‘Godfathers of Metal’ Black Sabbath return to roots
LONDON (CNN) — The rock band Black Sabbath have created music history on both sides of the Atlantic with the release of their new album “13.” The record has provided the band with their first number one album in the U.S. and their first album chart topper in the UK after an unprecedented 43 years.
They have achieved the landmark by returning to their roots. It’s the band’s first album for more than three decades featuring vocalist Ozzy Osbourne along with fellow original band members guitarist Tony Iommi and bass player Geezer Butler. They credit producer Rick Rubin with helping them overcome their initial apprehension.
“He was really good for us”, says Butler “and suggested we go back to the old spirit of how we used to do things like live in the studio, a jam, live in the studio kind of feel. And that gave us the direction to go in.”
“We tried it in 2001” adds Osbourne “and I think unconsciously we knew this was our last chance. If we had failed on this attempt people would have said ‘ah it’s never gonna happen.’ I think it must be over 30 or 40 years since I listened to the first album because you know you move on and you challenge yourself. As I was saying earlier on, it’s like asking the Beatles to go back to ‘Please Please Me’ and they would have gone ‘what?'”
That first album was recorded in just two days in the English city of Birmingham in 1969. The band’s name was inspired by seeing people queuing to see a horror movie at a cinema in the city.
Osbourne recalls: “Black Sabbath was an after-thought cos originally we were a blues jazz band and someone said ‘people pay money to see horror movies and get scared, why don’t we start writing scary music?'”
Playing scary music produced a legacy that has influenced generations of rock bands and labeled Black Sabbath as godfathers of heavy metal. But the band has an uneasy relationship with their musical offspring.
“I have never ever ever been able to attach myself to the word ‘heavy metal’ — it has no musical connotations,” Osbourne says. “If it was heavy rock I could get that but the 70s was kind of like a bluesy thing, the 80s was kind of bubblegum-frosted hair, multicolored clothes and the 90s was kind of grungy. People come up to me and say ‘your Sabbath work was a big influence on me.’ I could go ‘Oh yeah I can see that’ but other bands… what part of that is inspired by us? Some of it is just angry people screaming down a microphone!”
The band had to overcome several obstacles to complete the new album. Original drummer Bill Ward was replaced by Rage Against the Machine’s Brad Wilk on the new album after a contractual dispute. And Tony Iommi was diagnosed with cancer.
“If it was me I’d just go “I’m out of here” says Osbourne “but he never complained once, he just kept it to himself, I’d be thinking this is the end if it was me. My wife beat cancer. I didn’t know if anyone could beat cancer.”
“He was an inspiration to us during the album” adds Butler. “Nothing would stand in his way. He just got on with it and through it and I thought if he can do that then I can do that so we persevered with it.”
Ozzy Osbourne recently apologized to his band mates and wife Sharon after admitting he’d relapsed into a cycle of drink and drugs. But he says he’s been sober now for four months and ready to take the album on the road. They say the touring experience now is very different to their wildest days.
“It’s great” says Osbourne. “I don’t go to clubs or bars, I stay in my room.”
“Do the gig then go to bed!” laughs Butler.
Man had not long since set foot on the moon when Black Sabbath had their first number one album in the UK. It took a record-breaking interval of 42 years and eight months to repeat the feat. At times it may have felt like the beginning of the end for the band but in the words of one of their album’s stand-out tracks it may in fact be merely the “End of the Beginning.”
Osbourne ends in reflective mood. “Black Sabbath wasn’t some band created by a London mogul. We were four guys who had a dream that became bigger than expectations. It’s been the best thing that ever happened to me.”