What does authenticity mean? In the case of Black Sabbath it means going back decades, to the time they invented metal. Sure, Zeppelin, Hendrix, Cream and a few others deserve their share but between ‘Black Sabbath’ (1969) and ‘Sabotage’ (1975) four lads from Birmingham created a new popular music paradigm: their dirty, downtuned hard rock borrowed heavily from the blues but sounded like nothing that had gone before. ‘Master Of Reality’ and ‘Vol. 4’ arguably define metal, and have influenced many musicians including alt-Rock heavyweights like Kurt Cobain and Billy Corgan but now there are entire genres borrowing from their blueprint (or should that be Blackprint?) like Doom Metal and Stoner Rock.
Much of the Sabs’ work over the past three decades has been well-received by rock fans but they’ve arguably broken little new ground since the first Ronnie Dio-fronted incarnation (1979-82). If Ronnie Dio were still alive this reunion wouldn’t be happening, that’s for sure. As Heaven & Hell they’ve found a groundswell of popular support from the Nostalgia Metal brigade. But to fans of the original Sabbath, the moniker was apposite: however good it was it wasn’t really the real thing.
In the NME’s round-up of most hotly wished-for reunions, the original Black Sabbath topped the bill. That’s understandable, the old songs still stand up today but it’ll take more than wishing to find anything so vital nowadays: it’ll have to an exhumation. What to do? Call Rick Rubin of course: Rubin is your ‘go-to guy’ for past their prime artists desirous of a bit of musical nip’n’tuck.
Do I sound cynical? I probably am, though I’m willing to cut a bit of slack on occasion: I’m going to see Yes tomorrow. Unlike some doubters, I think the combination of bringing back The Buggles and introducing Benoit ‘Close To The Edge’ David has really revitalised Yes. I’m excited by the prospect of some new Stone Roses and I won’t mind if it’s another ‘Second Coming’ – I liked that album: it borrowed from the blues rock of Sabbath’s day but injected it with a new fillip. ‘Sabbath’ (in whatever incarnation) have never come close to topping the likes of ‘Iron Man’, ‘Children Of The Grave’ or ‘A National Acrobat’ in thirty years. I hope Rubin’s magic touch awakens a tenth of that inspiration; I have no illusions Ozzy will bring anything remarkable to the table – his last few albums have been appalling, an embarrasment compared to classics like ‘Bark At The Moon’ and ‘No Rest For The Wicked’, and a world away from classic Sabbath like this:
I could pick nearly any track from the first six albums and that’s surely the point; the band were on fire and amazingly consistent: there’s no better indicator of true authenticity, when that special combination of personalities can’t help but produce the goods. Have they found that combination again? Lets hope so.