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on 27 June 2012
Wow, more than 400 pages of Black Sabbath! Well, think again. Thorough this book may be, but more often than not, the emphasis is on the wrong things, and it soon becomes painfully obvious that Joel McIver simply hasn't done his homework, as the book just doesn't live up to its expectations.

Unlike many other Black Sabbath biographies, McIver's book has the distinctive feature of following both Sabbath's and Ozzy's careers side by side, and after Ozzy's exit from Sabbath, all of his solo albums are discussed as well. It soon becomes apparent that McIver is an Ozzy freak, and despite the title, this is essentially a book about Ozzy, rather than Sabbath.

The book is divided in three major parts: part one covers the original quartet's pre-Sabbath years and the band's Ozzy era up until the Ozzman's departure; part two covers the 80's, while the last part is largely comprised of the post-reunion years (1993 to 2006). Unsurprisingly, the middle part is the shortest, concentrating on the Ozzy-less Sabbath; in sharp contrast, what really is a let-down is the fact that part three is the longest, even longer than part one, and the years 2000 - 2006 are all given their own chapters. Considering that little new Sabbath material was released after the 1997 reunion, this decision really defies logic.

Anyone who's read any of McIver's other works is familiar with the fact that the writer isn't afraid to voice his opinions, and doesn't hesitate to criticise the artists whenever he feels that he has been let down by his favourite bands. However, he usually doesn't really support his arguments in any way, and more often than not, his opinions are difficult to relate to.

Following the pattern of the writer's other band bios, each Sabbath and Ozzy album is analysed song by song. However, perhaps due to the large amount of material, the reviews tend to be rather short, and McIver's analyses are often little more than chronological lists of the songs on each album, followed by brief comments of whether he likes a particular song or not.

Furthermore, the book is littered with mistakes and other inaccuracies: of course, it is by no means unheard of that even the most comprehensive biography has the odd spelling error or wrong date here and there, but the blunders McIver has managed to include in his book are a just plain careless writing. For example, guitarist Zakk Wylde is praised of his ability to adapt to the playing styles of both Randy Rhoads and Jake E. Lee on the "Just Say Ozzy" album - rather puzzling when the album doesn't feature any songs from the Randy Rhoads period. Occasionally, songs are referred to by wrong titles. However, what is by far the biggest flaw can be found in the beginning of the book: when analysing the first Sabbath album, "Black Sabbath," McIver describes "Evil Woman" and "Warning" as promising examples of the band's songwriting, and completely fails to acknowledge the fact that they are covers. For someone who claims to know his Sabbath well enough to write a biography, such a shortcoming is simply unforgivable. Are you listening, Mr. McIver?

Finally, where the book really goes disastrously wrong is when describing the post-1997 reunion years. After the 1999 farewell tour, Black Sabbath remained mostly inactive, apart from a few Ozzfest appearances and other comebacks. What does McIver write about, then? Page after page about the grimace-inducing MTV series, The Osbournes! It seems that after the arrival of the reality show that essentially destroyed Ozzy's credibility as a music performer, McIver seems to forget everything about Black Sabbath. Instead, the reader is bombarded with countless interviews and comments from Sharon, and endless descriptions of Ozzy's kids' lives as celebrities, including a detailed story of Jack Osbourne's trip to rehab (complete with interviews). Excuse me, but wasn't this supposed to be a book about Black Sabbath? Aren't there enough books about the Osbournes already? Inexplicably, McIver even has the nerve to include Kelly Osbourne's albums among his list of "Sabbath-related releases" in the 21st century. When considered that all of this was included at the expense of proper music journalism and in-depth album analyses, the reader can't help but cringe in frustration.

For a fledgling Ozzy fan, the book may have some interesting stories to offer, but for an older Sabbath aficionado, there is little new information on offer. Furthermore, there are just too many mistakes to make this an essential read. What a wasted opportunity.
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on 19 April 2013
The story of Black Sabbath is a fascinating one, which the author here has managed to make slightly boring.
The writing is formulaic, repetitive and turgid.
I, for one was less than impressed by his style which followed the same pattern over and over again.
Exposition ,album title,track by track analysis,exposition, album title,track by track analysis etc, etc.
I found his ruminations on the construction of every track so tedious, and also the latter part of the book where he strays offline and goes on about Kelly Osbourne and "The Osbournes" TV series.
My mark is a middle of the road C. Could do better.
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on 24 October 2006
There are a few Sabbath books around and I've read them all, but this is the one that has impressed me most. the author has interviewed everybody -- ok, not ozzy, but what did you expect? - and the things that bill, tony, geezer, glenn, ronnie and others like rob halford and even a whole bunch of thrash and death metal musicians say about the Sabs make it worth buying on their own. but even with that, the book goes into massive detail about every aspect of sabbath's career. The pics are awesome and this is one solid hardback too, i recommend it 100%.
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on 23 February 2015
Stick with Mick Wall's "SYMPTON OF THE UNIVERSE"...

That's what I have to say after reading this disappointing book by Joel McIver.

I have the previous edition, so I can't really say if some of the offending, almost criminal errors contained in my edition were corrected. One of the most annoying of them is the incapacity of the author to know the simple (and known by EVERYONE) fact that "Evil Woman" is a cover version, and was not written at all by Black Sabbath. And he chooses exactly the song to say "This was a good example of the band writing skills".... Gosh!!!

The misspelling and lack of proper editing is annoying. IT's a shame that a writer that had the opportunity to interviwe oso many of the band members along the years produce such a weak work.

Shame on you, McIver!

The book lacks depth, and sheer facts.

Nah, I'll stop here.
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on 23 April 2009
Black Sabbath defined and continue to define the shape of the metal genre, four decades since they came to be. Every heavy band (and even some not-so-heavy) has at least a trace of an Iommi riff, a Ward drum beat, a Butler bassline, or even a similar vocal to Ozzy Osbourne.

In this book, Joel McIver starts right from the very beginning, four guys growing up in poverty in Aston, and works his way through to the Sabbath reunion of the late 90s/Early 00s. The book is divided into three main sections: Invoking The Demon 1948-1978, Snowblind And Surrounded 1979-1992, and Resurrecting The Beast 1993-2006. Topics covered include the early (and in many cases troubled) years of Ozzy, Tony, Geezer and Bill growing up together in Aston, UK, writing and recording of albums, the rise to fame and run-ins with various managerial problems and excesses, Ozzy's departure, Ozzy's solo career, Sabbath's dogmatic efforts to continue without him (sometimes Tony was the only member remaining of the original four), many battles with drink and drugs, deaths, arrests, deaths, reunions and, of course, Ozzy biting the head off a bat. You see, this is not JUST a book about the band Black Sabbath, it chronicles everything surrounding the band in brilliant and honest detail, from a fan's perspective, from Ozzy's own career, other member's side projects, the state of music through the various eras, Sharon's involvement, the rise of the Ozzfest, and even a mention of Kelly Osbourne's music attempts.(Though not in as much detail you may be glad to hear!)

McIver makes use of a great many interviews, some conducted by himself, many taken from magazines and TV archive footage. They reveal a great deal about the inner workings of the band, and by the end it almost feels as if the reader knows the people in the book personally. He also analyses every Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne record track-by-track, giving very honest opinions on the material. This is clear when he is less-than-kind to some of the band's lesser material. Not all fans of the band will agree with his opinions, but he examines the music well, and even manages to explain, with the help of interviews, what the inspiration behind them was.

The book isn't perfect, however. There's the odd spelling error every couple of chapters, which won't bother too many, and occassionally he unintentionally uses the wrong name or song. (In one instance he refers to a Randy Rhoads riff, from an album he was not even alive to record on.) But it is clear that the author does know his Sabbath onions, he just maybe needs to be a bit more careful with them, and these gripes are hardly significant enough to spoil the enjoyment of the book.

This IS the best book on Black Sabbath in the book shops now. My main hope is that in maybe a year's time he will release an updated version to include the recent Heaven & Hell activity and album, as well as Ozzy's recent activites and strong 2007 effort Black Rain. Until that happens, this is an exhaustively detailed, highly readable, honest, sad and funny book that documents the story of the best darn heavy metal band ever, Black Sabbath.
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on 12 November 2014
The Story crosses a lot with "I am Ozzy!" so I skipped some parts, but in the general is a great great book!
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on 27 January 2007
This is the only Sabbath book on the market that tracks the band's history in such sharp detail. Insights from the band members and heaps of other metal musicians make you feel like you are up close and personal. The book also delves into the evolution of their unique sound, describes their ups and downs with accuracy and honesty, and puts the whole experience that is Black Sabbath into context. Another outstanding metal book from Joel McIver, a must have for all Sabbath fans!
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