Black Sabbath - Reunion

About a year ago now I wrote a review of the NEC gig that has become this album. The music was timeless, the people not. I said that I’d probably not see them live again now, unless they played small venues. So I went to the Ozzfest, which even a whinging old bastard like me has to admit was pretty good. And now, the double CD is out, so, in my infinite wisdom I’ve bought that. Hypocrite? Maybe. Mug? Yeah, definitely. I represent a perfect example of what is wrong with the music industry in many respects, what’s that quote from the DK’s MTV Get Off The Air that you’ll find elsewhere in here, “the dumbest buy the mostest, that’s the name of the game.” Couldn’t put it better myself.

See, I had to buy this. Cos I was there. Curiosity because growing up, Sabbath was constantly being played in the bedroom. It was part of me. I didn’t want to buy it, but, I knew I was going to. I mean, is it going to change my view of the gig? No. I said reunions are bad because they can never attain the status that we afford the band in our own mind. They can’t, because the factors that make something great are often embedded in time, and don’t move with us. Sabbath were great because of the time, because I was about 9 years old running around the playground singing “you bastards” cos that was the one bit that stuck in my mind from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. I’m not 9 now. Saying that doesn’t have the same excitement, that same, shh, “rebellion”. And I don’t run round the playground anymore. I just don’t run.

I know you don’t need to know any of that to listen to this album, or read this review, and you’re probably not even vaguely interested, which is fair enough. The reason for saying it, is to try and place some kind of context around this review. Now maybe that’s going too deep for music, after all, that’s all it is isn’t it? Music? Yes. But, people are making more out of this than that. So it’s being treated like that.

So what about the music. After all, inspite of the imagery and myth that surrounded the band, something else that cannot be recreated now, we all know what Ozzy and the guys are like. That mystery doesn’t surround them anymore. Anyway, the music. Well, yeah, it is GREAT. There is no question about that. And I’m extremely glad they’ve left it as it was, including the bloke who managed to get onstage and accost Ozzy and proclaim Sabbath to be gods. Or something like that. It doesn’t make sense without the visuals, but, if you’re going to do a live album, then I think it should be the infamous “warts and all” approach.

The music is great, opening with War Pigs. I mean, how many bands can do that. Open with one of their most revered tracks, and then NOT go downhill afterthat. The setlist, well, you can always pick holes in it. It was the metal gig, so it was never going to be played, but I would’ve loved to have heard Changes or Killing Yourself To Live.

N.I.B starts out with that bass solo intro kicking the thing into action. Spiral Architect is an absolute highlight, outstanding. Fairies Wear Boots also shows the power, and versatility the band had, but were never given credit for. There was more to Sabbath than just the mighty powerchord and riff. Dirty Women is a bit of a boring one, could’ve been replaced by something a lot better, but that’s just picking holes in the setlist, and everyone can do that. And probably should. Then you get the final four tracks, Black Sabbath, Iron Man, Children of the Grave and of course, Paranoid. Name any other band that wouldn’t kill to be able to finish a gig like that.

But Sabbath Bloody Sabbath proves what I feel in, unfortunately a better way than I can ever write. The music is great, but Ozzy can’t do it. They play it in a lower key, drop the awesome final verse. Mutilated. It’s still passable, but, see, that’s not good enough. When you build a band up so much, expectations ARE greater than they should be. And if that’s because it’s a band that has reformed to re-capture that feeling, well, they’re on a looser. My days running around the playground with this song bouncing around my head wasn’t meant to end like this. Black Sabbath itself sees the Ozz struggle as well. I shouldn’t dwell on the negatives here, but I do.

But, thankfully there are no solo spots on offer. Though with the argument I’ve been using here, I should complain about that, because it’s one of those things that have changed since before. But in my opinion, it’s a change for the better, and as I’m a hypocrite, then it’s ok.

The final two tracks are new studio recordings. Let’s face it, we don’t want a new studio album from them. Do we? I don’t. You know now, in advance, that the tracks, no matter how good they be, will never, NEVER be comparable to the past. People won’t let them. They won’t be able to play new tracks at a gig and drop some of the old material. It just won’t be allowed to happen. It’s something that occurs with current bands, “man, Korn just aren’t what they are when they did the first album” or “Metallica lost it when Cliff died” or “Bruce was the heart of Maiden, the new stuff just doesn’t compare”. And that’s bands still going. When a band has reached the status of legends, as Sabbath appear to have been elevated to, then it’s magnified so many times that an atom begins to look like Mars. They will not be able to match the legend that time has created for them. The new tracks here prove it. They’re not bad. But those are words that are not good enough.

The packaging is slick, and we’re treated to some words from a Kerrang! journalist. Oh goody. They actually do remember then the musical heritage and background that made the magazine. Just like to say thankyou to whoever for including the pics of the NEC empty before or after the gig. Just to prove what an absolute monstrosity the place, and all arenas are, and for showing, more eloquently than I ever can, that chairs do not belong at these gigs. After all, Sabbath built their reputation on fucking around with everything, being dirty, underground. And here we have a picture of where this took place, a sanitised establishment place. Another variable of time which just doesn’t fit with where they originally were and what originally made them so infamous. Which is maybe why reunions should never take place. But then, they’ve been creating music for 30 years, and I’ve never written a song, so what the Hell do I know? And besides, I haven’t been able to stop playing the bloody thing. Cos for all the holes you can pick in the set list, it’s a convenient way of having a damn fine greatest hits collection. And there’s been more than enough of those issued over the years.

Crap cover though.Never fear, if we wait long enough, there’ll probably be reunion toilet paper which we can wipe our arses with. I’ll probably be first in line!

Available on Epic Records.