History & BiographyConsidered by many as the definitive heavy metal band, Black Sabbath was formed in Birmingham in 1967. The band began its tour as a blues band, but by the time Black Sabbath was released, the charismatic singer, the scales of the guitarist and the stunning rhythm section mixed with the macabre lyrics and morbid imagery to give the band a downright evil feel. The band’s main music writer was Iommi, who actually had jazz influences. The Irishman Geezer handled lyrics. He was also a rhythm guitarist. The band played locally and in Germany often. Black Sabbath was signed by a new Philips imprint called Vertigo and was an immediate success. By the mid-’70s, the band's habits got the better of them and things begin to drift. A tour with Van Halen, with the Americans at their prime, was sort of a swansong for the veterans who were occasionally overshadowed by the openers on the trek. An era came to an end when in 1979 Osbourne left the band. The band was far from finished however. With former Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio, the Sabs found a most respectable replacement and delivered two studio and one live album to massive acclaim. Interestingly, Dio's replacement in Rainbow Graham Bonnet was also approached to join Black Sabbath in 1980. While Bill Ward was out of the band in 1980 after only a few shows in support of Heaven And Hell – he was drinking and was unfit – Geezer had also been in and out several times during the same period. The initial bassist for this era was Craig Gruber of Elf who contributed to the writing for Heaven And Hell. Geezer Butler was going through a divorce and was unavailable at first. He would rejoin the band and claim that he rerecorded the parts Gruber had put to tape. It was later rumoured that Heaven And Hell was not only about the suppressed and downtrodden, but Dio's reference to Rainbow's Ritchie Blackmore. Sandy Pearlman managed the band at this time. He also managed Blue Oyster Cult. Consequently, the two bands were touring using the monicker Black And Blue. The bands had developed both an animosity and intense rivalry and conflict during the tour. Ego problems like mixes of the album and the placement of band members' names on album jackets saw Ronnie and Appice depart to form Dio. Simultaneous to Live Evil, former singer Osbourne had also released a live album and verbal wars raged over the albums' merits. Live Evil was not a true live album as the instruments were rerecorded for six months after the fact. Bob Catley of Magnum was rumoured to be taking the place of former singer Ian Gillan who had sung on Born Again. The rest of the '80s saw many members come and many more members go with the band at one point becoming an Iommi solo effort. The material, while good in itself, was very different from the stellar results of the past. At one point, Tony Martin replaced American singer Ray Gillen mid-way through the recording of an album. Dio returned (with Appice in tow) for one album before leaving for not wanting to open for the "clown" and “jerkoff” i.e. Ozzy Osbourne. Judas Priest's Halford was recruited for one show where Black Sabbath opened for what was supposed to be Ozzy Osbourne’s final concert. In a 1994 video interview Dio would call Iommi and Geezer stupid assholes for breaking up the band to open for Ozzy Osbourne. In the meantime, with Tony Martin upfront the band toured with Motorhead and Morbid Angel.
Inevitably, 1998 saw the return of Ozzy Osbourne for multiple one-off and farewell tours and the band recorded a live album featuring two new songs. Bill suffered a heart attack during this period. A promised studio album was on and then off. Black Sabbath was ignoring its latest farewell tour and headlining Ozzfest in 2000. The band played the OzzFest again in 2004. The band's performance that year with Rob Halford on vocals on August 26th at Ozzfest in Camden, New Jersey would be issued as a video and audio. Black Sabbath co-headlined Ozzfest with Iron Maiden, but could not play all shows as Ozzy was taken ill. Tony Iommi began hosting a weekly radio show on the U.K.'s rock radio station Planet Rock in late 2005. In early 2006, Ronnie James Dio wrote several new songs with guitarist Tony Iommi to be included on an upcoming sampler called Black Sabbath: The Dio Years. The musicians regrouped with Ronnie James Dio under the Heaven & Hell monicker for new music and concerts. Don Arden (born Harry Levy), the former manager of the band, and the father of Sharon Osbourne, died on July 21st of 2007 at the age of 81. Heaven & Hell continued its recording and touring through 2009. Ozzy Osbourne was suing guitarist Tony Iommi in 2009 for the rights to the name and trademark of Black Sabbath. Apparently, Iommi had trademarked the group’s name in the United States several years prior. Ozzy opined that he should have a 50% ownership and ultimately there should be a four-way divide between he, Iommi and bassist Butler and drummer Ward. Eventually Iommi and Osbourne ended up having a 50-50 split stake in the name's ownership. Ronnie James Dio was abruptly hospitalized in November of 2009 and diagnosed with “early stages” of stomach cancer. The Dio tour of Europe was cancelled. Dio was 67 years old. Moreover, Heaven & Hell and Dio drummer Vinny Appice underwent surgery on his right shoulder on Monday, November 30th following an injury that occurred during the last Heaven & Hell tour.
Deep Purple/former Black Sabbath singer Ian Gillan and Black Sabbath/Heaven & Hell guitarist player Tony Iommi initiated a project band named Who Cares in 2010 for raising funds for re-establishment of music schools in Armenia. In 1989, within the framework of Rock Aid Armenia, the British rock stars recorded Deep Purple's classic Smoke On The Water and also released a disc called Rock Aid Armenia.
Ronnie James Dio died on Sunday the 16th of May at 7:45 a.m. PST due to stomach cancer. He was hospitalized for the last time on the 14th of May. At the time of his death, he was the singer for Dio and Heaven & Hell. He was formerly with Elf, Rainbow and Black Sabbath among others. Following singer Ronnie James Dio's diagnosis of stomach cancer in November of 2009 Heaven & Hell had cancelled all its summer shows including an appearance at 2010's Bloodstock. His death was first rumoured the night before and subsequently denied by his wife and manager Wendy Dio. Ronnie James Dio was 67. There was a public memorial service for Dio on Sunday, May 30th at 2:00 p.m. at The Hall Of Liberty at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, 6300 Forest Lawn Drive in Los Angeles.
Former Black Sabbath singer Tony Martin, King Diamond guitarist Andy LaRocque, ex-Hammerfall bassist Magnus Rosén and Venom drummer Danny Needham formed an unnamed project in 2011. The band was writing material at LaRocque's Sonic Train Studios in Varberg, Sweden. In September, Tony Iommi was conducting a book signing tour in the U.K. and New York to promote his Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven And Hell With Black Sabbath autobiography. The book was released in the United States on November 1st through Perseus Books/DeCapo Press.
Beginning late summer of 2011, the band’s original line-up began rehearsing and writing again and only leaking controlled information to fans and the press. The band’s last attempt at a reunion had fallen apart and it was not clear if things would work out this time, but the group officially reformed and announced an album, tours and Rick Rubin as a producer. An album was due in the summer of 2012. The band signed with Vertigo for the album, which was due in the autumn of 2012, and booked for June’s Download Festival in the UK. Guitarist Iommi and singer Osbourne had also dismissed their lawsuit over the band’s name ownership. Guitarist Tony Iommi was diagnosed with lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphocytes, a type of cell that forms part of the immune system however. He was 63 years old. The reformed Black Sabbath was working on a new album with Ozzy Osbourne. The band still intended to play at UK’s Download Festival in June. Other festivals were cancelled. At the same time, Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward announced that he would not participate in the recording of the reunited line-up's new album or perform with them on tour unless he was awarded a "fair agreement" and a "signable contract" that financially reflected his contributions to Sabbath's history and his status as a founding member of the band. Before its show at 2012’s Download festival, Black Sabbath would perform at its hometown of Birmingham for the first time in thirteen years at the O2 Academy on Saturday, May 19th. Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne would then perform many of the previously announced Black Sabbath European concerts, but be billed as Ozzy Osbourne & Friends. These were the dates originally planned with guitarist Tony Iommi, which were cancelled given the guitarist’s cancer. Part of the band were Zakk Wylde and Slash.
Black Sabbath picked 13 as the title for its first record with Ozzy Osbourne since 1978. It would be issued in June through Vertigo. The drums were recorded by Rage Against The Machine’s Brad Wilk following original drummer Bill Ward's contractual disputes with the group. Several band members claimed a desire to have Ward in the band, while pointing out his lack of stamina. Apparently, the rest of the band did not personally intervene to see Ward join the line-up.13 landed at position #1 in the UK. Black Sabbath would make a network television appearance when the band performs a new song called End Of The Beginning on the 2013 season finale of serial CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. The episode was set to air in the US of A onWednesday, May 15th. Black Sabbath’s DVD, Live... Gathered In Their Masses, would be issued on November 26th, 2013 through Vertigo. The video featured footage from the band's April 29th and May 1st, 2013 concerts in Melbourne, Australia in support of the band’s 13 album. In 2014, Black Sabbath was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Album for 13, as well as Best Metal Performance and Best Rock Song for God Is Dead. The band continued touring. Black Sabbath was given the Grammy in the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance category at the 56th annual Grammy Awards, for the song God Is Dead?, which was held on January 26th, 2014 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Black Sabbath would headline British Summer Time, a show at London’s Hyde Park. Also playing on Friday July 4th, 2014 were the likes of Motorhead, Faith No More and Soulfly. Warner Brothers rereleased Black Sabbath’s first eight albums in Black Sabbath: Complete Studio Albums (1970-1978). The eight-disc boxed set was available on April 15th. Black Sabbath would end its 2014 tour for the 13 album at a July 4 concert at London's Hyde Park. According to guitarist Tony Iommi, it might be the last time Black Sabbath ever appears live. More marketing followed when the band with Ozzy Osbourne announced they would likely record a new album and do one last tour in 2015. In the meantime, Tony Iommi became an instructor of music at Coventry University in the U.K. Geezer Butler was involved in a fight on January 27th, 2015 at the Corkscrew Saloon on the Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley, California ultimately leading to his arrest. The local cops reported a broken window and drunkenness. He was charged with a misdemeanour and released. Black Sabbath claimed it would play its "farewell" concert at 2015’s Ozzfest Japan, which would take place November 21-22 at Makuhari Messe near Tokyo. Ozzfest was returning this year after a prolonged absence. Accountable Beasts, drummer Bill Ward's first solo album in eighteen years, was released through iTunes in the spring of 2015. The songs featured Ward's own drumming on seven of the album's nine cuts, as well as contributions from Keith Lynch (guitar and keyboards), Paul Ill (bass) and Ronnie Ciago (drums). In the meantime, Ozzy Osbourne claimed that 2016 would bring the final Black Sabbath shows ever. In 2015, Black Sabbath members Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler were on stage with their former drummer Bill Ward to accept a lifetime achievement award. Ward and the rest of the band had been at odds since the drummer was excluded from the reunion. The trio that was Black Sabbath announced a tour using the monicker The End for January 2016. The band was promising that the tour of Canada, Australia and USA was its last. Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler apologized to former drummer Bill Ward for claiming the band's founding drummer was invited to take part in Black Sabbath's final show when the latter man was not. Ward had earlier noted he was not and Butler had contradicted his former band-mate. The band announced its last show for March 2016, but a Birmingham show was planned next. Guitarist Tony Iommi was looking to record new material with former singer Tony Martin. Bill Ward was in a new band called Day Of Errors. The group featured Joe Amodea on guitar and singer and bassist Nick Diltz. In the meantime, Black Sabbath itself was playing its post final show and final tour concerts. It claimed it would play its last US show on November 12 at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. Black Sabbath had been playing farewell shows for years including in 2015 and 2016 (prior to the 1990s' farewell tour). Former Blue Oyster Cult and Black Sabbath manager Sandy Pearlman died in the summer of 2016 at the age of 72. A reported 13,000 people attended the latest iteration of Black Sabbath’s final North American show on the 12th of November 2016 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. The band was to play the most recent farewell shows in South America and Europe next. Former Black Sabbath keyboardist Geoff Nicholls died due to lung cancer. He was 68 years old. Nicholls was a former Quartz member whose 1977 debut was produced by Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi. Nicholls was with the band from 1980 to 1995 and also played on former Black Sabbath singer Tony Martin’s solo records and a band called Johnny Neal And The Starliners.
Black Sabbath’s The End DVD was out through Eagle Vision/Universal Music Group in 2018. It was mainly shot at the Genting Arena in Birmingham, UK. The Ninth Star was an album by project act Emerald Sabbath featuring a dozen former members playing the latter band’s tunes. Names participating included Bev Bevan, Terry Chimes, Laurence Cottle and more in 2018. Iommi announced he would attend a commemorative event organized by Westside Business Improvement District in Birmingham on February 9th 2019 where a dedicated bench to the band was to be unveiled. Black Sabbath made available a new Black Lives Matter shirt with the words drawn in the style of the cover of 1971’s Master Of Reality. Birmingham Royal Ballet announced Black Sabbath: The Ballet, at London, England’s Sadler’s Wells for October 18th to 21st 2023. This followed the Birmingham run of shows. The performance featured eight Black Sabbath songs, original compositions and both guitar and drums on the stage. Iommi had supervised the planning. He ended up appearing on stage briefly as well. Rhino/Warner was releasing a box set called Hand Of Doom 1970 - 1978 in August 2023. The collection contained eight picture discs featuring the band’s full-length catalogue from the 1970s. Osbourne called Butler, "fucking arsehole" in an interview claiming the bassist had not called to inquire about his health issues. Butler noted that he had indeed contacted Osbourne through his wife/manager and not heard back. Gibson guitar launched the Gibson Band, which was supposed to feature a revolving line-up of musicians that use the guitars. A lyric video for the Gibson Band's first single, Deconstruction, which was co-written by Serj Tankian of System Of A Down and Cesar Gueikian CEO of Gibson, and also featured Tony Iommi was available. The proceeds were going to Armenia Fund's Artsakh Refugee Initiative. Capitalist/businessman/rapper/Hitler geek Ye used a sample of War Pigs on his 2024 album and drew the ire of Ozzy Osbourne whose wife happened to be Jewish.
BLACK SABBATH - BLACK SABBATH - WARNER
On Friday the 13th, February 1970, Black Sabbath's debut album was released and heavy metal was created. Right then. You can pinpoint the spot, the exact second - as soon as the boxes with that album hit the backroom of the first record store, that second is when metal was created. The album would revolutionize heavy music as the world knew it, and Black Sabbath would become legends. Put quite simply, you need to own Black Sabbath's first album if you want to be a metalhead. By no means is it a perfect album. It's not even close - Black Sabbath would top it several times over the course of their career. But the album is so important to heavy metal in general and the forces of evil that you just can't really call your collection complete without it.
Not to say that it isn't an awesome album. That description makes it sound like Bach - sure, it's important, but would you really want to listen to it? Black Sabbath is not only a revolutionary album, but also a thoroughly enjoyable one, and it houses some of the best metal songs ever written.
The album kicks off with the title track - the growing sounds of a storm, and a tolling church bell. As the bell gets louder and thunder rumbles in the distance, the tension increases and builds until that riff comes in, the tritone. It sounds like a fucking army of thunder come to drag humanity to hell. It's just so unbearably evil. Ozzy comes in with the first lines, about a demonic figure "that points at me." The song lyrically deals with Satan coming to a man in bed, come to take him from the Earth back to some evil realm. And it eventually builds quicker and quicker to the ending section, a race, with Iommi's awesome riffing. The song as a whole stands as one of the greatest in metal history.
The other standout is N.I.B, which builds from a bass solo into another monster riff and then some more evil, a love song written from the point of view of Satan. Iommi really dominates the song, he brings out like three classic riffs and a sweet guitar solo. Bill Ward turns in a great performance on drums too. All in all, the band turns in a fantastic performance, and the song stands as one of the best around. But this album is filled with great songs, from the frantic The Wizard to the demonic Behind The Wall Of Sleep to the vaguely pop-tinged Evil Woman. Every one features awesome riffs and solos from Tony Iommi, who really defines the role of the heavy metal guitarist here.
The only problem, really, is later in the album. The Warning is a ten-minute free jam, obviously recorded while on drugs, and as much as this feels like heresy, it gets boring. And it's sandwiched between Sleeping Village and Wicked World, neither of which is particularly cohesive. So, by the end, it kind of ends up sounding like the world's heaviest freeform jazz jam session, only without any horns. As much classic material as the album holds, it hasn't aged particularly well in many spots. The first five songs are pure genius, but there's a few problems after that.
And the album isn't particularly heavy by today's standards. Many of the things that were shocking in 1970 are old hat now, and new listeners will be shocked by the harmonica on The Wizard and the pop touches on Evil Woman, which could be a Cream song. Just don't go in expecting a perfect album, because Black Sabbath is flawed.
But ultimately, that doesn't matter that much. Black Sabbath is the first heavy metal album, and it's a damn good one. The best material on here is jaw dropping, and you owe it to yourself to really listen to this and just learn about where it started. Download the album, and show the title track to anyone who wants to know what metal is all about. May Black Sabbath live forever. - Max V.
BLACK SABBATH FAQ by MARTIN POPOFF - BACKBEAT BOOKS
Starting off with a foreword by Diamond Head’s Braian Tatler Black Sabbath FAQ is a mostly 'fanboy' perspective based book which nevertheless tries to present as many as facts as can be crammed into its almost 400 pages. These are presented through interviews interspersed with trivia. Earliest stories start in the late ”˜60s of course and are gleamed from such people as Olav Wyper, a record executive in those years. He of Vertigo Records reminisces about the state of business in that era and his part in making Black Sabbath, a band which he stumbled across rather accidentally at a pub in Birmingham. The theme of discovering or being the first heavy metal band is prominent with most conclusions leading to the notion that it wasn’t seen as a big deal early on and that early blues and jazz influences morphed into the Sabbath sound over a short period of time. Early manager Jim Simpson says that things basically “fell into place”. There is also varying notions as to how hard it was to get a record deal with such a band name and the images that it may have conjured up. The image is also an issue and is dismissed as not malicious or evil and perhaps influenced by horror films viewed by Tony Iommi et al at the time.
Some pages are devoted to the various people that have played with Sabbath for a session, a show and so on. Rob Halford’s name does pop up here. A bit on how Black Widow, the band, were confused with Black Sabbath and the band’s cult and satanic image was enhanced as a result. Many pages are devoted to a very laboured defense of late Ozzy era Black Sabbath where they were overshadowed by the then young Van Halen and how a famous feud with Blue Oyster Cult was really not so much...or perhaps it was. Martin Popoff’s aforementioned fanboy perspective comes out in these instances as the author seems obliged to defend the band at every turn. The book then jumps to the time a tired Bill Ward leaves Sabbath while not flying with the band during his final days on tour. Facts aplenty about recording locations, apparently some conveniently chosen because of ease of drug delivery (ie Florida). Sandy Pearlman the long time Blue Oyster Cult and relatively brief Black Sabbath manager is featured once again with his thoughts about heavy metal and the music of Black Sabbath and its roots in not only horror but, as he contends, classical music such as Austria’s Bruckner.
Towards the end the author proceeds to rate the albums by sound, cover and other criteria and gathers some 'praise' for Sabbath from the likes of Pete Steele. There are sometimes funny notes about 'cameos' on Sabbath albums including Ozzy’s use of stink bombs to make Yes, the band, leave an adjacent studio and then the band proceeding to recruit Yes keyboardist, Rick Wakeman, for a recording session.
Late chapters devote pages to Heaven & Hell, the band, and there is also few compelling pages on Black Sabbath’s 'Early Demos'. For Black Sabbath fans this is one book packed with lots to read and enjoy. More generally Black Sabbath FAQ is recommended for all music and heavy metal fans. - Anna Tergel