Soundchecks Music Reviews

Last Supper

Directors: Jeb Brien and Monica Hardiman

Sony Region 1 DVD

Black Sabbath

review by Octavio Ramos Jr

Arguably the first heavy metal band, Black Sabbath for more than 30 years has influenced generation after generation of not only new heavy metal bands but also a great many involved in other music genres, from industrial to modern to even rap. Although the early 1980s saw the decline of this powerhouse, the late 1990s brought the original band members back together, once again infusing the music world with a well-deserved boost of energy.

Very few bands have ever even come close to the 'heaviness' that is at the core of Black Sabbath. Geezer Butler's bass, Bill Ward's percussion, and Tony Iommi's guitar combined to create the sound that other acts embraced but never quite equalled. As Black Sabbath evolved, they too lost that sound (Never Say Die is a classic example), but fortunately they managed to rediscover it again and again as the years went by, each time bringing forth the juggernaut that is the very heart of the heavy metal genre.

In 1999, the band came together one final time, creating its first-ever official live album (Reunion) and complementing video The Last Supper, both of which chronicle the North American and British arms of the band's reunion tour. The video hosts all of Black Sabbath's classics, such as War Pigs, NIB, Iron Man, and Paranoid. The songs are played with as much fervour and precision as in days past, thus showing that when the band is together it is unstoppable and incomparable.

Unfortunately, Ozzy Osbourne's swearing and on-stage antics at times detract from the awesome music created by Ward, Butler and Iommi. Of the three, Osbourne has lost some of his edge and presence. Fortunately, the powerful aura of Iommi remains, as do his tremendous power chords, that when combined with Butler's thundering bass work and Ward's unparalleled percussion create a fusion of hard-driving rock that has served as a model for several generations.

The strength and flexibility of the DVD format is not used well on this DVD. Rather than create different channels, one for the concert footage and another for interviews, the directors elect to combine both media, at times cutting into a song to present interview footage. Although the interviews are interesting, they break up the songs and thus ruin the concert experience. This editing technique is particularly disturbing on tracks such as Black Sabbath, where the band creates an eerie mood only to have it cut by several interview sessions.

Black Sabbath is considered to be the genesis of heavy metal. (An interesting side note is that Iommi in one of the interviews dismisses the heavy metal label and elects to think of Sabbath as a hard rock band.) Never once caring for what critics had to say and fiercely loyal to its fans, Black Sabbath stands alone as a true innovator in the world of heavy music. Nothing more need be said.

The DVD includes chapter selections, a handful of tour photos, a short biography, and a featurette titled Reunion EPK, hosted by Henry Rollins. Although well produced and interesting, the featurette could have been stronger with the material presented during the concert.

Edited by Tony Lee
for PIGASUS Press