"If someone who plays heavy metal says he's not influenced by Black Sabbath's music, then I think he's lying to you. I think all heavy metal music is somehow influenced by what Black Sabbath did" says Chris Adler of Lamb of God. An obvious fact today, as the precursors of Black Sabbath celebrate the 50th anniversary of their first album.
Yet, these heavy metal demigods might never have seen the light of day without the accident that cost two fingers to Tony Iommi, its emblematic guitarist. In order to make up for this tragic loss, he added a vibrato on his chords and created the mysterious atmosphere, with heavy sounds and sharp riffs, that is now characteristic of the genre.
Since then, the four devils have been constantly scaring the stages, carried along by the mischief and nasal voice of their emblematic singer, Ozzy Osbourne. The Prince of Darkness, as he has been nicknamed, sings a simple, chorus-free song whose lyrics are full of anguish and macabre fantasies, tinged with drugs and a hint of religion. Inspirations that also come from their humble origins in an industrial district of Birmingham where the reggae of Jamaican neighbours struggled to make themselves heard amidst the din of machines, soldering irons and car assembly lines.
The four original members of Black Sabbath have managed to extricate themselves from this fatal fate, preferring the sweat of the factories to the sweat of the concert halls and inspiring a whole generation. From Metallica to Iron Maiden through Slayer, Korn or Guns N' Roses, even if some students have surpassed the masters, they all claim their heritage. A pride for Tony Iommi "To think that you've created a whole new musical genre and that you've inspired so many bands to make music is really deadly".
Like a rebellion against the happy music that was all the rage at the time, the group formed by Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Bill Ward and Geezer Butler released their first album, with a dark atmosphere, on Friday, February 13, 1970. An eponymous opus which will be very quickly followed by Paranoid, engaged against the Vietnam war and which was originally named after the song War Pigs. If the critics are not the most laudatory, the public is thrilled by these heavy chords and riffs. Success in the UK and North America was almost immediate.
The 70's make Black Sabbath the most famous heavy metal band in the world. Maybe also because of Ozzy Osbourne's antics, which nothing stops. He will even go as far as beheading a dove with his teeth in front of his producers. But struggling with his drug addiction, his band blames him for his lack of commitment. Internal conflicts that will lead to the eviction of the emblematic singer in 1979.
The departure of Ozzy Osbourne sounds the beginning of a period of instability for Black Sabbath. Arrivals and departures in the band are so numerous that the magazine Kerrang! makes a mockery of them, going even as far as announcing false line-ups for April 1st. In 1987, it's Tony Martin who takes the vocal lead and Headless Cross, the album that will follow is critically acclaimed. Just like Deshumanizer, in 1992, which allowed the band to play some of its greatest concerts.
After a dazzling solo career and an absence of almost 20 years, Ozzy regularly invites Geezler Butler and Tony Iommi to join him on stage. Finally, Bill Ward brings them together to officially re-form the Black Sabbath of the early days. To the great delight of the fans, they then went on to perform a series of festivals and concerts, with the Prince of Darkness restoring the legendary band's lustre.
Having given birth to only one album, 13, under the direction of producer Rick Rubin, since their reformation, Black Sabbath announces with a bang its ultimate tour for 2016 and 2017. They promise in passing that there will be no umpteenth comeback and no new album. 80 concerts are scheduled around the world, culminating in a show in Birmingham on February 4, 2017.
The introduction of the concert by War Pigs in a Bercy populated by heavy metal fans, immediately set the mood. The sound was excellent, extremely well tuned. The rhythmics of Butler and Ward's replacement was knocking like Ivan Drago in Rocky 4. With a few heavy and threatening riffs, Iommi reminded the 11,000 people present that he is indeed the Boss and the Pope of Heavy Metal. In short, the Sabbath sounded just like in those glory days.
What an honour to have accompanied these heavy metal legends during their anthology concert at Bercy! Even with an average age of 60, the band still has the same energy. And if its singer, Ozzy Osbourne, has mellowed a bit, his voice doesn't tremble and his jumps are always communicative. If one thought that this charismatic leader could succumb to the weight of years, one must remember that a prince never gets old!
We discovered a Sabbath which, far from being out of breath, proved to live up to the reputation it had forged in the early seventies as the first apostle of heavy metal. Even Ozzy, a beloved jester of darkness, [...] found in it an application and even a vocal power that had left him a long time ago. We told ourselves that leaving in style was probably what it was all about, while wishing to see him again one day, if only to convince ourselves that we hadn't dreamt.