BLACK SABBATH

"The End" (Black Sabbath.; 2016)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"The End" is an eight track CD that was reportedly only available on East European tour dates in 2016. Of course, you can find it on Amazon (by clicking the link above) or I'm sure that there will be available copies on eBay.

Sharon Osbourne has been quoted as saying, "There's only on Black Sabbath," but we all know she's wrong. There's the original Black Sabbath, of course, but there's also the line-up featuring the legendary Ronnie James Dio on vocals and that produced two of the band's best albums, "Heaven and Hell" and "The Mob Rules." Ignoring all the other incrancations (featuring vocalists like Tony Martin and Ian Gillan) there's finally the tour version of Black Sabbath with Bill Ward sitting it out and Tommy Clufetos sitting in.

And that's the line-up we're talking about on "The End," a collection of four studio recordings and four live recordings. I first listened to this CD on my way to Las Vegas with my son (Spudbeast, a reviewer here on RoughEdge.com). As we listened to the first four studio recordings, I commented that this album was way too slow and too plodding for me. He shot back, "Black Sabbath is supposed to be slow!" and he was right. Some of the band's best songs ever, "War Pigs," for example, are slow and atmospheric. What they aren't, however, is boring, and that's what the first four tracks on this CD were to me.

As for the four live tracks on "The End," I like them better. They seem to be culled directly from the source, with minimal (if any) post-recording tomfoolery. They are as raw and as pure as it gets, almost to a bootleg level, and that makes them edgier and more honest than most so-called "live" performances. They are presented here warts and all ... and there's a lot of warts.

Bottom line is that this rare CD is interesting in the fact that it will probably be Black Sabbath's last studio recordings but there's a lot of much better Black Sabbath material out there.

For more information, check out http://www.blacksabbath.com.

"13" (Warner Bros.; 2013)

Reviewed by Snidermann

I found Black Sabbath's "13" to be slow, dark, cavernous, plodding, overblown ... and I frickin' loved it.

Everything from the slow deliverance of the music to the very cool production value (that was an easy plug, with Rick Rubin as Producer) and ending with the three major members (sorry no Bill Ward on drums) showcasing their talents better than they have done since in ages.

The entire musical presentation is one of slowly envisioned power music, done with the talents and egos of one of the world’s top metal acts. Rick Rubin makes everyone in the band look, sound, play and record better than they have in years. This very well could be one of the best overall recordings for 2013 and I can’t wait to spin this f'er again.

For more information, check out http://www.blacksabbath.com.

"13" (Warner Bros.; 2013)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

I was excited as the next guy as I waited for Black Sabbath's "13" to be released. I was ready for the masters of heavy metal to bring down the house one more time.

Sadly, I was a bit disappointed.

The first time I listened all the way through "13," I wasn't sure what I didn't like about it. Tony Iommi's guitar work is nothing short of stunning here, delivering razor-edged solos and chunky riffs that rattle the walls. Ozzy Osbourne sounded great, too and, of course, Geezer Butler delivered some thunderous bass work. Even the drums, pounded by Rage Against the Machine's Brad Wilk, deliver a shattering backbeat.

But as I listened a second time, and then a third, the realization came to me: Much of "13" sounds the same. The rhythms are often too identical, the choruses and hooks uninteresting. And I realize that, a lot of the time, Ozzy sounds more like he's delivering spoken word rather than actually singing.

Ozzy had promised us a "masterpiece" of a Black Sabbath album with "13"and, when I heard him say that, I thought of "Master of Reality" or "Paranoid" or even "The Mob Rules" and "Heaven and Hell." Those albums had variety ... and a little bit of menace ... something that I found lacking in "13."

It's not that I hate the CD and won't ever listen to it again. I've probably gone through it a dozen times or more by now. As I said, Iommi's fretwork is jaw-droppingly awesome here, as is the solid clear production of Rick Rubin. But I wanted "13" to be more, to be bigger and better. Maybe I just came to expect too much when Ozzy said, "It's a masterpiece." It's an entertaining album, Ozzy, I'll give you that. But a masterpiece? No, sir. I don't think so.

For more information, check out http://www.blacksabbath.com.

"The Dio Years" (Rhino; 2007)

Reviewed by Snidermann

Sharon Osbourne has been quoted as saying that there's only one Black Sabbath, and that's the Black Sabbath with Ozzy Osbourne. Well, let me set you straight, Mrs. Osbourne: there is definitely a Black Sabbath without Ozzy, too, and that band was fronted by Ronnie James Dio.

When Dio and the others in Black Sabbath decided to go on tour again, Sharon insisted they not call themselves Black Sabbath, so the band went on tour as "Heaven and Hell." Still, any metalhead worth their salt knew who was on stage. 

During the years when Dio was at the Sabbath mic, the music was as dark and demonic as ever. Now, with "The Dio Years," every Sabbath fan can enjoy a load of material of Sabbath's best material with Dio. "The Dio Years" showcases the band's material from the classic albums "Mob Rules," "Heaven and Hell," "Live Evil" and "Dehumanizer." As I listened, I was awestruck at the sheer excellence of the recordings here; sometimes you really forget how truly great some music is until a set like this is released. 

"The Dio Years" is an outstanding compilation that shows just how really great Black Sabbath is with Dio on vocals. Also included with all the classic tracks are three new recordings (there were reportedly only contracted for two but had so much fun in the studio they opted for three instead). 

In response to Sharon Osbourne's suggestion that there is only one Black Sabbath, I have only this to say after listening to "The Dio Years": Ozzy who?

For more information, check out http://www.blacksabbath.com.

"Live at Hammersmith Odeon" (Rhino Handmade; 2007)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Sharon Osbourne has been quoted as saying there is only one Black Sabbath, and that's the band with Ozzy Osbourne on lead vocals. Sharon must have forgotten that Black Sabbath also had a pretty sturdy run with Ronnie James Dio on vocals, a run that was strong enough to produce a couple of solid albums (including some of the best hard rock / heavy metal tunes of their era), a number of sold-out tours and enough interest in the Dio-led band (under the moniker Heaven & Hell) to generate a successful tour in 2007.

"Live at Hammersmith Odeon" is a limited edition (only 5,000 copies), previously "unissued" release of a Black Sabbath show from January 1982 at the legendary Hammersmith Odeon in the U.K. It's a great collection of 13 classic Sabbath tunes, ranging from the Ozzy years ("War Pigs," "Black Sabbath," "Iron Man") to the Dio years ("Children of the Sea," "The Mob Rules," "Heaven and Hell") and, for the most part, they performed with charisma and high energy.  Dio pulls off some of the trickier Ozzy classics with great success, even though his style is considerably more stoic than Ozzy's manic antics.

The sound quality throughout is excellent, especially considering the source material's age.

Only one Black Sabbath, Sharon? No, there are at least two, as this CD proves. In fact, considering Black Sabbath's long and glorious career, there are probably more than two. But that's another story entirely.

Black Sabbath - Ronnie James Dio - vocals; Tony Iommi - Lead guitar; Geezer Butler - bass; Vinnie Appice - drums.

For more information, check out http://www.blacksabbath.com.

"Symptom of the Universe 1970-1978" (Warner / Rhino; 2002)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Black Sabbath fans should run (or click over) to their favorite record store right now and snag a copy of this incredible two-CD set. Featuring 29 tracks (all crisply remastered), a full-color, 50-page booklet, and packaging that is nothing short of breathtaking, "Symptom of the Universe" is an unmatched collection of Ozzy-era Sabbath tunes, running from the band's first, self-titled album to Ozzy's last full-length studio album with the band, "Never Say Die." If you forgot how great Black Sabbath can be or if you can't understand why they garner all that respect and why so many bands cite them as an influence, this fantastic collection will either remind or educate you.

Beginning with the band's title song, "Black Sabbath," Disc 1 of "Symptom of the Universe" takes you through the "Master of Reality" era (with the exception of "After Forever," which begins Disc 2). Of the 13 tracks on Disc 1, nine are certifiable classics and one, "Evil Woman," is previously unreleased in the United States (unless you picked up those bargain basement imports of the band's first album when they hit bargain bins a number of years ago). Disc 1 is stunning in its sheer number of truly legendary cuts, from "Paranoid" to "Iron Man" to "Sweet Leaf" and so on.

Disc 2 features somewhat more obscure Sabbath work, although there are classics there as well, including "Changes," "Supernaut," "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath," "Symptom of the Universe" and more. Disc 2 is as interesting for its collection of later Ozzy-era Sabbath tunes as it is to note the band's evolution. That raw, darkly powerful Sabbath sound is still there but there's something more as well - discontent, maybe. Frustration, perhaps. Or maybe it's just the effort to expand the Black Sabbath sound more. Regardless, Disc 2 may not have as many classics as Disc 1, but it still incredibly powerful.

Each of the above CDs is packaged in a unique digi-pack that, along with the 50-page booklet, fit nicely into a faux-leather (read "cardboard") slipcase.

The 50-page booklet features rare photos of the band and a surprisingly insightful and complete bio of the band by Mick Wall. Also included are quotes from Ozzy and the others, as well as a breakdown of the tracks included on the CD and their credits. 

This is a CD collection that belongs in every hard rock / heavy metal fan's collection. It's a little bit of history, and - even all these years later - it'll still kick your ass.

Black Sabbath - Ozzy Osbourne - vocals, harmonica on "The Wizard"; Tony Iommi - guitars, piano and harpsichord on "Fluff"; Tony "Geezer" Butler - bass; Bill Ward - drums, percussion.

For more information, check out http://www.blacksabbath.com

"Past Lives" (Sanctuary; 2002)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

I’m not a fan of “live” albums unless I was at the concert and I was captured screaming so it becomes a memento for me. Plus, hearing live CDs of bands I never got to see myself (like this one, since I was two years old when this stuff was recorded) doesn’t help either. Still, all complaints aside, this is Black Sabbath recorded in 1970, 1973 and 1975. It was originally going to be called “Live In '75” but the name was changed to “Past Lives.”

As I listened to these guys hammer out song after song it occurred to me that, not only were they pioneers of heavy metal, they’ve ultimately become the grandfathers of it as well. Ozzy sounds good on all tracks except “Megalomania” from Disc 2. There he’s off key, but his voice is really expanded on the other 17 tracks beyond the studio versions I’ve heard and become used to. He’s sounds like he's stoned and doesn’t care and he still sings as loud as he can and really puts on a show on for the fans.

Tony Iommi really lets the riffs and solos out and they sound great since these discs have been cleaned up from the previous release back in 1980. Tony shines on each track and plays his heart out. You can hear the goof ups, wrong notes and missed timing, plus the awkward endings, but who cares as long as Iommi was playing? “Wicked World” on Disc 1 clocks in at 18:55(!), half of which is Tony laying down some nasty blues guitar.

If you don’t have any live CD’s of Sabbath in their early years then pick up this muddy mess of genius. All their hits are here, just in vintage clothes and sound. And check out the booklet that comes with this double set; Black Sabbath looked like a bunch of skinny teens with nothing but dreams to feed them.

For more information, check out http://www.blacksabbath.com

"Reunion" (Epic; 1998)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

How could this CD be anything short of great? The original Sabbath, together again onstage and in the studio. Does it get any better than this for the hard rock/heavy metal fan? I don't think so...

"Reunion" starts out great with a terrific rendition of Sabbath's classic "War Pigs." Ozzy sings a line, then the audience sings a line. It's more of a duet than a band performing for an audience. And it sets the tone for the entire two CD set: Sabbath live combined with an almost equally important audience reaction.

The classics are here: "War Pigs," "Fairies Wear Boots," "Snowblind," "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath," "Black Sabbath," "Children of the Grave," "Paranoid," "Iron Man." There are some rarities, too: "Behind the Wall of Sleep," "Spiral Architect," "Dirty Women." The icing on the cake, however, is two brand new studio recordings featuring the original line-up: "Psycho Man" and "Selling My Soul": Both tunes that revel in the classic Black Sabbath sound but are tweaked for today's higher technical capabilities (both of the equipment and of the band's talents).

Also included is a 28-page, four color booklet with extensive liner notes and backstage photos. Our favorite was a shot of Ozzy's teleprompter.

"Reunion" is a killer, double live CD set. Hopefully, the folks over at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will give it a listen before they set about voting later this month.

BLACK SABBATH is Ozzy Osbourne, vocals; Tony Iommi, guitars; Geezer Butler, bass; Bill Ward, drums.

For more information, check out http://www.blacksabbath.com

"Dehumanizer" (Reprise; 1992)

Reviewed by Snidermann

Black Sabbath’s 1992 release, "Dehumanizer," with Ronnie James Dio on vocals is, in one word: incredible.  Tony Iommi's legendary guitar riffs thunder throughout this release.  Ronnie James’s voice is strong and commanding; pure, vintage Dio.  Geezer Butler’s signature bass licks rip through this CD like a fucking freight train.  Original Sabbath drummer Bill Ward is absent in this release, however Vinny Appice provides a good drum background to round out this very talented group of players.  

Reprise Sabbath and this lineup immediately following the release of "Dehumanizer." Bastards! What do they know!?  The music is apocalyptic, dark, foreboding, twisted and ominous - in other words, exquisite fun!!  

Fans of either Black Sabbath or Ronnie James Dio’s solo work will totally love this CD. The cover art is awesome as well with a demon robot turning a human into a robot. Looks pretty painful!

For more information, check out http://www.blacksabbath.com

"Born Again" (Vertigo; 1983)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"Born again" was a strange yet bold experiment. The mixing of Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan with Tony Iommi's trademark chunky-razor guitars was met with more than a few raised eyebrows, as well as an enormous fan base that refused to let Black Sabbath die (no matter who was behind the microphone).

On a "History of Black Sabbath" video that was released a few years before Ozzy returned to the fold, Iommi and Gillan joke about "Born Again" and how unsuccessful the album was. Despite its lack of commercial success, however, "Born Again" is actually a very unique piece of Black Sabbath history, and a heavy metal album that shouldn't be so quickly dismissed.

Beginning with "Trashed," a rager of a song that highlights Gillan's screams and Iommi's stunning lead work, "Born Again" delivers seven full-length tunes (and two less-than-two-minute tracks) that rock as hard as anything Sabbath has ever recorded. The classics "Disturbing the Priest" and "Zero The Hero" are highlights here (both clocking in at over five minutes each - "Hero" closer to eight). "Digital Bitch" has a chorus that's virtually unforgettable (I've been singing it in my head since I first heard this record) and the title track is an eerie tune in which Gillan's trademark screams give proof to his vocal excellence. The same is true of "Hot Line."

Speaking of "Hot Line" - Is it just me or does the riff from that song sound a lot like "Man on the Silver Mountain?"

It's true that "Born Again" sounds different from any other Sabbath album, but the reasons for that are clear. Gillan has one of the most unique (and very best) voices in rock and his impressive songwriting skills, when combined with Iommi and company's, made for one interesting rock'n'roll beastie. "Born Again" may not be the best Black Sabbath ever, but it is definitely a most original metal album. Fans of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath both should have a copy in their collection and should spin it often.

Performing on "Born Again" are: Tony Iommi - guitars, guitar effects, flute; Ian Gillan - vocals; Geezer Butler - bass, bass effects; Bill Ward - Drums, percussion; Geoff Nicholls - keyboards.

For more information, check out http://www.blacksabbath.com

"The Mob Rules" (Warner Bros.; 1981)

Reviewed by Snidermann

Black Sabbath are the crowned kings of heavy metal music but that statement is not the issue here. As I see it, as long as Tony Iommi is on guitar, it should be considered Black Sabbath. We all know Ozzy Osbourne was on vocals for the first five recordings and a long list of people have played in the band over the years (just check out Wikipedia for their storied band members) but, contrary to whatever Sharon Osbourne might say, Black Sabbath is a state of mind as well as a way of life, not just who is on lead vocals.

Ronnie James Dio brought Sabbath a much wider range of emotions vocally in a way Ozzy never could. "The Mob Rules," released in 1981, is pure heavy metal. Dio’s strong and very recognizable vocal style and Tony Iommi’s signature power guitar made this Sabbath larger and with noticeably more attitude. By this time each member of the band has a few years under their belt and we know what to expect music wise. They had all matured into very good musicians, but with the making of "Mob Rules" all the visions of the gods where shining down on them.

"The Mob Rules" is simply one of the best metal recordings of all time. It's simply not fair to compare this album to any other piece of metal music.

Black Sabbath (despite what Sharon says): Ronnie James Dio – vocals; Tony Iommi – guitar; Geezer Butler – bass; Bill Ward – drums.

For more information, check out http://www.blacksabbath.com

"Heaven and Hell" (Warner Bros.; 1980)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

Those who salivated for another hit record from Black Sabbath almost had cotton mouth due to the exit of front man Ozzy Osborne. Osbourne's departure seemed to doom the band them into non-existence. Enter Ronnie James Dio and his powerful voice and new life was breathed into the legendary British heavy metal band. I had never heard Dio sing until Black Sabbath, but I was interested in their new style because he brought something fresh to the table.

Dio has a menacing voice and even though I wasn’t around for the recording sessions I can just picture him with his devil-horned fingers and his heavy metal scowl filling the studio. The lead singer usually commands attention because they lead the band and Dio did just that thanks to his experience fronting Elf and Rainbow before. 

Black Sabbath turned in a new direction by picking Dio to front them. The vocals, of course, have been mentioned and celebrated here and many, many other places. Tony Iommi's guitar, shot from the gates with the opener “Neon Knights” was stunning throughout and his work on the title track is some of the most memorable ever. Albeit first chair had gone to Dio, the rest of the band remained tight; Bill Ward and Geezer Butler kept the band's steady pace. The music is fresh yet still classic and Black Sabbath once again gained four guitarsaws by bringing in Ronnie James Dio to scream his brand of power metal right in our faces.

The blackest tracks are “Neon Knights,” “Lady Evil,” “Heaven And Hell” and “Die Young.”

Black Sabbath (despite what Sharon says): Ronnie James Dio – vocals; Tony Iommi – guitar; Geezer Butler – bass; Bill Ward – drums.

For more information, check out http://www.blacksabbath.com

"Sabotage" (WEA; 1975)

Reviewed by Snidermann

The year was 1980, I was seventeen. My hair was down to my ass and we were in my best friend's basement, smoking pot and listening to Black Sabbath's "Sabotage."

Well, times have changed: my hair is gone and I no longer smoke pot. But my love for Black Sabbath's music is still as strong today as it was back then. Dark, twisted and even a little bit disturbing - that's what Black Sabbath is all about - and this 1975 release of "Sabotage" is simply fucking dripping with everything you'd expect from this deservedly legendary band.

"Sabotage" I may not have hooked me like the previous releases did, but the magic and musical charisma of the original members of Black Sabbath still shrines through on this totally awesome release. "Sabotage" is as strong and powerful today as it was in 1975 and, if I remember correctly, this shit sounded incredible when you were stoned. 

Metal magic - pure and simple. 

Black Sabbath: Ozzy Osbourne - vocals; Tony Iommi - guitar; Bill Ward - drums; Geezer Butler - bass.

For more information, check out http://www.blacksabbath.com

"Master of Reality" (WEA; 1971)

Reviewed by Snidermann

To quote the indomitable Ozzy Osbourne from Black Sabbath's "Reunion" CD and the song "Sweet Leaf": "We all know what this one is the fuck about." It was true when this album was first released in 1971 and it's true today. 

The track listing from this third release by the now-legendary Black Sabbath reads like a 'Best of" CD. Those tracks are:

Sweet Leaf
After Forever
Embryo 
Children Of The Grave
Orchid
Lord Of This World
Solitude
Into The Void

What makes Black Sabbath different than other bands is that their older music sounds as heavy today as it did when it was released over 30 years ago(!). The lyrics are deep and philosophical, giving the overall album so much power. 

To those of you who have forgotten about this absolutely incredible release - and for those of you who have never taken the time to listen to it - I suggest you dust off your 8-track, vinyl records, cassette tape or CD and give this extremely cool album some more airplay. Tune after twisted tune, "Master Of Reality" stands strong as a legacy to the brilliance of Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward. Black Sabbath will always be a part of heavy metal fans worldwide, this fan included. Long live Black Sabbath!

For more information, check out http://www.blacksabbath.com

"Paranoid" (Epic; 1970)

Reviewed by Snidermann

It may be considered hindsight now, but after the initial release of Black Sabbath's debut CD, the question had to be: "How in the hell can they top their debut release?" But when Black Sabbath released "Paranoid" in 1970,  the answer was right there.

"Paranoid" is really just a continuation of the musical excellence that music fans saw in the first Black Sabbath release. "Paranoid" is full of the political commentary of the day - witness the first track, the classic "War Pigs," a story about governments starting wars but sending the common man to fight them. The title cut is a power tune unlike anything heard before and has since become Ozzy's trademark. 

Like the previous release, "Paranoid" is Geezer's strong bass, Bill's blistering drums, Tony's cutting, authoritative lead riffs and, of course, Ozzy, belting out tune after tune. This music inspires greatness; it makes you believe that anything is possible. Even if you're just a poor kid from Birmingham, England, you can achieve the pinnacle of rock'n'roll greatness and inspire generations that follow. Bravo! The common man can win!

For more information, check out http://www.blacksabbath.com

"Black Sabbath" (Epic; 1970)

Reviewed by Snidermann

From the very beginning chords of Black Sabbath's classic debut release you know something special was going to happen, even the first time you heard it all those years ago. Now, after numerous years and dozens, if not hundreds, of spins of this recording, I am never and I mean never disappointed. 

The majestic power and grandeur just about explodes from every cut. The musicianship is just about perfect with all four members doing what they do best: play good fucking metal. And this was recorded way back when metal was in its infancy!

"The Wizard" paints an eerie and enchanting spell that is on par with anything J.R.R. Tolkein did in his "Lord Of The Rings" trilogy. Each and every song is a masterpiece unto itself and, like good wine, only gets better with age. 

With this, their very first release, Black Sabbath set the standard for all metal bands to come and they continue to influence the best of metal today. "Black Sabbath" is not only one of the very best debuts of all time, it's in my top 1% of the best rock releases ever! 

Black Sabbath: Tony Iommi - guitar; Geezer Butler - bass; Bill Ward - drums; Ozzy Osbourne - vocals.

For more information, check out http://www.blacksabbath.com

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright © 2016 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 02 Oct 2017 09:17:44 -0400 .