Film review: Black Sabbath: The End of the End

A documentary on the final show by the heavy metal band plays for one show

If you missed Black Sabbath when they played Prague in June 2016, first of all shame on you. Second, you have another chance. A documentary on Black Sabbath's last ever show, called Black Sabbath: The End of the End will be at some Prague cinemas on Sept. 28 for one show as part of the Concerts in Cinema series.

Cinemas Aero, Světozor, Bio Oko, Atlas, Premiere Cinemas Hostivař, and Modřanský biograf are participating, as well as other theaters in the Czech Republic and worldwide.

The documentary by Dick Carruthers blends concert footage from the last show at Birmingham, England, on Feb. 4, 2017, with interview footage and a final studio session where the band played some songs they hadn't done live in a long time, sort of as a private farewell to each other.

The band got its start in Birmingham, first as a blues act but that changed when they wrote what is now regarded at the first heavy metal song, also called “Black Sabbath.”

The film, however, is often too quick to cut away from the music, and not many of the songs are shown complete. Interview comments are often dropped in on top of the instrumental sections of songs, as if the songs are boring without the additions.

Some full songs without any interference are shown after the end credits, as well as some additional interview segments.

The concert footage is good, though, with everyone on stage seeming to be in good spirits and the audience being enthusiastic with audience participation.

The three original members do have some interesting things to say about their 49 years together. Lead singer Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi, and bassist and main lyricist Geezer Butler paint what will likely stand as the official version of the band's history.

They leave out a lot, never mentioning the other lineups for the band or lead singers such as Ronnie James Dio or Tony Martin. The firing of Osbourne, the lawsuits over the use of the name and the later reunions are also glossed over, making it seem as if the main members were happily together for all 49 years. Tony Iommi is the only member to actually have been in every lineup and on every album.

One issue they address was that original drummer Bill Ward was not on the final tour. They say they wanted him to come for the last shows in Birmingham, but it didn't work out and they don't understand why. Ward had been in some reunion lineups but not since 2012.

Tony Iommi serves as the spokesman for the group, making most of the important comments. He reminds us that the band found its fame in industrial areas of England and seldom played London in the early years, starting in 1968. The London press was largely negative, so much so that they wouldn't even do interviews for a long time. But the fan response was always great, and the band was there for the fans and not the critics.

They also discuss some common misconceptions, such as that they promoted or practiced some demonic religion. Instead, they were quite surprised when people showed up at their hotel after one show carrying candles and chanting. They blew out the candles and sang “Happy Birthday.”

They also point out that their songs dealt with issues of the time such as war and drug abuse, topics they say are still relevant.

Osbourne and Geezer add a bit to the conversation as well, with Osbourne making a few compelling points about his role as frontman, and also about the band's history and legacy.

Iommi discusses his recent health issues, which came up during the recording of the album 13. His fellow band members praised him for continuing to record and tour while he was getting treatment for lymphoma. He has made a recovery.

They also left the door open for doing something together in the future, but not a world tour.

For fans of Black Sabbath, the film offer rare insight into the history and creative process behind their now classic songs. But it would have worked better to have more of the songs uncut live on stage without the interruptions, and the interview bits played before and after blocks of songs.

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