Black Sabbath have begun rehearsing for their final world tour, dubbed The End, which includes an appearance at the Download Festival in June.
In the absence of original drummer Bill Ward, vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler – here photographed exclusively for Classic Rock by Ross Halfin at the warm-up sessions in Los Angeles – are working again with Tommy Clufetos, who was with them for their previous set of shows.
The first performance of the tour is in Omaha, Nebraska on January 20, and it now seems almost certain that there will not be a full-length new album to accompany the dates, despite the fact that five tracks recorded for Sabbath’s 2013 album 13 remain unreleased. Osbourne explains that the reasons are twofold.
“Number one, people aren’t really interested in hearing new stuff,” the singer says. “And number two, if we were to do an album before the tour it would take three or four years to complete. We want to end it on a high note.”
While Butler was willing to consider releasing the 13 out-takes, he seems to agree with Ozzy, with Iommi revealing: “I’ve got so many riffs. I wrote a whole load o stuff for another album, and we met up in LA. But the others – well, Geezer – didn’t particularly want to do another album.”
13 topped the charts of several countries, notably the UK and the United States, which could well explain why Iommi adds with a shrug: “After you’ve just had a number one album, where do you go from there?”
Whatever happens, Osbourne is insistent that Sabbath will cease to exist as a concert attraction after The End’s last show, in Phoenix, Arizona on September 21.
“This is it,” the singer tells Classic Rock’s sister title Metal Hammer. “The End. So please do come along. We would love to see you.”
Iommi’s treatment for cancer will continue while the band are on the road, and although Sabbath are now entering their final lap the guitarist remains determined to carry on making music once it’s completed.
“Do I intend to stop playing? No,” he says. “I’d love to do something with the [Sabbath] guys, but whatever happens I will do something.”
This subject will no doubt be expanded upon when Iommi takes part in a Q&A session titled An Audience With Tony Iommi at Birmingham Town Hall on March 19. The event will be chaired by sports presenter Gary Newbon. Tickets cost £17 (plus booking fee) and can be purchased via the venue’s box office on 0121 780333, or online at www.thsh.co.uk