Black Sabbath put pedal back to metal.......
The reunion and tour has come together, writes Kathy McCabe
IT was the stuff of fanboy turned middle-aged man dreams – the original Black Sabbath would reunite to record a new album and tour the world.
Anyone who had followed the chequered four-decade career of one of the world’s most influential heavy metal bands suspected it wasn’t going to be as easy as it all seemed at the Los Angeles press conference a year ago.
Their plans received a body blow in January when guitarist Tony Iommi was diagnosed with lymphoma. The following month, drummer Bill Ward dropped out of the reunion because of a contractual dispute. Despite continued negotiations, he stated in May that the parties had failed to reach an agreement.
Frontman Ozzy Osbourne and bassist Geezer Butler kept the studio fires burning while Iommi underwent treatment and enlisted Tommy Clufetos, who plays in the frontman’s solo band, to step in for Ward.
With successful – if occasionally bemusing – gigs in their hometown of Birmingham, the Download Festival and Lollapalooza under their belts and at least five new songs completed with producer Rick Rubin, Osbourne is in high spirits at their Malibu studio.
‘‘Oh yeah, oh yeah, it’s great to be back recording with the guys and playing with them,’’ he says.
‘‘It didn’t work out with Bill Ward and Tony had lymphoma and was having treatment so it’s been start and stop and start and stop but he’s making a good recovery so far. That knocked us for a six but he’s handling it very well, to be honest with you.’’
At Lollapalooza in Chicago in August, Osbourne jumped up and down as he fronted Sabbath, commanding his adoring fans to ‘‘scream motherf...ers’’ and pump their arms in the air.
Osbourne had the tens of thousands of fans in front of the stage – a sea of black t-shirts, old and young, fathers, sons and daughters – in the palm of his hand.
For all Sabbath’s songs about war, corruption and the occult, Osbourne says he just wants to have fun.
‘‘I have never wanted to be serious, to have solemn music; it’s meant to be fun,’’ he says.
‘‘In actual fact, the way that all happened with the music and the name and everything, if I can remember, is we used to rehearse in a movie theatre so we decided to try to write songs inspired by scary movies. Back then it was all flower power and love but for us, living in the industrial town of Birmingham, we liked scary movies.’’
Osbourne says he struggles with the concept that Black Sabbath’s music has influenced not just teenage boys, but other bands, across the decades.
He first discovered the reverence with which other musicians regarded Sabbath when Metallica joined him on his 1986 Damage tour, the last time the heirs apparent would be a support act.
‘‘I came past their dressing room and had to ask if they were taking the piss out of me because they were playing Sabbath,’’ he says.
‘‘And at Ozzfest when the other bands would do that ‘we are not worthy’ thing, I couldn’t understand it. For someone to tell you ‘Black Sabbath changed my life’ is a weird thing to get your head around,’’ he says.
Black Sabbath play the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on April 25.
Ozzy Osbourne (left and above, seated) with (from left) Black Sabbath bandmates Bill Ward, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler.