Black Sabbath are an English metal band, formed in Birmingham in 1968, by guitarist and main songwriter Tony Iommi, bassist and main lyricist Geezer Butler, singer Ozzy Osbourne and drummer Bill Ward. The band have since experienced multiple line-up changes, with guitarist Iommi being the only constant presence in the band through the years. Originally formed in 1968 as a blues rock band, the group soon adopted the Black Sabbath moniker and began incorporating occult themes with horror-inspired lyrics and tuned-down guitars. Despite an association with these two themes, Black Sabbath also composed songs dealing with social instability, political corruption, the dangers of drug abuse and apocalyptic prophecies of the horrors of war.
Osbourne’s regular abuse of alcohol and other drugs led to his dismissal from the band in 1979. He was replaced by former Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio. Following two albums with Dio, Black Sabbath endured countless personnel changes in the 1980s and 1990s that included vocalists Ian Gillan, Glenn Hughes, Ray Gillen and Tony Martin, as well as several drummers and bassists. In 1992, Iommi and Butler rejoined Dio and drummer Vinny Appice to record Dehumanizer. The original line-up reunited with Osbourne in 1997 and released a live album Reunion. Black Sabbath’s 19th studio album, 13, which features all of the original members but Ward, was released in June 2013.
Black Sabbath are often cited as pioneers of heavy metal music. The band helped define the genre with releases such as Black Sabbath (1970), Paranoid (1970) and Master of Reality (1971). They were ranked by MTV as the “Greatest Metal Band” of all time, and placed second in VH1’s “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock” list. Rolling Stone magazine ranked them number 85 in their “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”. They have sold over 70 million records worldwide. Black Sabbath were inducted into the ‘UK Music Hall of Fame’ in 2005 and the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’ in 2006. They have also won two Grammy Awards for Best Metal Performance.
Final tour (2014–present)
On 29 September 2014, vocalist Ozzy Osbourne told Metal Hammer that Black Sabbath would begin work on their twentieth studio album in early 2015 with producer Rick Rubin, followed by a final tour in 2016. In an April 2015 interview, however, Osbourne said that these plans “could change”, and added, “We all live in different countries and some of them want to work and some of them don’t want to, I believe. But we are going to do another tour together.”
On 3 September 2015, it was announced that Black Sabbath will embark on their final tour, titled ‘The End’ from January to July 2016. Numerous dates and locations across the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand have been announced thus far.
On 26 October 2015, it was announced the band consisting of Osbourne, Iommi and Butler will be returning to the Download Festival on 11 June 2016. Despite earlier reports that they would enter the studio before their farewell tour, Osbourne stated that there will not be another Black Sabbath studio album.
Black Sabbath has sold over 70 million records worldwide, including a RIAA-certified 15 million in the US. They are one of the most influential heavy metal bands of all time. The band helped to create the genre with ground-breaking releases such as Paranoid, an album that Rolling Stone magazine said “changed music forever”, and called the band “the Beatles of heavy metal”. Time Magazine called Paranoid “the birthplace of heavy metal”, placing it in their Top 100 Albums of All Time. Rolling Stone magazine ranked Black Sabbath number 85 in their list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time. MTV placed Black Sabbath at number one on their Top Ten Heavy Metal Bands and VH1 placed them at number two on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. VH1 ranked Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” the number one song on their 40 Greatest Metal Songs countdown.
According to Rolling Stone’s Holly George-Warren, “Black Sabbath was the heavy metal king of the 70s.” Although initially “despised by rock critics and ignored by radio programmers”, the group sold more than 8 million albums by the end of that decade.
In addition to being pioneers of heavy metal, they also have been credited for laying the foundations for heavy metal subgenres stoner rock, sludge metal, thrash metal, black metal and doom metal as well as for alternative rock subgenre grunge. According to the critic Bob Gulla, the band’s sound “shows up in virtually all of grunge’s most popular bands, including Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains”.
Tony Iommi has been credited as the pioneer of lighter gauge guitar strings. The tips of his fingers were severed in a steel factory, and while using thimbles (artificial finger tips) he found that standard guitar strings were too difficult to bend and play. He found that there was only one size of strings available, so after years with Sabbath he had strings custom made.
2000 : Best Metal Performance – “Iron Man” (live)
2014 : Best Metal Performance – “God Is Dead?”