On the same day that Black Sabbath released their new single, "God is Dead?," I instead found myself browsing the used racks at the local big-wig record store on a necessary run to get a gift. Having no knowledge of the new Sabbath track spreading rounds on the internet, the first decisive purchase from the used bin happened to be a copy of Seventh Star, an enigma of an album which was originally intended to be an Iommi solo album which, instead, was released under the Black Sabbath moniker after pressure from the record label. With all the talk of where Black Sabbath would continue after the unfortunate passing of Ronnie James Dio, Black Sabbath could have made any number of decisions. They made quite a handful of bad ones. But to finally hear new Black Sabbath music - notably as officially Black Sabbath - with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals just leaves this large lump in my chest.
In the late 1980's and early 1990's Black Sabbath procreated with two vocalists that get absolutely no credit though appearing on albums that lack only the notoriety of the early Ozzy and, to a lesser extent, Dio albums. Surface listeners are familiar with Sabbath as an Ozzy entity. There is simply no way to deny this and while the two Dio albums are absolutely famous and well known, there seems to have been forces at work - most likely by Ozzy's own management once a solo artist(Sharon) - to prevent Black Sabbath from being recognized as something separate than an Ozzy project. These efforts continued well past his time in Black Sabbath and even past his prime as a solo artist as evidenced by his 2009 lawsuit on rights to the Black Sabbath enterprise. This worked on a certain level, particularly with the media but ask long-term metal heads who is Sabbath and the resounding answer is Tony Iommi. Listening to this new track however, I can't help but feel that this "Black Sabbath" sounds not at all like the Sabbath of the Ozzy years, or the Dio years or the "forgotten years" albums of Born Again, Seventh Star, Eternal Idol and Headless Cross (my second favorite Sabbath record).
It sounds instead like a cross between No More Tears and moments of the last Sabbath record, "The Devil You Know." So I wish to preemptively address all that will undoubtedly claim that "Black Sabbath is back!" and "Sabbath Reborn!" and all sorts of media-created hype-headlines. To claim that this current formation is anything other than the brainchild of Sharon / Record Label is ignorance. With Ozzy and Iommi settling out of court on the ownership of the Black Sabbath name there is no way that Iommi would have been able to offer fans the truly sensible and, in my opinion, most elegant option of selection either of the "Forgotten Years" vocalists to take up position in front without serious contesting by Osbourne. The Heaven and Hell moniker simply would not work without RJD's legacy, voice and posture behind it even if Black Sabbath is for all purposes Iommi's. Prevented from using the Black Sabbath name by possible future litigation, calling the project "Seventh Star" or "Headless Cross" or whatever would not draw. People would have no idea it was even Black Sabbath. Iommi was forced to use the Black Sabbath name with the trade off that Ozzy would once again front the band that is generally regarded with Metal's founding.
It's unfortunate. Ozzy can do nothing but sully the name at this point. An Iommi, Butler, Ward/Apice with Martin or Hughes or Gillan reunion would have done Sabbath's legacy much more than simply offer the possibility of another masterful album. Hell, even a collaboration between all of them would be incredible. Instead, we are left with an expired Ozzy vocal experience, requiring technological auditory cosmetics to cover up what amounts to another marketing ploy, similar in vein to Ozzy's TV show or Ozzfest - a festival which honestly, always seemed as a venue for Ozzy to control and headline even after being obviously past his prime. I will retain all hope that there may come a time when Ozzy will relinquish the name to Iommi without legal challenges. I feel there is something to be learned from the irony of an excellent album intended NOT to be a Sabbath album by Iommi being labelled as a Sabbath album while a forthcoming release featuring a vocalist who can on longer sing, can no longer perform and should, in my opinion, have no stake in Sabbath after his dismissal due to drugs in 1979, somehow through legal means can be plastered with recognition due others. As mentioned elsewhere on the web. The current song sounds like it was written for Dio. I wonder how true this is. It can not be argued that the Ozzy era albums hold special place in metalheads' hearts - they hold a special place in my heart as well - but Black Sabbath deserves to be more than a method for Osbourne to retain his validity.