Into the Void

A psychonauts guide to Black Sabbath

A set by the original Black Sabbath is enough of a rarity now—with the band's age and health, they may be not long for this world—that a fan can't miss a chance to see the band how they were meant to be seen: fuuuuuuuuuuuuucked-up. But prudently fucked-up. Sabbath was a band of their times, born from the downers and pot haze of the Weather Underground/Altamont end of the '60s, so a bevy of substances are required to translate yourself back to the mindset they had when they put their songs together (exhibit A: "Sweet Leaf"). And an Ozzfest performance demands judicious substance augmentation—enough to truly feel the band's bummer-yet-still-naive-enough-to-be-hopeful vibe, to hear the notes behind the notes, to let Bill Ward's dead-eyed drums take over for your own turgid heartbeat. We're not doctors—we're just fans. But here's a probable set list, and here's your prescription.

[SET TIME -30:00] PRE-SET PREPARATION 60 milligrams Dayquil with psuedoephedrine. Desired effect: maintaining consciousness throughout duration of set. Plus 100 to 200 milligrams Robitussin Maximum Strength Cough. Desired effect: hallucinatory effect.

[SET TIME 00:00] SONG: "Black Sabbath" The first song on the first Sabbath record is everything that made the band great: heavy bar-chord guitars, a virgin-tight rhythm section, a stoner-perfect outro and goofy occult-ish lyrics. One hit off a high-grade (or government-grown, as everyone assures you it is these days) marijuana cigarette at 1:30 mark of the song maximizes the instrumental that begins at the 5:13 mark with Ozzy's "No, no, please, no!" But . . . oh, yes. SUBJECT'S NOTES: "Dissociation helps bear long parts. The drums and bass guitar in the slow part are like a brain massage. Geezer Butler and Ward MADE the band, yet everyone focuses on Ozzy and Iommi."

[SET TIME 06:21] SONG: "Embryo" and "Children of the Grave" "Embryo" was one of the few ultra-short instrumentals that wasn't total filler, dovetailing into "Children of the Grave" so perfectly that "Children of the Grave" sounds incomplete without it. And "Children of the Grave" is Sabbath at their doomiest—every hardcore song with a chugging mosh breakdown starts here. Ward's ultra-slack tom drumheads sound like pots falling down stairs. One shot of top-shelf whiskey (an airplane-sized bottle of Bushmills' 10-year-aged whiskey found in the back of the liquor cabinet was used here) amplifies the hallucinogens in the Robitussin and counters the marijuana lethargy. SUBJECT'S NOTES: "Densest jam in universe. Stereo panning created at advent of psychedelic era. Who's this old lady chirping in the background?"

[SET TIME 11:17] SONG: "Iron Man" Yet another Sabbath song that ends with "Let's jam out for the last minute or two!" So superfluous yet so perfect. "Iron Man" is the anthem of every outsider kid who couldn't fit in; "Planning his vengeance" cribs from—or inspires—every high school loner's revenge fantasies. We'd know. Swig another 20 milligrams of Robitussin if you're sobbing softly to yourself over the psychic scars from your adolescence.

SUBJECT'S NOTES: "Robo heightens

alienation of being Iron Man."

[SET TIME 17:07] SONG: "War Pigs" It ain't the most subtle piece of political writing ever penned, but it may be the truest: the poor fight the wars. It's surprisingly Christian, too: God's gonna punish the rich politicians. Another hit of marijuana dulls the awareness of your station in life, bullet catcher. SUBJECT'S NOTES: "Outro . . . requires . . . potent . . . marijuana."

[SET TIME 24:57] SONG: "Into the Void" It's not surprising that Sabbath's best song is about getting in a spaceship and escaping the horrors of this world—a simplistic solution, yeah, but Sabbath and substances offer simple pleasures, too, especially when dealing with—or perhaps hiding from—a complicated world. A 12-ounce serving of cold beer reins the trip in a little—proletarian intoxicant for proletarian escapism. Combining the beer with the psuedoephedrine in Dayquil will give you the "piss of sand" later, but you gotta pay to play. SUBJECT'S NOTES: "Chug guitars scratching itch in just the right corner of brain."

[set TIME 31:07] SONG: "Bassically/NIB" "Sympathy for the Devil" for the metal set. Despite all the Satanist imagery tacked onto Sabbath mostly against their will, this seems to be a retelling of Satan's temptation of Christ. Ozzy's wail never sounded as good as "Your love for me has just got to be real." Ward's military-snare rolls in the middle section advance the song perfectly. Drink more beer to aid head banging. SUBJECT'S NOTES: "Nativity in blaccccccccccck!"

[set TIME 37:11] SONG: "Under the Sun" This song has two distinct parts: the first is the last perfect chugging crusher on a Sabbath record; the second (beginning with a gong cymbal wash) is Sabbath at their most soul-searching and Coltrane-ian, with a coda that squeezes every drop of maudlin emotion from your wet sock of a soul. It feels like what it is—an ending. Sabbath was never this great again. Take nothing. Just feel that outro, dude. SUBJECT'S NOTES: "The soundtrack to swimming in mud."

[set TIME 41:13] SONG: "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" This was the first song on the first album that Sabbath was less than perfect ("Changes" doesn't exist), but they're probably going to play it. At least they'll have the good sense to omit "Rock & Roll Doctor." The production on this whole album coats your speakers in Ozzy's cocaine snot. One hit of marijuana will be necessary to dull the realization that when Sabbath went downhill, they went downhill fast. Even the addled mind recognizes the downward spiral begun after the unholy near-perfection of the first four records. SUBJECT'S NOTES: "Everything ruined in '70s cocaine gloss."

[set TIME 46:57] SONG: "Paranoid" The perfect set closer because you've got to get past a phalanx of security and cops just looking to bash some Hessian troublemakers.

SUBJECT'S NOTES: "Drums panned stage perspective, guitar left, bass right. Time to get pedantic. Planet Caravan sucks."

Black Sabbath performs with Judas Priest, Slayer and more at Ozzfest, Hyundai Pavilion, 2575 Glen Helen Pkwy., Devore, (909) 88-Music; www.ozzfest.com. Sat., 9 a.m. $38.50-$128.75. All ages.

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