Why do I love metal?
Well, why does anyone love anything? It makes me happy, like few other things do. When I’m surrounded by sweaty assholes in the Pit, with the distorted moan of an electric guitar splitting the face of God Himself and the wounded wail of the frontman making Satan’s ears bleed, I am at peace in a way unequaled by anything else I know. Nothing bothers me; even the pull of gravity itself seems less severe, and I feel like I’m floating through the cosmic ether, smashing the crap out of my metal brothers as I do so. In the Pit, none of my petty human problems mean anything. As an individual, I am insignificant, but I am also one with everything else; and everything now churns itself up in a frenetic cloud of darkness and rage. People sweat, people scream, people bleed, sometimes people die, and it’s the most beautiful thing in the entire world. Metal is my evil yoga; my dark Zen.
And my Mad Buddha is a man named Ozzy Osbourne.
His band, Black Sabbath, was almost singlehandedly responsible for the formation of Metal way back in the ancient ’70s, before I was born. With all of that said, it will be tough to give an objective review of my recent chance to see Sabbath, with Ozzy, live for the first time. But I will attempt it. Like all Metal nerds, I collected Black Sabbath’s albums, and I listened as the band evolved and changed – generally not for the better – over the decades. If you’re not too squeamish about the wall-to-wall murder of every kind of animal known to Man, I recommend picking up Ozzy’s book, I Am Ozzy. It offers an account of the early formation of the band, as well as Osbourne’s eventual ejection from it due to massive, massive substance abuse. If that sort of thing interests you, check it out, but I must repeat my earlier warning: Ozzy has killed a lot of animals.
Back on track, though, after Sabbath booted Ozzy they went through a series of other lead vocalists; most notably the great Ronnie James Dio, who lead the band for many years but died in 2010. They had other vocalists, too, but no one in particular cares about those people. No offense, Glenn Hughes, but no, I do not care about you. Ozzy rejoined the band a few times in the ’90s and ’00s, but I missed them all somehow. So I was quite excited when recently, I heard the original band (more or less) was getting back together. Now, they’re all ancient; actually younger than the Rolling Stones, whom I reviewed earlier this year, but they seem so much older. It’s true that I do believe that Rock and Roll, as a force of Nature, has the power to keep you young if it doesn’t kill you first. Having this year seen the aforementioned Stones, Motörhead, Alice Cooper and now Sabbath, let me say: three out of four ain’t bad. When you watch Mick Jagger on stage, to this day, he marches about like a much younger man. Not so much Ozzy, who actually looks like he would benefit from a walker onstage. Guitarist and only consistent member Tony Iommi, whose fucked up fingers famously created the metal sound, and who actually had to punch cancer in the dick to be on this tour, fares a little better, as does Geezer Butler. Still, they show their age onstage a good bit more than those other groups I saw do. Even so, despite age, drugs, drama, cancer, and other problems, Sabbath still plays pretty well. Ozzy’s voice still has its otherworldly power, and songs like War Pigs and Iron Man haven’t lost any of their evil charm. The only downside, I suppose, would be that original drummer Bill Ward could not be brought back, apparently because as powerful as Metal is, money is moreso. His replacement, Tommy Clufetos, busted his ass to prove he was worthy to play with Sabbath. While he tore up his drum solo, I couldn’t help but feel he was trying too hard. I would have loved to see Bill Ward. But: spilled milk, I suppose.
Everyone in Sabbath will probably die soon, so I’m glad I got to see them together (mostly) one time. It was swelteringly hot at the Verizon Ampitheater – I still can’t understand Ozzy, but I think he complained about it, too – and Sabbath is old, and tickets were expensive, but, dammit: Metal.