Metallurgy: Black Sabbath (Live Shot)

Even 40 years on, the heavy metal pioneers still draw blood

Metallurgy: Black Sabbath
Photo by John Anderson

Black Sabbath

Frank Erwin Center, July 27

"Let me hear you!" bellowed Ozzy Osbourne behind the black scrim boxing of the Erwin Center stage. The house lights hadn't gone down, but the air-raid sirens went up, and so did the critical mass. In the gloom, Geezer Butler climbed the stairs stage left and Tony Iommi ascended stage right. Then began "War Pigs." For the next two hours, that spearheading folk-blues detonation – as damning today as when it was written in 1970, and doubtlessly carrying forward in its commentary on mankind – became a wake that sent one tsunami after another through a music canon as familiar as the characters in a Hollywood classic: Tony Iommi, the epitome of metal cool, in a leather frock coat, sunglasses, and trademark silver cross hanging on his chest, scrubbing massive, biting riffs from his collection of Gibson SGs; Geezer Butler, fingers flying across four strings in the anchoring of his bandmate's riffology; and Osbourne, his range gone but looking two-thirds his age shuffling around the stage, singing mostly in the key of Q and exhorting the brimming Red River drum to make itself heard. Drummer Tommy Clufetos, standing in for a recalcitrant Bill Ward, was there in a purely support capacity, despite an overlong drum solo at the end of "Rat Salad." Performing in front of a minimalist Hammer Films horror backdrop and three video screens, Black Sabbath thus unearthed hidden gems as well as the best of its new LP, 13. "Age of Reason" and "God Is Dead?" filled the Erwin Center as monstrously as "Behind the Wall of Sleep" and Butler showcase "N.I.B.," while "Methademic" soared like a Pteranodon instead of stomping like a Brontosaurus. Ultimately, though, it was the early Tyrannosaurus hits – big and raw – that drew the reddest blood and the shrillest screams. With Iommi, 65, playing like a man not battling lymphoma; Butler, 64, keeping the groove aflame; and Osbourne, 64, doing, well, his best, "Children of the Grave," "Into the Void," and especially "Black Sabbath" – the tritone that altered popular music – invented heavy metal right before your ears. Even 40 years on.

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