2017: Metal Hammer's big review

a collage of 2017 artists

January: Metal got political

Bands railed against Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric

On January 20, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, following one of the most divisive campaigns in history. At his inauguration ceremony, Trump expanded on his campaign slogan to ‘Make America Great Again’, promising to end the “American carnage” and put “America First”.

“It confirmed the fact that racism is alive and well in America, and in the world for the most part,” says Prophets Of Rage’s Tim Commerford today. “He had the racist vote. He’s ignited a racist contingent and they have more of a voice than they have ever had before because of it.”

Across the country at Los Angeles’ Teragram Ballroom, Prophets Of Rage protested by playing their own Anti-Inaugural Ball. The night began with Chuck D reciting part of Public Enemy’s Fight The Power, featured the first set from Audioslave in 12 years – which would sadly be their last – and ended with a defiant Killing In The Name.

“Well, the highlight of that was playing our final show with Chris Cornell,” says Tim. “Outside of the fact that the show went down without a hitch, I’m really proud. I’m really proud of everything we do and the stance we take and I’m excited to do more of that and go up against the system.”

The Ball was part of Prophets’ mission to ‘Make America Rage Again’ in the face of fresh injustice.

“Chuck D has five levels of being in a band,” explains Tim. “Level one, you write your song. Level two, you record your song. Level three, you perform your song. Most bands live at level three, and that’s where audiences live. Then there’s those few that believe the song and want to strive to believe in what you play, what you say and what the audience is feeling. I believe that level four is where we live… And level five is this area where you’re bleeding this music, which is what we’re trying to do.”

Metal protested elsewhere – Metallica’s Kirk Hammett Tweeted: “Trump’s Inaugural Address and his asking us to put America first sounds, to me, familiar to what was said in speeches going around Germany in the 1930s… and later Russia in the 1940s.”

Meanwhile, grindcore band Anal Trump pledged to donate proceeds from their To All The Broads I’ve Nailed Before EP to Planned Parenthood, and Body Count released a teaser for No Lives Matter, a taste of their politicised album Bloodlust. After Trump barred immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US, Bandcamp announced they’d donate proceeds from sales on February 3 to the American Civil Liberties Union. Metal was sending a clear message: persecution will not be tolerated.

“I have an obligation to write songs that are political – it’s not a choice,” says Tim. “It feels fearless to me, and there’s going to be more.”

February: Hammer came back

Ozzy and M. Shadows helmed our massive comeback issue

Following the bankruptcy of its parent company in December 2016, Metal Hammer emerged triumphant with a new home at Future Publishing and an exclusive, world-first cover story featuring Ozzy Osbourne and M. Shadows. We were back – and heavier than ever.

Along with thousands of you, and the likes of Machine Head and Queen, Avenged Sevenfold had supported a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for staff affected by the bankruptcy, set up by Orange Goblin’s Ben Ward. Writing on their Facebook page at the time, they said: “Now that [Metal Hammer] is gone, it pushes metal and rock even further away from the average consciousness. Some believe in keeping heavy metal underground, we don’t. This music means so much to so many, including us. Our music should be inclusive and losing Metal Hammer is a major blow to all of us.”

M. Shadows, a self-confessed Black Sabbath fanboy, was in high spirits as we journeyed up to Glasgow for his encounter with the Double O. In the belly of The SSE Hydro, in a curtained-off dressing room, the two legends sat down for a chat.

“Oh man, it was a highlight of my life,” says Shadows. “A lot of older generation guys, like my dad’s friends, don’t really care about anything that came after Metallica, so to show them that was awesome, and to be on the comeback issue was cool, too. I thought we were going to lose you for a while there, but now we get some great stuff again, and to be the guy that was chosen to help relaunch it alongside a legend like Ozzy was just so awesome.”

Shadows proved to be a skilled music journalist. Despite suffering from a perforated eardrum, Ozzy was candid about touring with Mötley Crüe, playing with Metallica, influencing generations of bands, missing Bill Ward, and The End of Black Sabbath.

“One of my proudest things is the fact that we weren’t created by some business guys,” Ozzy explained. “We were four guys, we had an idea, and it worked. Don’t give up on your dreams. Dreams are what this is all about!”

“He was very cognizant, he was looking me in the eye, and he was really there,” remembers Shadows. “A lot of times you hear about Ozzy, or see him on the TV show, and you wonder just how there he is, but he was so engaging and was answering all the questions – sometimes over-answering the questions. I thought that was really cool. He never made you feel like you were wasting his time.”

Aside from Ozzy and Avenged, our comeback issue included Babymetal, Metallica, Steel Panther, Alter Bridge, Code Orange, Judas Priest, Suicide Silence, Trivium, Corey Taylor and more. It was the embodiment of our mission statement – to bring you the best in heavy music – and the beginning of a year that saw us celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Metal Hammer Golden God Awards and our 300th edition. We couldn’t have done it without you.

March: HIM is dead

The Finnish love metallers announced their final farewell

It was a post heard ’round the world. On March 5, HIM released a statement that would break hearts and heartagrams in every time zone. It read:

“After quarter of a century of love and metal intertwined we sincerely feel HIM has run its unnatural course and adieus must be said in order to make way for sights, scents and sounds yet unexplored. We completed the pattern, solved the puzzle and turned the key. Thank you.”

It wasn’t without its dark omens. In January of 2015, drummer Gas Lipstick announced his departure from the band after 16 years under amicable circumstances. For most bands it wouldn’t have been seen as a showstopper, but remember that HIM were a band who had sat out of a crucial touring period waiting for Gas to recover from a repetitive stress injury just a few years prior. As Ville relates to Hammer, it was a slow-acting deathblow, and the Hellraiser reference in their statement was something of a clue as to how they regarded their final, languishing years.

“I couldn’t see myself doing this from age 41 until I’m dead, just living in that memory,” says Ville. “I’m saddened it’s over, but I’m happy about 25 or 26 years of doing it. It’s a pretty marvellous once-in-a-lifetime thing, but I need to be happy and there was something missing. It’s not out of spite or out of fun or one thing that went wrong, it’s a development over the years.

“It wasn’t an easy decision for us to make but there are so many people who hate what we stand for, we didn’t want to reward them with a half-assed HIM.”

As dramatic endings go, this seemed more of a whimper than a bang, but coupled with an impressive string of farewell dates and early reports of a rapturous greatest hits set, there’s little doubt that the Sabbath-loving romantics were parting on good terms, and with Ville dropping tantalising hints about what’s next after 26 years helming one of the most unique and unapologetically lovelorn bands of all time, it’s clear that this isn’t where the story ends.

“It’s important for me to lay HIM to rest in a musical fashion,” he says. “It sounds really pretty and beautiful and hopefully without too many complications, and when it’s all said and done I’m going to pick up the guitar. It’s what I do. I’m gonna work on ideas, record ideas, play the ideas to friends and families and see if it needs an accordion player.”

As for what his next adventure will sound like, he’s hesitant to get ahead of himself, and it’s clear it’s about more than the music.

“It’s nice to let the songs lead the way,” he says. “I am middle-aged and I don’t have a clue how life works. I hate saying, ‘roots,’ but I’m going to go back to the music and not think so much about backdrops for the tour or flight schedules. If it doesn’t work out I’ll play it by ear, but I get a bit giddy thinking about it – I’m excited.”

April: OM&M were reborn

The band came back swinging, despite Austin’s departure

Life, or music? That was the punishing reality that Of Mice & Men’s former vocalist, Austin Carlile, faced this time last year. Due to his ongoing struggle with the genetic disorder Marfan Syndrome, he made the heartbreaking decision to quit the band and focus on his health. Bassist/clean vocalist Aaron Pauley stepped up as frontman, and Hammer attended their first show back, at Las Rageous music festival on April 21.

“There are still days where I go onstage and I expect to see him there,” says Aaron Pauley. “I’m so proud of him for taking care of himself and for making a decision that I don’t know if I could ever make. He literally did this until it almost killed him! That’s part of the huge reason why we decided that we were never going to replace him. It was the most natural conclusion for me to fill that void since I did half the vocals live anyway. All my bass parts are ingrained, so I was just putting vocals in where I didn’t used to before.”

Storming back with the vengeful force of a Spartan warlord, the Orange County four-piece released the defiant Unbreakable a couple of days later. With over a million views in its first week, you could say fans were a little stoked to see the boys back at it.

Unbreakable was the song that really moved the needle and pushed us forward,” Aaron explains. “For that song to have taken off so hard and so fast as it did, it felt like righteous validation. I think the only real negative reception has been from people that just don’t want to accept the change. You can either let the change define you or you can define yourself through that change. We feel stronger and very confident – especially with the new album we’re working on.”

He adds: “I’m a very, very impatient person. I just want fans to hear this thing. I make jokes about it all the time, like, ‘I’m just going to leak this fucking record!’ I don’t want to wait until next year, ha ha! Pretty much everything’s brand new except for one song, which is such a throwback barnburner. I can’t wait for everybody to hear it.”

The possibility of Austin ever returning to the band – even as a guest – stops him dead in his tracks when we bring it up. Taking a deep breath, the gravity of such a scenario seems to still weigh heavily on his mind.

“A part of me would love that, and part of me would be completely scared about causing him more bodily harm,” he says. “We love him and we want him to live a long and prosperous life. If making and performing heavy music detracts from that, then that’s not something that we advocate. We don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world where you have to make difficult decisions in order to take care of yourself and take care of the people around you.”

May: RIP Chris Cornell

The world mourned one of our greatest musical talents

On May 18, 2017, the world woke up to the news that Chris Cornell, one of the greatest voices of our generation, was gone. Following a Soundgarden show in Detroit, he had taken his own life in a hotel bathroom. He was 52 years old. An autopsy revealed that several prescription drugs had been in his system, and as his widow, Vicky, explained: “After so many years of sobriety, this moment of terrible judgement seems to have completely impaired and altered his state of mind.” He was cremated, and his were ashes interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on May 26.

More than six months on, it still doesn’t seem real. Chris’s friend and longtime Hammer scribe Mörat puts it best: “We are told that time is the great healer, but how long is long enough? Maybe one day it’ll be OK to listen to Soundgarden or Audioslave again and not feel such a sense of loss, even anger, but that day has yet to come. What’s more, the feeling can strike at any time. There’s a moment in Westworld when Black Hole Sun is played on the piano, and there’s that loss. There’s that part in the comedy movie Blast From The Past when Drawing Flies is on the jukebox, and there’s that anger. How could they use the song in such a frivolous manner? This, despite the fact that the movie came out in 1999 and the song would have raised a smile back then. There’s no real sense to it.

“Chris would have understood. When his friend Andrew Wood died from an overdose in 1990, it was years before Chris could listen to Wood’s band, Mother Love Bone, again. In 1994 he told Rolling Stone that this was because Wood’s lyrics often felt as though they told the story of his demise. ‘Then again,’ he added all too prophetically, ‘my lyrics often could tell the same one.’ Maybe he always told us how, he just never told us when. Or why. The list of tributes to Chris is impressive: Guns N’ Roses covering Black Hole Sun; Serj Tankian and Audioslave performing Like A Stone; Stone Sour, Megadeth and Dee Snider all offering versions of Outshined… but there’s no need to go poking those wounds. Quite how Chris’s daughter Toni managed to sing Hallelujah on Good Morning America in tribute to her father – and to Chester Bennington, who took his own life two months later on Chris’s birthday – is beyond imagination. And still there are more tributes: Metallica, Eddie Vedder, Godsmack, to name just a few.

“Meanwhile, Chris’s wife, Vicky, fought back tears as she accepted the LA Chefs For Human Rights Hero Award on behalf of her husband on September 25 at the Program For Torture Survivors fundraiser, where he was honoured for his humanitarian work. She has also commissioned a memorial statue for Chris, by the artist and sculptor Wayne Toth, to be erected in Seattle. ‘He is Seattle’s son,’ she said, ‘and we will be bringing him home and honouring him.’

“Chris was so much more than just a singer; his music and lyrics touched millions of lives, and even saved some, if not, alas, his own. Now there’s just shadow on the sun. I can’t tell you why. Rest in peace, Chris. The voice of a generation, an artist for all time.”

June: Glasto went metal

Napalm Death and friends brought the heavy to Worthy Farm

It’s been another incredible year for extreme music. With the critical and commercial leaps made by some of metal’s most wonderfully savage, brutal and expansive bands, it just goes to show that music that used to live solely in the underground is getting reappraised in all corners. The most unusual corner this year was Glastonbury, undoubtedly the world’s largest music festival, which had kept metal at arms-length for too long – until The Earache Express rolled into town.

Suddenly, Napalm Death, the Dead Kennedys and Wormrot found themselves rubbing shoulders with Ed Sheeran, Radiohead and Bee Gee Barry Gibb.

“I never fail to be surprised by these quirky little things,” says Napalm Death’s Barney Greenway today. “And Glastonbury was just another one of them in the career of Napalm. We kind of look at ourselves and go, ‘Why us?’. When it was first mentioned, we thought it would never happen, but it really worked out!”

Barney is also quick to point out that Napalm Death weren’t as surprising an addition as one might have imagined.

“The part of the festival we did was still very much rooted in the kind of Glastonbury that I used to go to a couple of decades ago,” he says. “It was very pure and organically driven. It was different to what I expected – funnily enough, a couple of the guys working on it had a few mutual friends of mine. It just goes to show you can be pleasantly surprised still!”

Barney is quick to shoot down the suggestion that the bands were there as some sort of ironic comedy act – those playing Earache Records’ Tube carriage stage were as serious as those on the Pyramid Stage.

“Napalm Death is Napalm Death,” he shrugs. “We never descend into parody, we’ll never do something for a tacky marketing opportunity. We went into it full pelt, a speed attack – I had no intentions of toning it down, and people seemed to genuinely enjoy it at face value.”

With Napalm Death and Earache Records’ somewhat turbulent past, Barney also saw it as a chance to extend an olive branch to a label he believes is rightfully regarded as one of extreme metal’s most important.

“Sooner or later, you’ve got to let it go, or you end up really bitter and twisted,” Barney says. “But it’s done now, and we’ve reached a point where we can deal with each other. Digby [Pearson, Earache founder] was there and it was all very cordial.”

Before the festival, Barney made a bizarre appearance on BBC Radio 2, teaching former Labour leader Ed Miliband how to sing their classic song, You Suffer.

“I actually quizzed him about Napalm off air,” chuckles Barney, “and he got all the answers right. He knew things about the band only a fan could know, so fair play to him for that. But the main thing was they wanted Ed to do the vocals, and I wasn’t keen, to the point where I nearly refused to do it, because it just seemed so trite – do you know how many times I get asked to do that? But, looking back, it’s so spur-of-the-moment and awkward that I do appreciate the humour in it.”

July: A light went out

Chester Bennington: another icon lost

Our world suffered another heart-wrenching loss when Chester Bennington took his own life on July 20. He was 41. In the days after his death, a shrine rose from the kerb outside the Linkin Park singer’s Southern California home, as fans left personal notes, drawings and flickering candles. Their grief found a similar outlet three months later, in handwritten messages on a wall outside the Hollywood Bowl, as the surviving members of Linkin Park reconvened to pay tribute to their raging, soulful frontman.

Fans flew in from around the world for the sold-out concert on October 27. Some brought national flags from as far as Ireland and Peru. “It was like a death in the family,” said Jeff Eckhart, 32, a software manager from San Francisco. His wife, Alisha, 27, remembered how the band’s cathartic music “got me through my best friend’s suicide when I was 13. It got me through high school. It took us through some dark times”.

Linkin Park last played the legendary Bowl on a scorching night in 2014. Now Mike Shinoda, Rob Bourdon, Brad Delson, Dave Farrell and Joe Hahn were back to mourn and celebrate their late singer, for 17,000 people and a streaming online audience of millions. For three hours, the band performed a set spanning their early nu metal hits to the pop-leaning songs of this year’s One More Light, with the help of a string quartet and famous guest singers and players, including members of A7X, System Of A Down, Bring Me The Horizon and No Doubt.

Korn’s Jonathan Davis roared through One Step Closer, Oli Sykes took on Crawling, and M. Shadows lit up Burn It Down and Faint. Most moving was Mike Shinoda, the band’s studio mastermind, describing his shock over Chester’s death, before performing a song he wrote eight days later, Looking For An Answer. He called it a rough draft, but promised to share its progress over time. The implication was that he’d continue making music, and his comrades would be there too.

The concert raised money for Music For Relief’s One More Light Fund, to send solar electricity kits to remote health clinics without electricity, and increase awareness of mental health issues. Chester’s widow, Talinda Bennington, thanked many friends for their support, and spoke of his personal struggles, declaring, “Fuck depression!”

Chester was Linkin Park’s exposed nerve and most passionate voice. Some of the night’s guests capably stepped in to approximate his messages of searching intensity. But just any shouter won’t do. His connection to fans was deep and heartfelt, recalled Kimberly Croft, 26, who flew in from Vancouver and had met the singer at special fan events. “Every time you meet him, you just feel so loved,” she said, still talking of him in the present tense. Jared Rossman, 17, who arrived from New Jersey with the LP logo freshly shaved onto the side of his head, hopes the band will continue, but said, “I’d feel better if they didn’t replace him, and if they just went on how they are.” Some things just aren’t replaceable.

(Image: © Getty Images)

August: Bloodstock raised their horns

Amon Amarth and Ghost played their first festival headline sets

It began life as a small, one-day, indoor festival. But over the last few years, Bloodstock Open Air has become a three-day immovable fixture on any self-respecting metalhead’s calendar. This year saw Megadeth headline for the second time, while Ghost and Amon Amarth played their debut headlining festival slots.

“It was good to finally get out there and put on our full show,” says Amon Amarth frontman Johan Hegg. “We could bring all we had, it was a great show, and it always has a great atmosphere there. It’s a great event.”

From their helmet drum riser, to the neverending jets of flame, to a spectacular Viking Row – the ridiculous tradition was actually started at Bloodstock in 2009 – it was a joy to see Amon Amarth crown years of toil by finally closing the day at a major festival.

“The Viking Row was amazing,” Johan remembers. “Looking out and seeing so many people having a good time was a really satisfying thing for us, and we’d love to be able to come back one day and do it again… but with even more next time!”

Bloodstock also boasted their most diverse bill yet. It truly welcomed all metal fans to the party, with dance-crossover kids The One Hundred and ragga-metal party starters Skindred receiving just as warm a welcome as Obituary’s old-school death metal and Blind Guardian’s classic power metal.

“I don’t want to skip too far ahead,” says Johan, “but it can only get bigger, I think. You get so many good new bands and the classics together, and the good mixture there reminds me of early Wacken, because they have the potential to grow into something really special. It’s also really well run and has a great vibe – what isn’t to like about it?”

Standouts from the awesome weekend included: Kreator’s vicious thrash being complemented by one of the most insanely pyro-heavy non-headline sets we’ve ever witnessed; UK newcomers Venom Prison decimating the main stage with their savage crusty death metal in the blazing sun just after breakfast; and Ghost giving us a glimpse of what’s sure to come.

The bond between Bloodstock organisers, bands and fans was also in evidence; once again, it was a weekend full of smiles, laughter and new friendships being forged over a love for heavy music. It’s this family atmosphere that makes Bloodstock the essential music festival for anyone in our world.

“We did over an hour in the signing tent,” smiles Johan. “To see so many people come and speak to us was incredible, and of course we want to meet them and sign everything we can. It’s a place where just hanging with so many cool people makes it such a good time.”

With Judas Priest, Nightwish and Gojira set to headline in 2018, we can’t wait to get back to Catton Park.

September: Architects bounced back

The band released their first single since Tom’s passing

It was a tragedy that fans weren’t prepared for. On August 20, 2016, Architects guitarist Tom Searle passed away after a long and private battle with cancer. The band took the decision to honour their touring commitments, but remained out of the public eye and made no promises about their future. So when they surprise-released new song Doomsday on the morning of September 6, featuring Tom’s riffs, it was an emotional event for all.

“We wanted to do it completely pressure-free,” explains Sam. “When you tell people you’re going into the studio, they start expecting something. If it wasn’t good enough, we wouldn’t have released it. We drove ourselves insane with it, really, with the amount of different choruses and vocals that we put over it. We loved Tom’s riffs, it was just working out the rest of the song.”

Doomsday was accompanied by an equally poignant video, directed by longtime collaborator Stu Birchall. Filled with imagery of space and matter, Tom’s brother, drummer Dan, is the focal point. It hit home with fans, who posted about how much they had connected with it.

“It was exciting, because it felt like we were giving something back to our fans that had been so supportive to us throughout everything,” says Sam. “Stu is just a genius and he completely gets where we are. He was a really good friend of Tom and completely invested. It felt so important for the focal point to be Dan – he wrote the lyrics to the song, and it’s basically his point of view.”

The day after Doomsday came out, former Sylosis guitarist Josh Middleton, who had been touring with the band since Tom’s death, took to Instagram to announce he had become a permanent member of Architects.

“As soon as he started touring with us, we knew that he was the one,” says Sam. “He’s such a great musician, and someone that Tom looked up to a great deal. And he looked up to Tom. It already felt like he was in the band straight away, especially on the first tour. He was playing through Tom’s guitars and amps. Sometimes you could turn the other way and you’d be like, ‘That’s literally Tom playing,’ which is a massive compliment to him.”

A few months on, Sam still feels rightly proud of Doomsday. It also marks the start of the band’s next chapter, which they’ll continue at their sold-out show at London’s Alexandra Palace in February.

“The funny thing is, we’ve never played Doomsday live,” Sam reflects. “This amazing song’s come out, and at the moment it’s our most popular song on Spotify. We’re out of touring cycle, so it’s like, ‘OK, I guess we’ll just wait until Ally Pally, that’s fine!’ I love the song. We pushed ourselves to get the best performance we could, on all of our instruments, and it’s wicked. We’re moving forward.”

October: Bruce went biographical

The Iron Maiden legend put his life story down on paper

If ever the life of a rock’n’roll star demanded to be immortalised on the printed page, Bruce Dickinson’s rollercoaster existence is the one. This year, Bruce released his autobiography, What Does This Button Do?: a boisterous, revealing and hair-raising trundle through the life and times of a man who spends a lot of time either fronting the world’s most-loved metal band or piloting sodding great aeroplanes. Quite where he got the energy from is anyone’s guess. But, as you might expect, Bruce clearly enjoyed the process of telling his own story every bit as much as he seems to enjoy everything else.

“I wanted to write something exciting and fun – a romp!” Bruce says. “I had the title and I just started writing. I had a small notebook and I used to write one or two lines, so the first bit would be ‘Worksop, curtains, mangle, fishing, shed…’ and I’d just expand on those. I had some ground rules for myself, which were easy to stick to: no marriages, no births, no deaths. Once you open up that aspect of your personal life, you impinge on other people’s personal lives and what’s the point of that? It’s not a book about other people! Ha ha!”

What Does This Button Do? dispenses with salacious gossip in favour of honest revelations and detailed anecdotes: from Bruce’s childhood, to his turbulent time at boarding school, to his early days as an aspiring musician and – most startlingly – the full story of Bruce’s gig in Sarajevo, at the height of the Bosnian conflict, in 1994. However, it does contain plenty of intriguing insights into the singer’s early days with Maiden. What comes across most strongly is how Bruce simply knew that he belonged onstage with Steve Harris and co. and was fully prepared to embrace that opportunity’s life-changing potential.

“I saw Maiden and thought, ‘They’re already huge, so let’s make it even better!’ My horizons were strictly limited at that point. The biggest band I knew played at Hammersmith Odeon and that was as big as it got. I’d hardly been outside the UK. I went on holiday to Spain with my parents once, and to Jersey on a school trip, and a school trip to some mountains in the Ardennes, but that was it, my exposure to Europe! I’d never done a gig outside the UK. I had no clue about America. But I had a lot of self-belief!”

What Does This Button Do? topped the charts in the UK, which means Bruce can add ‘bestselling author’ to his already ludicrous CV. Of course, now that he’s had a taste of it, there may well be more to come…

“There’s currently 70,000 words sitting around on the cutting room floor and there’s loads of great stuff!” he declares. “I’m not sure what we’re going to do with it. We’d better see how this book works out first. You can’t really do a second autobiography… although that’s never stopped footballers! Ha ha ha!”

November: Ozzy quit. Sort of.

The Double O revealed he was hanging up his crucifix

It has been a year of endings. Black Sabbath, The Dillinger Escape Plan, HIM – the list of bands and people taking their final bows is impactful and bittersweet.

In November, Ozzy Osbourne became the latest legend to announce his retirement – at least from touring. Rumours began to circulate in the summer that the 69-year-old would be following Black Sabbath’s lead and hanging up his metal crucifix, fuelled in part by hints dropped by his wife Sharon. But the man himself seemed to be having none of it.

“People around my age go, ‘I’m 65 now. I’m retired.’ Then they fucking die,” Ozzy said in September. “My father got a bit of cash from the job he had, did the garden and died. I ain’t retiring. People still want to see me, so what’s there to retire from?”

Except that wasn’t the whole truth. Just a few weeks later, Ozzy announced a farewell world tour. “This will be my final world tour, but I can’t say I won’t do some shows here and there,” he said in a statement, shutting the door on his live career but not quite locking it.

It’s going to be a long goodbye. The tour – which sees the much-anticipated return of former guitarist/right-hand man Zakk Wylde – is set to extend into 2020, and includes a headlining appearance at Download in June alongside Guns N’ Roses and Avenged Sevenfold.

And then there’s the small matter of Ozzy’s first new studio album since 2010’s Scream. The singer says he’s “about seven songs into it”, including tracks titled Mr Armageddon and Crack Cocaine. And while he suggests the music industry is economically fucked – “you don’t sell records anymore. It’s not cost-effective to make a record” – it would hardly be an earth-shattering shock if the as-yet-untitled album appeared in time for his alleged swansong tour.

We say ‘alleged’, because Ozzy has been here before. The singer ‘retired’ back in 1992, claiming that the punningly titled No More Tours run of shows would be his last. Three years later, he was back with a brand new studio album, Ozzmosis, and a set of dates dubbed the ‘Retirement Sucks Tour’.

This time looks like being different. By the time the tour finishes, Ozzy will be well over 70 – hardly ancient, but well past the age that most sensible people’s thoughts turn to putting their feet up. And let’s face it, he’s got a lot more miles on the clock compared to other people his age…

Of course, we all know the prospect of Ozzy spending the rest of his life tending the herbaceous borders is remote. And retiring from long, exhausting tours doesn’t means he’s retiring from playing live or making records. Which is good news, because a world without Ozzy in it is pretty much unthinkable.

(Image: © John McMurtrie)

December: Ice T’s Christmas message

Forget the Queen – the rap legend gives us his take on 2017 and what the future holds

“At the beginning of the year, I didn’t feel very optimistic. I didn’t trust or believe that our President was gonna do anything he said he was gonna do. He still hasn’t shown anybody his taxes, he hasn’t put one brick in the wall he claimed he was gonna build, so, I mean, he’s a fully fledged global-level con artist. He can twist and turn conversations. He’s amazing, to say the least. He’s good at what he does, we’ll split that. That’s not being president. But he’s good at what he does.

“Body Count’s album Bloodlust was created during our Primary out here [in California], and you could pretty much see it was a shitshow. Also, we had all the police shootings. So there’s so many things that are happening at the time. That just turned out to be why my songwriting went in that direction. It would be nice if people could say, ‘Ah, he’s just bullshitting, it’s not that bad’, ha ha! But the world kind of like gave us a lot of shit to talk about.

“I think that album’s done its job. The people that wanted to hear it at least understand our band and our message and what we’re about. We’re about social issues as well as fun – just doing some rock shit to get your blood rushing. It’s not 100% political, like Prophets Of Rage. We’re about 50% political and then just bullshit that runs through my mind.

“This year, we were basically teetering on world war – dealing with the Korean situation and all these other issues worldwide. I don’t think we’ve ever been as close to a potential nuclear situation since I’ve been alive. It’s pretty scary. And I hate to say this, but I’ve grown numb to terrorism now. We just had another terror attack in New York, with somebody driving a truck over eight people, and every week there’s a gunman. But I’ve had high points in my own life – my daughter, Chanel, is my perpetual high point. No matter what the fuck goes wrong, watching her grow up and watching her smile, I always have something to reference as good. So she’s necessary.

“To change the world for the better in 2018, as far as the United States goes, I think alternative ways of getting energy is important. Because at the end of the day, most of the wars we fight are for religion or money. But I think some type of renewable energy, clean energy, would be the best thing we could really aim the world at, looking to the future. Not maybe our immediate future, but for our kids. Because I do believe in global warming and I do believe we’re destroying the planet. I’m not one of those super-people about recycling – I’m probably one of the worst people – but at the end of the day, I know we can’t continue to damage the planet. It won’t last forever.”

Prophets Of Rage: "We’re part of the resistance – sonic, cultural and political"