Released: 2011, Omnibus Press
British author Joel has a way of writing some pretty definitive books. His Slayer book, his Metallica book have set the bar pretty high. McIver brings the same level of quality to this work as well. First published in 2006, SABBATH BLOODY SABBATH a is pretty monstrous book, running just over 400 pages with fairly small font. Technically speaking, it’s a big read! There are about two-dozen, black and white photos on glossy paper, quite a few from Ozzy’s solo career for some reason, and several from across the ages 1970’s to a more recent picture from the American Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction in 2006.
SABBATH BLOODY SABBATH is a fairly conventional retelling of the story of the band. I say conventional because the emphasis is quite predictably on the first decade of the original line-up. Joel does not hide his distaste for the 80’s (well, post Dio-era) of the band. That is one of the known advantages of writing an unauthorized book, the author can tell it like it is, for lack of a better term. For me personally, I happen to love the non-Ozzy years. Tony Martin is my favourite Sabbath vocalist, however I am in a tiny minority and Joel’s mildly negative (or shall we say, realistic) comments about BORN AGAIN, SEVENTH STAR and THE ETERNAL IDOL, reflect a much more commonly held, popular opinion. It’s not that he was extremely critical, his criticism is quite tempered, but he let’s it be known that he feels that those 80’s albums were not very good, and I must admit, most people agree.
My personal feelings aside for various albums, the book covers all areas with enthusiasm and detail. There is exhaustive research and countless quotes from the primary participants in the story. I noticed there is less of an industry focus or trivia focus but McIver focuses quite rightly, on the music and the players. Every major player gets their due, although I would have liked to read more about mainstays Tony Martin, Geoff Nichols or even Eric Singer. Speaking of drummers, it seems Bill Ward comes across as a bit of a flake having scuttled a full-blown reunion on at least two occasions and since publication once more!
As the book wore on I felt less and less compelled by the story. Joel did his very best with limited source material because, let’s face it, since 1995, Sabbath has been pretty dormant. When I day source, it’s not lack of info or quotes but Black Sabbath (the band) has not really done anything for 15 years. We have had a few compilations; some limited touring with Ozzfest and a few semi-successful reunion announcements, but ultimately from 1995/6 on the band has not been productive. At all. Sure the guys have all done solo albums, and Joel does an excellent job of documenting that but the back end the book, from page 254 (Chapter 21) to the end of the book almost 150 pages later, much of the material is focused on the most active original member, namely Ozzy and his wife Sharon. Those are great stories, Ozzy’s solo career, his quad accident, his reality show, his daughter singing career, his wife talk-show career, but really have a very tenuous connection with Black Sabbath. The book could have been much more streamlined and focused. If Joel had decided to cover the career of Sabbath members (past and present) then when talking about a Bill Ward solo album, he should discuss a Tony Martin solo album or what Ian Gillan is up to. It seems he has a mild bias towards the four original members. My point being, post 1995/6, he should have either strictly stick to Sabbath and cut the book short or expand it and give all ex-members equal share. The version I have is the 2011, updated edition and so the inclusion of the Heaven & Hell story was excellent and is the first time that tale has been adequately documented.
Looking back at this review, it may come across as a bit negative in tone but maybe I am suffering from Sabbath burnout, having read and reviewed two Ozzy books and two Black Sabbath books and Iommi’s autobiography this year alone. MY last gripe is that there is already a book called SABBATH BLOODY SABBATH written by a British author (Gary Sharpe-Younge) and published in 2006, so McIver's publisher should have suggested a different title. However, these things often get decided well in advance of actual street date so it is perhaps an unfortunately coincidence. There are many books about Black Sabbath on the market to choose from and I really do feel this is one of the best of the bunch. Ideally the band will (finally!) reform with all four original members, churn out an album in 2013 do a massive global farewell tour in 2014 and then milk it a bit more with a big, Double Live CD/DVD in 2015 and we can all call it quits happily when they are senior citizens, and Joel can update this worthy tome one more time and put an exclamation point on the career of one of the greatest Metal bands of all time.