Black Sabbath @ Download 2012


Review by Harry Paterson

“They’re, like, so iconic, you know?” The skinny, teenage fop in front of me automatically trots out the approved line. He’s from Christ-knows-where. Kerrang, perhaps. Scuzz, maybe or possibly a ‘brand’. One of those clothing lines that the arbiters of the new metal cool insist we all need to make our cred complete. He looks just the type.

He’s yakking on auto-pilot but he aint listening. His eyes are zig-zagging all over the place; carefully scoping out the backstage press area in case someone powerful, important, someone more influential, ambles on by.

The kid don’t know from shit. The neck tattoo, check-patterned footwear and carefully-coiffured fringe tell me all I need to know.

I close my eyes. If I can’t see him maybe the pain his vacuous inanities induce will go away. Maybe he will. No such luck. He’s still there.

“It’s, like, Ozzy’s a major brand now, yeah?” Christ, shoot me now. Or him. He actually said that. “This is a genius move, the reformation, a chance to give the kids a look at what it’s all about”. The kids? Really? This from an organism barely older than a sperm and, incredibly, the brightest and best of the bunch that motored along his momma’s fallopian highway. This depresses me. I close my eyes again and dream of nuclear bombs firing on Hipsterville. Horsemen of the metal apocalypse riding grimly into view, determinedly cutting out the cancer of fashion and uber-cool.

As ‘Black Sabbath’ clangs it’s doomy motif across the warm June evening a circle somehow closes. From the start to, if not the end then something very close, to the end. This is where it started. All of it. A festival featuring Metallica, Opeth, Machine Head, Lamb of God and Megadeth and here are the grandfather’s of the whole God damn shooting match. It’s as if it was ordained and of course it was. Although not by divine decree. Nah, she might be nearly as powerful and twice as rich but Sharon aint God.

The sound is immense. And breathtakingly, beautifully, gratifyingly clear. ‘The Wizard’ comes on like rolling thunder as Iommi lingers behind Ozzy firing from the hip. It’s simple in its brutality. The minor pentatonic and fifth chords; that’s it. The building blocks of the band that invented the greatest and most enduring movement in contemporary music and the one to which every single band that preceded them this weekend owes a debt.

Geezer Butler turns in a performance right from the top of his game.  He aint missing Bill Ward. He locks onto Tommy Clufetos’ twin kick drums like a guided missile. Clufetos is astonishing. Thunder and fury and power and glory raining down like hammers of the gods. Sure, he’s not Bill Ward but Bill Ward sure as shit aint no Tommy Clufetos, either. The double-kick flourishes, tastefully and sparingly applied, add a real gloss to the mix, bringing a pleasingly contemporary edge to the sound that spawned heavy metal.

Ozzy? Well, he’s Ozzy, right? Shambolic, tottering and diminished by the nine lives he’s lived in the fast lane. Often flat, range shot to shit and weaving around with the stumbling uncertain gait of Bambi on roller-skates. Standing on a basket-ball. On ice. Does it matter, though? Does it hell. He finds a just-acceptable minimum furrow and ploughs through it to the end of the set. Hanging on by the finger-tips as the thick end of a hundred thousand people urge him on.

‘Symptom of the Universe’ powers to its end like a wrecking-ball through a tenement block and then the first and only moment of horrible doubt sets in; they’ve only gone and given Clufetos a drum solo, for fuck’s sake. One, they’re mind-numbing. Two, no one likes ‘em and three; it aint Bill Ward. Surely, now, the pro-Ward contingent will make themselves heard? Booing, maybe even a bottling of Clufetos, is surely on the cards? Didn’t happen, kids. Not at all. The solo is actually riveting and the cocky muthafucker only pauses several times, hand behind ear, demanding applause. And, waddya know? He gets it; unreservedly and appreciatively.

There’s nothing in the way now, between the quartet and glory, and the final fivesome of ‘Iron Man’ ‘Fairies Wear Boots’ ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ ‘Dirty Women’ and ‘Children of the Grave’ complete the history lesson.

Yeah, of course they played that song. As a single encore. It was a battering ram and it moved the air in front of us. I turned to my right and my work-buddy for the weekend, Metal Hammer’s Joe Daly, usually the epitome of laid-back California cool, was throwing the horns like a teenage speed-freak. He grinned at me. I grinned back.

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath? Yeah, it was and they were. I doubt we, or they, will walk this way again. Thanks for the memories.


  1. Outstanding review. You coulda been a contender Harry.
    I have to say though (and yes, wash my mouth out with soap) I’ve never liked Ozzie’s dalek drone. Still, you can’t win them all.

  2. You have just made me wish I had been there, Harry. Great piece of writing – as always. Thanks.

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