OnlineRock Blog

17 November 2011

Black Sabbath Reunites With Original Lineup

By Elaine Mao

For the first time since 1978, Black Sabbath will record a new studio album with all four original band members. This is a pretty big deal because the lineup will include legendary singer and pop culture icon Ozzy Osbourne. Depending on who you are (and what decade you’re stuck in), you either know Ozzy as the “Prince of Darkness,” or as the eccentric father in one of America’s favorite (?) dysfunctional families. Since 1978, Ozzy has built up quite an impressive reputation both through his solo recording career and his MTV antics, but it’s nice to see him return to where it all began.

The Prince of Darkness to reclaim his throne.

The reunited band will include Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, and drummer Bill Ward. Since 1997, there have been multiple on-and-off reunions, with the original four members even performing together as recently as 2005 to headline Ozzfest. However, none of these brief reunions has ever yielded any new Sabbath material featuring Ozzy’s vocals (Ronny James Dio-era Sabbath is another story, RIP). The band’s new album is set to be released in fall 2012 via Vertigo/Universal, with plans for a worldwide tour to promote it, including a headlining set at the 2012 Download Festival in June.

Original members Bill Ward, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi.

The album will be produced by Rick Rubin (Beastie Boys, Johnny Cash), and Iommi has said in interviews that it will be true to “the old Sabbath style and sound.” describes Sabbath as “the unfuckwithable bedrock on which all heavy metal was constructed,” which is pretty dead-on accurate. 

Songs like “War Pigs” and “Iron Man” have not only become firmly embedded within the canon of heavy metal, but they have also become must-knows for even non-metalheads. The vast proliferation of Black Sabbath covers by bands that sound nothing like Black Sabbath can attest to this fact—and who doesn’t love weird, unexpected covers? It’s a no-brainer that Metallica, heirs to Black Sabbath’s heavy metal throne, would cover “Iron Man,” but the song has also been covered by several unlikely candidates.

The Cardigans, best known for their 1998 hit, “Lovefool,” did an interesting version of the song, featuring the same sweet, lilting female vocals of “Lovefool.”

The jazz piano trio, The Bad Plus, also recorded an amazing piano version of “Iron Man” on their 2004 album, Give. 

And for you indie kids, electronic experimental artist Four Tet, who has received much love from Pitchfork and the rest of the critical community, contributed an “Iron Man” cover for the Black Sabbath tribute album, Everything Comes & Goes.

And of course, once you’re done listening to those covers, have another listen to the original:

Not because you've forgotten, but just to re-light that fire...

It's a pretty high bar to meet. Even putting aside the band's declining health for a second (attention everyone: drugs are bad), what are the chances that the newly reunited Sabbath can actually live up to this? Very slim, if the entirety (slight exaggeration here) of music history is any indication of what we can expect. Black Sabbath holds the sacred honor of being one of the few great metal bands that hasn’t yet been deemed a “sellout” (try it: a quick Google search of “Black Sabbath sellouts” doesn’t yield much). However, can’t say the same for Metallica—most metalheads refuse to acknowledge any material the band recorded after, and including, The Black Album. So, will Sabbath’s new album be another classic, or will it be their Black Album equivalent? Or will it be some mediocre halfway point, and just fade into relative obscurity? Personally, I will be hoping for the former, but I’d be willing to settle for the last.

Also, no one really liked "The Osbournes," anyway, am I right?


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