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.