Released: 2016, Self Released
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Cardinal Rule: If you have leftovers from a major album recording session that weren’t good enough to make the final cut, they probably don’t need to be released. That goes for any band, whether you’re an up and comer in the studio for the first time or if you’re Black Sabbath. ESPECIALLY if you’re Black Sabbath.
Remember all that talk about 13 being the Sabs’ final album, first number one, going out on a high note? JK – not really, the coda to the recorded legacy of Black Sabbath is an EP of yawn (and sometimes cringe) inducing leftovers with some hastily assembled live tracks. THE END is a limited release EP that’s currently only being sold at stops across the band’s final tour. It’s not available on streaming sites and links on YouTube have quickly disappeared in what could be viewed as an attempt to preserve the ‘members only’ quality of the release. Or, it’s an attempt to protect potential buyers from spoiling how mediocre the studio tracks are to keep the buzz positive and the cash registers ringing.
“Season of the Dead” opens thunderously with a slow moving, classic Iommi riff. Quickly settling into a bland, mid-tempo shrug, Ozzy invokes images of war and its horrors in supposed homage to “War Pigs”. There’s no real excitement in the tune, and at over 7 minutes, it rambles for way too long. “Cry All Night” rides a thick, chugging wah groove that’s marred by silly lyrics (“drop down on your knees and cry all night”). The mid-section melody sounds awfully close to the opening line from “God is Dead?”, which makes me wonder if one tune evolved from the other. “Take Me Home” sounds exactly like a staccato version of “Cry All Night”, but has a gorgeous acoustic guitar piece towards the end (a rarity in Sabbath tracks). The riffs in “Isolated Man” mimic the same mid-tempo chug of the two previous tunes and lyrically it comes across as a first person POV of the guy in “Loner”. But man, as an all-too-serious Ozzy croons “I like being alone, I like to stay in my room all day and night, don’t like to talk on the phone…”, I honestly groaned out loud. It’s 2016 Oz, nobody likes to talk on the phone anymore. This is from the same band that summoned visions of generals gathering in their masses and of children starting to march?
The live tracks are pulled from various shows from 2014 and sound surprisingly untouched – good, bad, or otherwise. Ozzy sings in whatever key he stumbles into while the rest of the band soldiers on, and if anything proves how much punch up work went into his performance on 13. “Under the Sun” is the standout exception here; all of the stars aligned on that tune and remind you what a powerful entity Black Sabbath has been.
I don’t think that anybody was actively asking for THE END, and those who may have – be careful what you wish for, you might just get it. THE END won’t do anything to negatively impact the Black Sabbath brand – at this stage of the game, you’ve likely already made up your mind about how you feel. At best, it confirms that now is indeed the right time for Osbourne, Iommi, and Butler to walk away.