Black Sabbath is easily one of the most important and influential acts in the modern history of rock. For almost half a century, the British hard rock outfit entertained audiences the world over and influenced countless other acts. That is even with the band’s numerous lineup change throughout the years. This past February, the band — with 3/4 of its original lineup sans drummer BIll Ward — brought that hugely successful decades-long career to an end when it performed its last live concert ever. Recorded Feb. 4, 2017 in Birmingham, England, the city where the band originally formed in 1968, this concert insures that while Black Sabbath may have finally reached its end, its legacy will never end. Now thanks to Eagle Rock Entertainment, that concert has been made available to the masses on a number of platforms in the form of Black Sabbath: The End. Released Nov. 17, 2017 — a little more than nine months after the concert was originally recorded (yes, there’s a bad joke there) — this final recording from one of rock’s most important names is a lasting statement from the band. That is due in part to the concert’s set list, which will be discussed shortly. The concert’s collective cinematography and editing play into that statement just as much as the concert’s set list. They will be discussed later. The concert’s bonus material rounds out its most important elements. Each element is important in its own right to the recording’s whole. All things considered, Black Sabbath: The End proves to be a powerful and enjoyable final statement from Black Sabbath should it in fact mark the true final end for this landmark band.
Black Sabbath’s last ever concert together (or so the band claims, considering that it has broken up and re-formed so many times over nearly 50 years) is an important piece of music history for Black Sabbath fans and rock fans alike. That is especially the case if in fact it truly does mark “the end” for what is one of the most important and influential acts in rock’s modern history. The recording offers audiences plenty to appreciate beginning with its extensive set list. The 19-song set list pulls from the band’s first seven albums. Paranoid, the band’s sophomore album, gets the most nods in this set with six of its songs included in the show. The band’s fourth album, the fittingly titled Vol. 4, gets the second most nods with four songs while Master of Reality and its self-titled 1970 debut are represented with three songs each. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Sabotage and Technical Ecstasy each got one nod in this set, again totaling the set list at 19 songs. It’s interesting to note that the band didn’t reach back into its eighth studio album Never Say Die for this set considering it was the last time that the original lineup recorded together and the last time that Ozzy would record with the band until 2013’s 13. That album was iconic if only for those elements, not to mention the songs themselves. Regardless, the set list that is presented here is a solid representation of the original Black Sabbath’s initial run together and is certain to impress audiences of all ages due to that fact alone.
Just as important to note of the set as the songs is their sequencing. Audiences will note in examining the set list a little bit deeper that the band never stays on one album for too long throughout the show. The set list opens by reaching back to the band’s debut album before moving into its second and fourth album for its first four songs. That fourth album (Vol. 4) makes up the set’s third and fourth song. The band goes backward to its third album, Master of Reality for a couple of songs from there before moving back to Vol. 4 again and then back again to Paranoid and Black Sabbath again. The band’s later albums don’t come along until later in the set. Simply put, throughout the course of the show’s set list, the band does an admirable job of keeping things moving instead of just sticking to one album. That constant variety in the songs strengthens the set list even more, and showing even more in turn the importance of the concert’s set list. Of course the set list is only one part of what makes this recording so impressive. The recording’s collective cinematography and editing add another touch to its presentation.
The collective cinematography and editing displayed throughout The End are so important to note in examining the concert’s overall presentation because of how much they add to the experience. Thanks to the work of those behind the cameras and computers, audiences get an experience that is not just another run-of-the-mill concert experience. It truly is a cinematic concert experience complete with triple monitor shots, impressive visual effects — including mix effects that take viewers from one camera to another — and camera angles that take audiences on stage with the band and deep into the crowd. The crowd shots let home viewers see what those in attendance saw, making the experience feel even more real while the on-stage shots take audiences up close and personal with the band. The cuts are handled expertly throughout the show, serving even more to illustrate the songs’ varied energies and in turn, heighten the experience even more. Given, those cuts are at time dizzying in their speed and angles, but they still go a long way toward enhancing the experience even more.
The result of the concert’s editing in post is an audio mix that that sounds just as great with a standard monitor set to “music” as with a home theater system. No one part ever overpowers the other at any point. That includes even the crowd noise. That attention to balance does so much to fully capture the immensity of the venue while also capturing just as well the concert’s sound. As has been noted so many times before, understanding and appreciating that work can only happen when audiences buy this recording and experiencing it for themselves. Audiences who see the show for themselves will agree in noting these elements that the concert’s cinematography and editing go a long way toward making it such an impressive presentation along with the set list. Even as important as both elements are to the concert, they still are not the last of its most important elements. The bonus in-studio footage included in the recording rounds out its most important elements.
The in-studio footage included in the recording’s presentation takes audiences into the intimate setting as Ozzy and company re-record some of the band’s most well-known hits, including the rare b-side ‘Wicked World’ and the beautifully pained ballad ‘Changes,’ which allegedly was about former drummer Bill Ward’s divorce from his first wife. ‘Wicked World’ was a b-side from the band’s 1970 eponymous debut that was only included in the album’s American edition, but not European edition. European fans would eventually get that song though, when the album was re-issued in 1996 and again in 2009. ‘Sweet Leaf,’ which is a pretty self-explanatory song, ‘The Wizard’ and ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ are all enjoyable to experience in-studio, too. When these performances are coupled with the recording’s main feature, they bring the recording’s total song count to 24. So not only do audiences get two dozen Black Sabbath songs in this recording, but they get an extensive live experience (the band’s possibly last ever) and a more intimate in-studio experience. That duality coupled with the extensive overall set list, makes for an experience overall that is a powerful final statement from Black Sabbath. Add in the expert cinematography and editing, and audiences get in this recording, a work that will make certain while Black Sabbath has met its end, it will never fully be the end for this band’s legacy.
Black Sabbath’s last-ever live performance recorded this past February in Birmingham, England marked the end of an era for the rock and music community in whole. The concert’s home release via Eagle Rock Entertainment makes certain though, that the band’s legacy will never end. That is proven through an extensive set list that covers nearly every one of the original Black Sabbath’s original albums. The concert’s expert cinematography and editing strengthen its presentation even more. The bonus in-studio recordings expand the recording’s set list even more while also giving audiences an in-studio experience that is enjoyable in its own right alongside the recording’s live side. One really would be remiss to ignore the recording’s liner notes, written by Rolling Stone magazine writer Kory Grow as the recording’s presentation. Grow’s liner notes add their own special touch to the whole of the recording, too. When all of these items are set alongside one another, the end result is a powerful new recording from Black Sabbath and an equally powerful possibly last statement from one of the music community’s most important acts. It is available now in stores and online. More information on The End is available along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:
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