Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 13, 2017)
With the February 2017 concert captured on The End, legendary heavy metal band Black Sabbath calls it quits – maybe. One look at the group’s history shows a series of stops and starts, so I can’t accept their apparent retirement at face value.
Whether it ends up as their swan song or not, The End gives fans a document of Black Sabbath circa 2017. Shot in the band’s hometown of Birmingham, England on February 4, the concert emphasizes their early career.
From the band’s self-titled 1970 debut, we find “Black Sabbath”, “NIB” and “Behind the Wall of Sleep”, while 1970’s Paranoid delivers “Fairies Wear Boots”, “Iron Man”, “War Pigs”, “Hand of Doom”, “Rat Salad” and the title song.
From 1971’s Master of Reality, we locate “Sweet Leaf”, “After Forever”, “Into the Void” and “Children of the Grave”. "Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes", “Snow Blind” and “Supernaut” arrive from 1972’s Vol. 4, while 1973’s Sabbath Bloody Sabhath boasts the title song.
1975’s Sabotage brings us “Megalomania”, and 1976’s Technical Ecstasy boasts “Dirty Women”. As far as I can tell, “Bassically” never appeared on a studio album – it seems to exist essentially as an instrumental lead-in to “NIB”.
I’ll freely admit that Black Sabbath have never been my cup of tea. I wasn’t a metalhead as a kid, and I’ve not changed that attitude a whole lot over the decades – except that I’ve come to appreciate the band better. 30 years ago, I had no use for an act like Sabbath, but now I can understand them and judge their output on its own merits.
Did The End make me a Sabbath fan? No, but I liked the music more than I would’ve in my youth. While most people go for softer stuff as they age, apparently I’m turning more toward harder rock, so I kinda dig the sludgy metal edge we hear from Sabbath.
I can’t compare this performance to shows the band played in earlier years, but Sabbath sounds fine. The musicians remain tight, and vocalist Ozzy Osbourne shows a voice that’s held up well after all the decades – and all the substance abuse.
As for the work of director Dick Carruthers, he makes the presentation “busier” than I’d like, though not to an offensive degree. On the negative side, the concert suffers from a lot of quick-cutting as well as a few intentionally blurry images and too many shots of the head-bangers in the crowd.
Still, I’ve seen worse - much worse, in fact. I wish Carruthers had reined in some of these editing and cinematographic excesses, but I can live with them, as they don’t go too over the top.
All of this leaves The End as a fairly compelling document of Black Sabbath’s supposed last concert. Fans should feel pleased with it.
Note that we got only three-fourths of the original Sabbath here. While founding members vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler returned, drummer Tony Ward remained on the sidelines.
Apparently Ward and Osbourne had a falling out a while back and didn’t patch that up before the final tour. The cynic in me thinks they’ll kiss and make up a couple of years down the road and we’ll see a farewell tour from the original foursome, but that’s just idle speculation.