Review: Dark sonic delights from Sabbath

Photo by Shane Gilchrist
Photo by Shane Gilchrist

It was a mass featuring variations on black: from the themes and imagery of fire, war, an afterlife spent above, below or somewhere in between;to the clothes of both band and crowd; to the freight-train power of Black Sabbath, who tore a hole in the night and, via singer and protaganist Ozzy Osbourne, invited us to jump on in.

Having been warmed by the disarmingly unpretentious Californian support act Rival Sons, whose mix of bluesy-rock was underpinned by deftly played grooves, the eardrums of the (roughly) 10,000-strong audience were then given warning of the impending, visceral threat by way of an video featuring a demon, dark corridors and, of course, flames.

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Thus began the lurching, angular Black Sabbath. From the 1970 album of the same name, its three-note introduction was a lesson in force implied rather than fully revealed, augmented by Osbourne's opening words: ‘‘What is this that stands before me?''

It might have been both a challenge and promise to his audience (Here we are, here you are, let's party . . .) and, certainly, it was only a matter of seconds before the interplay began.

Working off the dexterous (and thunderous) connection between accomplished bass player Geezer Butler and the jack-hammer performance of drummer Tommy Clufetos, guitarist Toni Iommi laid out line after line of the taut riffs which ruptured convention 40-odd years ago and have continued to inspire.

Although Osbourne occasionally slid into a vague vocal delivery that threatened to leave him diminished rather than elevated by the three-headed behemoth with which he shared the stage, this wall of sound had few cracks.

Appetites for dark, sonic delights were sated in a range of courses: from the sludgy grooves of Fairies Wear Boots, Into The Void and Snowblind; the quick-fire, distorted guitar trills of War Pigs; the turn-on-a-dime rhythmic changes of Iron Man; to a bass solo that rattled chest cavities and a drum solo that had heads shaking in disbelief.

By the time one-song encore (Paranoid) rolled around, the instrumentalists of Sabbath had fully tested their long-held, muscular methodology. This was power both restrained and unleashed.

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