Black Sabbath: ‘The End’

BS CD coverBLACK SABBATH
THE END
Released in January 2016 (Black Sabbath)

Review:
Black Sabbath released an amazing album in 2013 called 13. This was the album Black Sabbath fans longed for. When rumours of a Sabbath reunion started forming, we all wished the four original members would put out an album. Well, for many reasons, Bill Ward was not included. Fans and critics alike felt there was no way they could create that magic again. The critics and fans (including myself) were wrong. Even though I miss Ward‘s jazzy freestyle, the drumming by studio fill-in Brad Wilk (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, The Last Internationale) was handled expertly. He does not have Ward‘s style, but makes the songs his own, and sounds awesome. From some of the reports about Ward‘s diminished playing ability, maybe we are better off.

Fast forward to early 2015. Osbourne announces that Black Sabbath will be working on a new album, and will be doing a tour. Yes!!!!!!! Then late in 2015, Osbourne says there will still be a tour but no new album. He is quoted as saying “People aren’t really interested in hearing new stuff.” I beg to differ Osbourne. Tony Iommi apparently had enough riffs for a new album, was working on them in the studio, but was quoted as saying “Geezer didn’t want to do a new album.Butler must have been too busy telling kids to get off his lawn. Then in early 2016, Black Sabbath announce there will be an exclusive, limited edition The End album only available at The End tour concerts. I saw Sabbath twice on the 13 tour, but this will most likely be the last time I ever see them live, and the chance to buy that new CD made going to the concert a must.

As it turns out, Black Sabbath‘s new CD is 54:18 worth of music. That is roughly double the length I would consider an EP. So even though it is called an EP elsewhere, I will call this an album. Eight songs! The first four are outtakes from the 13 album recordings, and the last four are live recordings from the 13 tour. Just a thought guys — how about a vinyl version, or even a cassette? Anyway, here is my review.

“Season Of the Dead” — The first few seconds of the song remind me of “Follow Your Heart” by Triumph but than the doom and gloom kicks in. With a beat that would have fit in nicely on an ’80s thrash metal song, this song has your head banging after the first 30 seconds, then the song kicks it up a gear in the middle section to a near Foo Fighters pace. It does slow down to doom levels near the end to remind us of where that genre began.

“Cry All Night” — This is another unique Sabbath song. It has a bit of the early ’70s, a bit of 13, and a really cool tone to Iommi‘s guitar I can only describe as sounding like a tiger roaring through a talkbox as Iommi plays on.

“Take Me Home” — Wilk and Iommi really shine here. Wilk pounds the drums into submission constantly through the entire song while Iommi lays down some sweet riffs. Butler shows flashes of bass slapping brilliance and Osbourne belts out the vocals. The part that threw me for a complete loop hits just before the three minute mark. The sound of a flamenco guitar in a metal song is a real rarity. Iommi went somewhat in this direction for Laguna Sunrise, but it is more pronounced and spectacular here. I absolutely love flamenco guitar, so the combination of flamenco and Sabbath are really heart warming for me.

“Isolated Man” – Rhythmic song with Osbourne singing a slight shade deeper. The real fun begins about two minutes in when the singing stops and the instruments take over for a while.

“God Is Dead” (Live Sydney, Australia 4/27/13) — There is a seamless transition between the last studio song and this one. In fact, if I had not known, I might have thought this was a version recorded in the studio with a bit of an echo effect added. That is until a very slight vocal miscue from Osbourne about half way through. This is fine in my books. I want a live recording with all the warts and bruises left in the mix. If I had missed this, the crowd noise near the end would have given it away. It really is a testament to a band that has been around for over 45 years that can still give a near perfect live performance that sound like a studio recording.

“Under The Sun” (Live Auckland, New Zealand 4/20/13) — I have to give Clufetos big props here. I have seen him perform live many times before, and always thought he was great. He does his best Animal (R.I.P.) impersonation here, and along with Iommi, he owns this song.

“End Of The Beginning” (Live Hamilton, Ontario Canada 4/11/14) — Before I got to the concert, I checked out what songs were on the CD. The fact that the last two songs were recorded in Hamilton, Ontario and that I may have been recorded as part of the crowd noise made this CD a must have. This song was one of the best songs on 13, and Osbourne was really trying to get the crowd fired up. He was as energetic as Osbourne could have been in 2014. The song was played in a creepy, droaning manner. That is until about three minutes in when Osbourne tells us to go wild. I remember the crowd almost jumping and head banging in unison. At around the same point, Iommi‘s guitar tone takes a little change of direction. It almost has a Zakk Wylde tone. I didn’t remember this from the studio version, but when I listened to that song again, it was there. I really need to revisit 13. If this had been the last song on the album, the last words from the band would have been “We love you all. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.” To me that would have been fitting.

“Age Of Reason” (Live Hamilton, Ontario, Canada 4/11/14) — Before the song starts, Osbourne addresses the audience by saying “We`re going to do a song off the 13 album now. But I just want to take this opportunity to thank you for helping to get it to number 1 in Canada.” It really says a lot when a metal band that is mostly made up of 60 something year old guys and has been around for over 45 years can put out an album that goes to number 1, not just in Canada but in many countries around the world. As for why they recorded at the show in Hamilton, I think I read somewhere that the reason they chose to include two songs from the setlist at the Hamilton, Ontario show is that there was some guy with a goofy nickname that starts with a B that rocked it so hard, they had to include two songs with his cheering. Maybe not. After seeing the band there twice now, I have changed my mind about the Hamilton venue. They used to be a distant second choice behind a Toronto show. My guess is they have done many things to improve the acoustics in recent years, and the inclusion of two songs here is proof they have succeeded. Osbourne begins the song by chanting “Cuckoo. Cuckoo.” You are right Ozzy. We are Cuckoo. “How you people in the back doing?” Well, we’re at a Black Sabbath concert, so pretty awesome.

I read another review in which the author liked this album much better than 13. I would not go that far, however, it may be. I really, really dug 13. If that was the last recording Black Sabbath ever did, they could be proud. The first four songs on this album were left off 13. I have no reason of knowing why. They are all awesome. The live tracks are great. Some very minor glitches here and there, but that is how a live recording should sound. If this is really the end — and it looks more and more every day like it is — I can be a happy Sabbath fan that I got a piece of history, got to see possibly the best band ever go out on their own terms, so I guess, I am alright with that.

I should take some points off for the CD’s $30 price tag. Also the fact, there is no vinyl or cassette options. Also, forcing fans to buy a concert ticket to enjoy the last album. For not including a bunch more songs. For having live songs that are not even on the setlist of The End tour. However, this review is strictly about the album and the songs included.

Track List:
01. Season Of The Dead
02. Cry All Night
03. Take Me Home
04. Isolated Man
05. God Is Dead? (Live Sydney, Australia, 4/27/13)
06. Under The Sun (Live Auckland, New Zealand, 4/20/13)
07. End of the Beginning (Live Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, 4/11/14)
08. Age of Reason (Live Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, 4/11/14)

Band Members:
Ozzy Osbourne – vocals
Geezer Butler – Bass
Tony Iommi – Guitar

Additional Musicians:
Brad Wilk – drums (1-4)
Tommy Clufetos – drums (5-8)
Adam Wakeman – keyboards, guitar (5-8)

Production:
Produced by Rick Rubin (1-4)
Mixed by Andrew Scheps (1-4)
Recorded by Greg Fidelman (1-4)
Recorded and engineered by Greg Price (5-8)
Assistant engineer: Trevor Robinson (5-8)
Engineer: James Boblak (5-8)
Mastered by Robert Vosgien (5-8)

Band Websites:
Official Website
Facebook
Twitter

Reviewed by Boppin for Sleaze Roxx, February 2016