, is a real sticking point with me. Iommi kept that band together and did good material even when Dio wasn't in the band but none of those guys get any respect and the Osbournes now go around flicking stuff at Iommi because they claim he "watered down the brand name" or some crap like that.

As far as the reunion, I'm hoping for best but I can't help feeling skeptical considering how the last attempt to do new material with Ozzy went, and how after that the guys in the group basically said over and over they couldn't write with Ozzy anymore. Even if it turns out well, I suspect it will be a case of Iommi and Butler rescuing Ozzy's carcass only for Ozzy to get all the credit as the savior of the band.

Ben said...

I've seen Ozzy 5 times, his 2003 Ozzfest show he looked like a sad old man. But then he got rid of his hack doctor that was overmedicating him and sounded much better in 2004. You can listen to interviews around that period and tell the improvement. But even that was 7 years ago, and his studio albums haven't been good in the meantime (I agree that nothing has come close to No More Tears).

I'm cautiously optimistic because I'd love to hear more original Sabbath, but it will come down more to Geezer and Iommi's songwriting than anything else.

Scott said...

The other thing to consider is that ticket prices will most likey be retardedly high...I has going to see Priest on their last tour until I saw the seats started at $95...sorry, I have a hard time justifying that much for two bands, even legends.