Black Sabbath: The End Blu-ray Review: A Fitting Swan Song

On February 4, 2017 at Genting Arena in their hometown of Birmingham, England, Black Sabbath (sans founding drummer Bill Ward) played the final show of their farewell tour. The set list focused primarily on the band’s first four albums, including six of the eight songs from Paranoid. The remaining four albums from Ozzy’s initial tenure were only represented three times: “Dirty Women” and two songs performed during the instrumental medley. Unfortunately, nothing for fans of Never Say Die!

The concert opens with the sound of the bell tolling at the beginning of “Black Sabbath”. Ozzy acts as cheerleader between lyrics, and the audience can be heard singing along. After “Fairies Wear Boots”, they play “Under the Sun / Every Day Comes and Goes”, letting the diehards know there will be some deep cuts this evening. Band Introductions are made before “War Pigs”, revealing Alan Wakeman is off stage playing keys off stage, which seems a bit odd, and Tommy Clufetos on drums, a reminder that we aren’t seeing the original quarter say goodbye. During the song, there’s a cool use of split screen, a la Woodstock. The crowd seems to have been at their loudest.

Geezer Butler executes a sweet bass solo on “Basically”. During “Hand of Doom”, Ozzy’s vocals start to sound a little rough in the quieter moments when he’s just singing over Butler’s bass, so it’s a good thing he gets a break during the “Supernaut” / “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” / “Megalomania” instrumental medley. After a snippet of “Rat Salad”, Clufetos gives the guitarists a breather with his drum solo. Then the familiar bass drum beat of “Iron Man” welcomes the band’s return to the stage. Ozzy implores the audience to get louder as Tony Iommi’s evokes eerie sounds from his guitar

During ‘Dirty Women”, the marvelous use of split screens and close-ups showcase Iommi’s guitar work. Ozzy says they are playing their last song, and while “Children of the Grave” is an outstanding hard-rocker, there’s no way they were leaving without playing “Paranoid” or the fans might have tore the stadium down.

The video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at a 2.39:1 aspect ratio for most of the time. The image presents a crystal clear picture of the band and audience. The concert video screen is also impressive, such as when the brilliant psychedelic hues appear. There is an abundance of black on stage and off, yet no crush.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is fantastic. The track offers a wide dynamic range and there’s great separation of the instruments. Ozzy’s vocals are clear throughout. The music fills the surrounds and there is ambient audience in the rears. This disc offers some of the best sounding bass I’ve ever heard from a concert performance.

The Special Feature is The Angelic Sessions (HD, 26 min), which is also available on an accompanying CD. Shortly after the concert, the band reunited at Angelic Recording Studio for five songs that didn’t make the cut for the final tour. “The Wizard” is one of my favorite Sabbath songs. The bottom end of bass and drums are prominent in this mix while Ozzy’s vocals could be louder, His harmonica sounds good. Ozzy and Iommi exchange big smiles at the start of “Wicked World”, the first song the band wrote together. The remaining songs are “Sweet Leaf”, “Tomorrow’s Dream”, and “Changes,” with Iommi and Butler on keyboards for the latter. Throughout the sessions, Ozzy is focused on the monitor reading lyrics, making his performance a tad odd and awkward. I wish they had done a complete version of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”.

If The End actually is the end for Black Sabbath, the concert performance is a fitting swan song for the iconic heavy metal band. The Blu-ray delivers exquisite HD video and audio and deserves to recognized on “Best of 2017” lists.

Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site.

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