By Vernon Felton
There are certain defining moments in history. Moments that impact every living soul. It seems, for instance, that every American alive during the 1960s can recall where they were and what they were doing when JFK was assassinated. That day, that hour, that very second has become a touchstone in American history.
The first time I listened to Black Sabbath was like that.
I can recall bringing home the LP, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. I can’t even tell you how or exactly why that record made it into my eight-year old hands, but the moment needle hit scratchy vinyl was a absolute revelation.
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is, undeniably, Black Sabbath’s rawest, sludgiest, murkiest album. It sounds like it was mixed in a porta-potty and it gives you the impression that everyone in the band was too coked up or psychotic to give a damn one way or the other. I think, strangely, that this is why it’s remained my favorite Black Sabbath album.
Of course the tragedy of all this was that, having been born in 1972, I was too late to the Black Sabbath party. Sure, the band was limping along with Dio at the helm (and there are some great tracks from that era) when I discovered them, but Sabbath stopped being Sabbath the moment they kicked Ozzy to the curb. I’m sure they were justified in doing so, but this band without Ozzy is sort of like Van Halen without David Lee Roth—just a monumental waste of everyone’s oxygen and time.
So there I was, at the tender age of eight—having discovered what seemed like the greatest thing on earth, only to find that this amazing band was, for all intents and purposes, extinct.
Ozzy had exactly two more good albums in him over the course of the next 30 years and I don’t even know anyone who can name every singer that has tried to fill his boots with Sabbath. It’s been a long, eminently forgettable stretch for everyone involved.
In a way, I’ve been waiting for Black Sabbath to reunite for the past 32 years. Yes, it’s great that they lumber onstage for the occasional Ozzfest one-off, but dammit, I want a proper album. And I know I’m not alone.
So here we are in 2013 and everyone (minus original drummer, Bill Ward, who has been replaced in the studio by Rage Against the Machine’s Brad Wilk) has come together to produce an album because as Tony Iommi put it recently, “If we didn’t do this soon, it’d be too late—we’d all be dead.” Given that Ozzy now looks like the Crypt Keeper and Iommi has been battling cancer in between laying down tracks for the album, that’s probably a fair statement.
So, here’s the million-dollar question: can these guys produce an album that lives up to the legacy?
Heavy metal isn’t exactly a medium dominated by men who live on Metamucil. Then again these aren’t normal men and they have an ace up their sleeve in the form of producer Rick Rubin, who has brought out the best in everyone from Run DMC to Johnny Cash. If anyone can ensure that this album is worth listening to, it’s The Beaded One.
I have my hopes. In the meantime, here’s a clip from Rubin’s perspective on the whole thing. It’s entertaining and then some.