BLACK SABBATH “We picked Ozzy to be in the band because he had his own PA.”
August 13, 2013, Hades: Ozzy Osbourne sits in a dark, cylindrical room. He sticks a needle into his arm, drawing blood into a rubber tube that's connected to a pen. He's writing, with his own blood transfused as ink, a postscript to Black Sabbath's new album, 13. "Wake up!" his scrawl screams. "The masses aren't mindless anymore!" This isn't the reality-show Ozzy; this is the doomsday jester Ozzy—the Blotto Devil-Bard—and he's back, singing on a Sabbath album for the first time in 35 years. He releases the tourniquet around his arm, shrieking as the blood-ink comes; Sabbath's song "Snowblind" booms back and forth through the air like Edgar Allan Poe's scythe blade in "The Pit and the Pendulum."
Black Sabbath's slowness—decelerated intervals of sludge and pain—can't be replicated. Guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, and drummer Bill Ward sling tar-covered riffs. It's doom. The doom is coming. They drain the transition on a downbeat into a blues-based, hidden-chamber jam. If you think heavy metal, you have to think Black Sabbath. And now they're back—three-quarters of them, anyway. Ward is absent due to business disagreements and an "un-signable contract." (Drummer Tommy Clufetos currently mans the live kit.) Another obstacle was Iommi's lymphoma diagnosis, which he's successfully battled. Thus, their Rick Rubin–produced 13 is the first Ozzy-sung Sabbath album in 35 years, and the first number-one album of their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career. Geezer Butler spoke from New York. His Birmingham, England, accent is regal. When he says the word "singer," he says sing-ah.
How was the show in New York?
It was great. Jam-packed. Fantastic.
Black Sabbath are about as holy as it gets. How does it feel to be holy?
[Laughs] Or unholy. You know, we never expected it to last this long. When we first started, all we wanted to do was get a record deal, and that was it. Something to show our parents. And here we are, more than 40 years later.