BLACK SABBATH – The End – 4 Febuary 2017 Birmingham
"The End" is a monumental release that perfectly encapsulates everything that made (and makes) Black Sabbath the greatest band of all time. No other outfit out there has even come close to conjuring up similar majestic and otherworldly soundscapes as these veterans are capable of and are known for. Black Sabbath spawned something that was totally unique and unheard of back in 1969-1970; they changed the course of music history forever. In other words, we all owe a huge debt to the band and one could argue that yours truly would neither be writing this review nor you reading it if it had not been for Black Sabbath. But enough about that. Let us get on with it and discuss this amazing live offering, shall we?
The concert is beautifully shot and the quality of the sound is superb. The interplay between Tony Iommi (guitar), Geezer Butler (bass), Tommy Clufetos (drums), and Adam Wakeman (keyboards) is phenomenal while Mr. Osbourne infuses the Sabbath classics with demonic power, charisma, and that undefinable sense of melancholy that only he is capable of evoking. Opening the show with the title track from the debut album is a stroke of genius and there is no denying the impressive quality of such dense and formidable compositions as "After Forever", "Into the Void", "Behind the Wall of Sleep", "Dirty Women", and "Children of the Grave", just to list a few examples. Whenever I listen to Wakeman’s haunting keyboards creep into "Snowblind", I get the chills; it just never fails to blow me away. The only complaint (and it is a minor one) is that the rendition of "Hand of Doom" that is present here lacks the overpowering and crushing weight of its studio counterpart and sounds a little off, almost as if the band is lacking confidence and feeling a bit insecure when playing it. Still, it is not bad at all, but it is neither as transfixing nor ravaging as the other tunes that constitute "The End".
The raptorus audience reactions only emphasize and underline the fact that the greatest metal band of all time has lost none of its drive or enthusiasm over the years. Everyone is firing on all cylinders. Quite a few fans are actually in tears and I can totally relate to that, having witnessed Sabbath’s breathtaking shows in London just a few days prior to this last gig of theirs being filmed in Birmingham. The finality of it all is both beautiful and sad, but there is nothing sentimental or nostalgic about the Birmingham performance whatsoever. Black Sabbath are merely doing what they do best, which is to take us on a magical 2-hour journey through rock music history.
On top of the concert film, there is a 5-track album included entitled "The Angelic Sessions", which is basically the final recording by Sabbath with everything being played and recorded live in the studio. The band covers "The Wizard", "Wicked World", "Sweet Leaf", "Tomorrow’s Dream", and "Changes", and it all sounds magnificent. I really dig the raw and spontaneous vibe of the whole thing. Excellent stuff and a very cool thing to add to the Sabbath collection!
I could probably throw a handful of other highly positive adjectives at this release in order to describe how stunning it is, but what would be the point of that? All you need to know is that "The End" is a triumphant closing chapter in the inspiring and inspired chronicle of Black Sabbath that leaves one wanting more yet feeling strangely elated that the band went out on such a high note and delivered a passionate, intense, and utterly mindblowing final show. Needless to say, the vortex of madness that was and is Black Sabbath shall continue to endure as these gentlemen made timeless music together that will resonate throughout the caverns of generations to come. Never say die indeed! Various different versions and formats of this extraordinary release are available now. You know what to do!