Ahead of Zeppelin and Purple even, Sabbath defined heavy metal. All else that went before was proto-metal, and none produced the glorious sense of evil perpetuated by that single diminished fifth on the opening track of the eponymous début album.
Thence came to an end the Californian dreams of an illusory Age of Aquarius, stomped down by Brummies who told tales of darkness, Lucifer and a doom-laden planet.
But more than 40 years on would the triumvirate from the original line-up be able to deliver the power and potency that defined a music style that refuses to die? The test was at the MCD-promoted event in Belfast's Odyssey Arena yesterday evening (12th December).
As we noted we cannot be unbiased or detached - the power, the infernal majesty, the very ridiculousness of it all beat down doubters, battered the scenester folks, kicked into submission the shoe gazers and reminded us all that this Black Fucking Sabbath, poseurs and preened pop princes and princesses need not apply.
|Photo courtesy of Paul Verner|
Iommi was masterful, the riffmeister general, played runs and riffs that resounded with the power of a musical tsunami; Butler's bass lines flourished and flew around as his fingers slapped, rode and flayed booming runs under-scoring the sheer low-end resonance of early Sabbath material.
On the drum stool was Tommy Clufetos, who not only played the drum lines with ferocity, but played a relatively entertaining drum solo - relatively entertaining as most drum solos can be tedious.
|Photo courtesy of Paul Verner|
Ozzy - mad as a hatter. Although hatter's mercury may not have been the only chemical additive in his veins.
Despite the Ozman's occasional interruptions on Iommi's soloing and phrasing to once again implores all to sing, chant, clap, throw our arms in the air, Ozzy's limited mobility and obvious pain was obviated by his commitment onstage.
The set list - yes with such a back catalogue of metal monster songs there are always going to be songs that individual fans would want; but this was a set comprised mainly from the first four albums with two tracks from '13' (one previously aired was dropped from the set).
War Pigs, NIB, Fairies Wear Boots, Children of the Grave, NIB, Under The Sun, Into the Void, Age of Reason - we're not going to list them all; you either where there for the bone crushing heavy metal, or you were not.
All of which, as we filed out of the Odyssey Arena, were pored over not as critics, not as writers, not as journalists but as fans. Befuddled, bemused here today (13th December) we sit, stand and muse that this was not a band to tick off the bucket list. This was THE band that defined our music, that still defines each generation that discovers heavy metal.
A note on support band, Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats. Sabbath meet Hawkwind in a dark alley meet-up only to be mugged by Cathedral. Potential may lie within, and as one of the Belfastmetalheadsreunited team commented "not the worst support act I've seen".
Scores on the doors:
Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats - 3 out of 5.
Black Sabbath - 10 out of 5....well we did say we couldn't be unbiased!