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The End is nigh for Black Sabbath

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Thursday, February 18, 2016

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Ozzy Osbourne asked "is this then end of the beginning or the beginning of end" on Black Sabbath's last album, 2013's Grammy Award-winning "13."

Three years later the answer is that it's the end. For real.

Black Sabbath, which formed during 1968 in Birmingham, England, and became a prototype for all heavy metal that followed in its wake, is calling it quits with one more go around the world. The group's The End tour kicked off last month and currently has dates booked in North America and Europe into mid-September, with other territories set to be added to take the trek into 2017.

And, Osbourne and bassist Terry "Geezer" Butler insist, this is no mere farewell ruse to sell tickets.

"This is definitely the end," Butler, 66, says by phone from tour rehearsals in Omaha, Neb.. "I realized during the '13' tour we couldn't do it for much longer. We're all getting up there in our age and while we're still at the top of our profession both musically and aesthetically then we wanted to go out on the top, and we feel this is the right time to do it.

"So the natural thing to do was to all agree on one last tour. Once we agreed on that, that was it. There won't be any more Sabbath after this. It's a natural end to the band.

And Osbourne, 68, promises there will be no reconsideration, no matter how much he, Butler and guitarist Tony Iommi enjoy their time on the road this time.

"Believe me, as far as I know it's not gonna go back together in three years when we all run out of cash or whatever. I have no intention," says the frontman, who was fired from Sabbath in 1979 and went on to a successful solo career, and became a reality TV icon via MTV's "The Osbournes." He's been reunited with the group since 1997 for intermittent tours.

"I think it's run its course, Black Sabbath," Osbourne adds. "We started in 1968; I think that's plenty of time for one thing. It's been up and down and all over the place with different combinations of different people. It's good that we've come back together at the end, more or less, to finish it on a high note. It's a good way to do it."

There's no questioning Sabbath's achievements or its legendary status in the music world. "Anyone who considers themselves metal and says they're not influenced by Black Sabbath is either lying or delusional -- that's how big their impact is," notes David Draiman of the band Disturbed. With a pile of iconic material that includes "Paranoid," "Iron Man," "War Pigs" and many more, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

And it remains current enough that "13" was Sabbath's first No. 1 album ever in the U.S., winning a pair of Grammy Awards in the process.

Sabbath is often celebrated for a dark and, some have claimed, evil outlook in its songs. But Osbourne counters that any real examination of the group's lyrics, primarily written by Butler, shows Sabbath had more than that to offer.

"Back when we started people were writing about peace and love and hippies and all that stuff, and it was a fantasy," he explains. "If you look at that time it was really false and ugly, with the (Vietnam) war and so many other things going on.

"So we just had a different take on the reality of what was going on in this world. Our songs were not only about satanism and dark things but pollution and war. It's kind of interesting to see somebody like a President Obama or any of these guys start talking about pollution now. We were talking about that 40 years ago, y'know?"

Sabbath's ending is marred a bit, however. Iommi has been battling lymphoma since 2012. And original drummer Bill Ward remains absent since being left off the "13" album and its tour as well (replaced by Detroit native Tommy Clufetos from Osbourne's band), ostensibly because of financial and contractual reasons although the other group members said Ward wasn't in good enough shape to go on tour. That led to an ongoing war of words in the press and on social media, and at this juncture the current Sabbath pointedly refuse to address about the situation.

"I don't want to talk about it, 'cause every time I open my mouth about Bill Ward I get another 10,000 complaints from him," Osbourne says.

So the Black beat goes on for Sabbath. The group decided not to make another album, partly due to time contraints and partly because, as Osbourne says, "We went No. 1 the last time, and the only place you can go from there is down, so why bother?" The group has, however, released an eight-track CD called "The End" that's being sold at tour stops, featuring four songs recorded for but not included on "13" as well as four live tracks.

Once The End truly ends, the Sabbath members plan to go their separate ways, with Osbourne resuming his solo career and also launching a History Channel show with his son, Jack Osbourne, in which they tour sites around the world "with an Osbourne kind of flavor." And the singer expects to be dry-eyed when Sabbath does play its final show.

"Y'know, it's been great," he says. "We started as kids, and the greatest gift I have is we weren't a band in some London business mogul's head. We were four kids from a place called Aston in Birmingham and we all just said we'll form a band and we started with nothing and our first album went straight to No. 2 on the British charts. And we haven't looked back since.

"It's just one of those magical things that life gives you sometimes, and I don't want it to dwindle and dwindle and play just for the sake of making another sack full of cash. So it's time."

Black Sabbath and Rival Sons

7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19.

The Palace of Auburn Hills, Lapeer Road at I-75.

Tickets are $35-$160.

Call 248-377-0100 or visit palacenet.com.

Note: Black Sabbath and Rival Sons return Aug. 31 to play at the DTE Energy Music Theatre in Independence Township. Tickets are $35-$150 pavilion, $35 lawn with a $99 four-pack.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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