“Don’t believe the life you have/Will be the only one.” sang Ozzy Osbourne on 1973’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and this has certainly proved to be the case when considering the career of Black Sabbath. From blues-rock urchins named Earth, to coke addled stadium slayers via sackings, stone-henge stage props and years of in-fighting and inactivity the band have arrived in 2012 to a wave of popularity and the fruition of a long rumoured reunion of the original line-up (that inevitably led to one member being left outside – this time it’s Bill Ward). So given this higher than normal profile it’s surely time for a rag-tag ‘best of’ collection. This one ingeniously adds the prefix of Iron Man, no doubt down to the song’s inclusion on the hit Marvel film of the same name.
So far, so cynical; however, the motivation behind the release isn’t really the problem, it’s the content. Sabbath are the godfathers of heavy metal – no ifs, no buts – and as such their back catalogue is extremely well known, so the omissions and inclusions on this single disc compilation are highly important. For one to say that this Ozzy-era selection adequately covers the band’s first eight records is a lie. There are no tracks from Technical Ecstasy for a start…
What is here is the obvious and, let’s face it, the songs that had to be included: Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Iron Man and War Pigs are all present and correct. But they are drawn from only two albums and that doesn’t tell the whole story. Look at what’s missing: Planet Caravan, Into the Void, Supernaut, Sabbra Cadabra, Symptom of the Universe and, believe me, I could go on.
It could be that best ofs are simply a redundancy in the digital age of the perpetual playlist. But some bands need a compilation due to patchy albums or a wide but causal appreciation of their hits. Sabbath’s following isn’t up made of either of those types of people. There was a chance to do something creative but a cash-in is a cash-in. So it’s a 13 for the music but a considerably less appreciative score for the package.