We run through five decades of heavy metal history
Black Sabbath form as the Polka tulk Blues Band in aston, Birmingham. they later change their name to earth.
earth rename themselves Black Sabbath, after a Boris Karloff horror film. Judas Priest form in West Bromwich, Birmingham. No members of the original line-up remain in the band today.
Black Sabbath release their debut, self-titled album and its follow-up, Paranoid, within seven months of each other. that’s just showing off.
rob halford joins Judas Priest from the band hiroshima.
Black Sabbath play in front of an incredible 200,000 people at the california Jam festival.
Judas Priest release their debut album, Rocka Rolla.
ozzy leaves Sabbath, only to return early in 1978.
Judas Priest release Sin After Sin – the album on which they further define their heavy metal sound.
ozzy is fired. ronnie James Dio is his replacement.
the Dio-fronted Black Sabbath release the landmark Heaven And Hell album.
the iconic British Steel becomes Priest’s defining moment of the 80s.
Dio quits. a revolving cast of singers follow throughout the decade.
Judas Priest’s hot streak continues with Screaming
For Vengeance, their commercial breakthrough.
Sabbath release Seventh Star – originally a tony Iommi solo album.
Priest release the divisive Turbo, featuring guitar synthesisers.
Dio rejoins Sabbath.
Priest release the careerreviving Painkiller.
Dio quits Sabbath, refusing to support
ozzy. rob steps in.
rob quits Judas Priest to form Fight. the original Black Sabbath line-up reunite.
Priest release their first album without rob, Jugulator. tim ‘ripper’ owens is on vocal duties.
halford rejoins Priest.
Sabbath and Priest coheadline the US ozzfest. Priest unleash their first album with rob back in the fold, Angel Of Retribution.
the Dio-era Black Sabbath line-up reunite, renaming themselves heaven & hell.
Judas Priest announce their farewell epitaph tour. the original Black Sabbath line-up, minus drummer Bill Ward, record a new album, 13.
halford announces epitaph isn’t their final tour after all.
Black Sabbath bow out, playing their final show in Birmingham on February 4.
Judas Priest release their
18th album, Firepower.
really important, because it brought me back to the place I was always destined to be – the singer for Judas Priest.”
their two worlds truly collided in 1992, when Black Sabbath opened for ozzy osbourne at two gigs in cosa mesa, california during his supposed retirement tour. a combination of ego clashes and politics saw ronnie James
Dio, who had returned to Sabbath after a decade away, refusing to play, leaving them in a very deep hole. enter their old friend rob halford, who stepped in as frontman for a pair of landmark performances…
HOW DID THE COSA MESA SHOWS COME ABOUT? R:
“Someone told me that tony wanted to speak to me, so he called me in Phoenix and basically explained what was going on. I just said, ‘I’m in!’” T: “It was great, he was so good. he just jumped in and killed it.”
R: “We had one little practice in Phoenix, in a tiny rehearsal room. We ran through everything once, and the show was the next day. We had no time to think. It’s just that British thing: ‘Get on with it. It’s gonna happen, just do it.’”
WAS IT EVER ON THE CARDS THAT YOU’D JOIN SABBATH FULL TIME, ROB? R:
“I don’t think it was. I was just thrilled to get the call. I’ve always said that Priest is my first band, but right after that it’s Black Sabbath. It’s always been that way, it always will. It was magical. I watch it occasionally on Youtube and I can’t believe I was there. It doesn’t look like me.”
T: “It was definitely you.”
THE 90S WAS A TOUGH DECADE FOR METAL AS A WHOLE. WHAT DID IT FEEL LIKE BEING ON THE INSIDE?
“It was tough for a while. It went through a funny patch. a lot of people fell by the wayside. a lot of people started backing out and going in different directions musically. But that’s where you’ve got to believe in what you do, and follow it through. You’ve got to take the rough with the smooth and get through it. that’s what we did. at the end of the day you come out the other side.”
R: “I remember the day I heard Man In The Box on the radio. I was driving round Phoenix, and the DJ goes, ‘this is this new band, alice In chains from Seattle.’ I thought, ‘ooh, that sounds interesting.’ then I heard something from this band called Pearl Jam, then something from this band called Nirvana. then I thought, ‘oh god, here we go again.’”
HOW DIFFICULT DID THINGS GET IN THE 90S? R:
“It was like the punk thing all over again. everybody was going, ‘metal’s over, it’s done.’ You couldn’t get any interviews, you couldn’t get on the radio. In america, the programme directors at radio stations were told by the owners, ‘Don’t play metal any more.’”
T: “they’ve tried to destroy metal so many times and it still comes back.” R: “that’s totally the truth. But you can’t kill metal. It just makes you stronger, doesn’t it, tone? It makes you more determined.”
WAS THERE A POINT WHERE YOU NOTICED THE PENDULUM BEGINNING TO SWING BACK?
“For us, we’ve just carried on. obviously, with bands citing you as an influence, people will always listen. and it starts again. I don’t think in our lives, metal has ever gone away. the amount of people that have tried to write it off is unbelievable. It was all, ‘It’s had it now’, and it never has – it’s always been there.”
IS IT POSSIBLE FOR A BAND STARTING OUT TODAY TO HAVE THE IMPACT SABBATH AND PRIEST HAD?
“It depends what you measure success by. how do you define it? Is success a platinum album? Is success selling out madison Square Garden? Popularity or records sold? I don’t know. But to me, that doesn’t matter. metal will always be there. there’ll always be a new band coming along. there’s probably a bunch in the UK that I don’t even know about. Same in Germany or Japan or South america. that’s the thrill – the fact it’s always there.”
“We’Ve talked aBOut cOllaBOratiNG”
IS THE METAL SCENE HEALTHY IN 2018? R:
“Definitely. there’s always a new generation out there. But the cool thing, watching this over the decades, is that people always go back to the source, to the roots of heavy metal – to Black Sabbath, to Judas Priest.”
ARE YOU AT A POINT WHERE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE READY TO HAND OVER THE BATON TO THAT NEW GENERATION AND STEP BACK FROM THE FRONTLINE? OR DO YOU STILL HAVE PLENTY OF YEARS LEFT IN YOU?
“I bloody hope we’ve got plenty of years left!” “Definitely. You can’t turn it off. there’s always another riff, there’s always another song to make. the joy about where we’re at in our lives is that even though we’ve achieved so much, there’s still stuff to do. there’s no end in sight.”
BLACK SABBATH CALLED IT A DAY LAST YEAR. WHAT ARE YOU UP TO AT THE MOMENT, TONY?
“I’m not writing at the moment, but I will be. I moved house, and I’ve only just got set up again. It’s great to have a break – you come back fresh.”
ANY PLANS TO COLLABORATE WITH SOMEONE NOT A MILLION MILES FROM HERE?
[Beckoning to rob] “What, him? We’ve talked about it for ages. When the time’s right it would be nice to write a track or two, or whatever. I’d like to do that. It’s nice to work with people that you respect and like.”
Outside the window, the light is dimming and the temperature is plunging. rob is heading back to his house in the West midlands. In a few days, he’ll meet up with the other members of Priest to begin rehearsals for the tour in support of their new, 18th album, Firepower. tony’s heading back to his own place, where he’ll start thinking about dusting down the amps and getting back into the ring. there are farewell hugs and selfies. “are you on Instagram, tone?” asks the metal God, to the Dark lord’s mild bemusement.
earlier, rob had pondered the imprint that Priest and Sabbath have left over the past 50 years. For him, the people who made this music – and continue to make it – are important. But there’s something else to it, something less tangible.
“Your band becomes bigger than you,” says rob. “the Black Sabbath name is gigantic. tony’s always been there, admittedly, but it becomes something bigger than that. It’s the same with Priest. You’re almost like the caretaker of it.”
the men who created heavy metal will eventually be gone. But Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, and the thing they will leave behind: they’re immortal.
COULD WE HEAR ROB SCREAMING OVER TONY’S RIFFS SOON?
JUDAS PRIEST’S NEW ALBUM, FIREPOWER, LANDS ON MARCH 9 VIA COLUMBIA. THEY HEADLINE BLOODSTOCK FESTIVAL ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 10.
BLACK SABBATH’S THE TEN YEAR WAR BOXSET IS OUT
NOW VIA BMG
Does this really look like a man who plays jazz music? and with that, the two legends parted ways and disappeared into the night
rob and tony both intend to make music for many years to come. We’re down with it