A few days ago, I had the absolute pleasure to catch a screening of Black Sabbath: The End of the End at my local cinema. The film was a recording of the band’s final show in Birmingham, layered with candid interviews with the band. In addition to this, the film showcased a small and intimate private recording session that took place a few days after the event itself, in which the band played some of their lesser-famous (but still iconic) songs. As a huge Sabbath fan, the film itself was hugely emotive and moving, and I had the luck of seeing it with a few close friends who admire Black Sabbath as much as I do.
“We didn’t even think it’d last two or three years, let alone nearly fifty.” Geezer Butler, the band’s bassist, sets the tone early in the film, interwoven within the titular Black Sabbath which kicked off the show. “It was so hard to say goodbye to the fans, who’ve been incredibly loyal to us through the years. We never dreamed in the early days that we’d be here forty-nine years later doing our last show on our home turf.” It’s made evident very early that for Sabbath, this is the show of their lives, and they couldn’t be happier with the venue; within walking distance of The Crown pub, the first real venue that Sabbath played together.
Throughout the film, the three reflect on their troubled lives. Ozzy Osbourne, who is consistently open about his previous years of drug addiction, remarks that in some small way he’s grateful for their previous managers for ‘robbing’ them of their earnings, as that money could’ve been used on drugs instead. “If we had that money, we’d not be here today.” Later, Tony Iommi addresses his lymphoma diagnosis during the production of the final album, 13, and if he’d be able to finish it. The End of the End is entirely gripping, and the juxtaposing sides of the film – heavy metal concert and fire-side interview – create a great atmosphere for Sabbath fans. In one of the interviews, Geezer remarks that Sabbath has been going for nearly fifty years – it’s not just been their lives, but the fans’ lives as well. He noticed that there were fans of all ages in the Genting Arena, and Sabbath have been around for longer than they’ve been alive. The way Geezer talks about it, and then immediately dive into his love for Aston Villa, reminds us that the biggest metal band in the world are just the same as us, excited for the next time their football team wins, losing track of old friends, grateful for what they have, though still ready to move onto new things. Tony even remarks that they could be playing the biggest show of their lives, and he’d look up to see Ozzy pulling a funny face to try and put him off his playing. The guys are so grounded that it’s admirable. Osbourne, Iommi, and Butler state that their only regret is that the band’s original drummer, Bill Ward, was unable to meet the show dates. “Even if it was for the last two shows or even the last show,” Iommi states, “but we just couldn’t sort it out. I don’t know.”
The concert itself, whilst performed back in February this year, was spectacular to watch – even on film. It’s a performance that I’d recommend any metal fan should check out, regardless of liking Black Sabbath. It’s a seriously enjoyable time, and it’s evident from the crowd and the band themselves. They’re all here to enjoy one thing; Sabbath’s final venture onto a stage. Tony Iommi comments that they felt that it was the right time to hang up the mantle of ‘Black Sabbath’ after their last album, 13, hit number one in both the UK and US charts at the same time – a first for the band. Iommi claims they decided to leave on a high, instead of attempting to imitate that feat for the rest of their careers. When discussing why they play certain songs, the band remark “If we didn’t play Iron Man, we’d have people rioting and asking why we didn’t play it.” From Iron Man to War Pigs, Paranoid, Children of the Grave, the band demonstrate their impressive discography, all faultlessly performed; it’s literally insane to see these nearly seventy-year-old men move their hands faster than most bands I’ve seen live today (well, except for Ozzy’s slightly out-of-time clapping during After Forever. Still, their musical ability is still impeccable, even after years of substance abuse and age. It’s amazing.
The final part of the film takes place in a rustic recording studio in the English country just a week after the performance, where the band discuss the show they performed, how they couldn’t sleep for nights after, and begin to play some of their lesser-played songs such as The Wizard. Again, the band’s incredible skill is on display as Iommi, Butler and Osbourne all perform their parts flawlessly – I was very impressed that Ozzy can still nail the harmonica opening to The Wizard.
Black Sabbath are awesome. There’s nothing else to say. I wish I could’ve caught a live show once in my life, and to now know that it’ll never happen is incredibly heart-breaking. In a one-on-one with the camera, Ozzy Osbourne claims that performing live in front of a crowd is better than anything else; “better than heroin, better than sex; it’s the best thing.” The pure passion that these three gentlemen put into their craft is truly inspiring. The trio are truly inspirational, and their determination to overcome any issue – whether it be substance abuse, estranged friends, or crazy self-proclaimed witches stalking them on tour – is one that resonates deeply with me. Stay true to yourself, and you’ll end up on top.
Check out The End of the End when it releases. You’ll kick yourself if you don’t.