Black Sabbath and Napoleon are a match made in Heaven (and Hell)

A young Black Sabbath sitting in a back garden, plus Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon
(Image credit: Black Sabbath: Jim Simpson | Napoleon: Sony Pictures)

Earlier this year, Sony Pictures uploaded the first trailer for Ridley Scott's upcoming Napoleon blockbuster. Starring Joaquin Phoenix as the diminutive, all-conquering tyrant, the trailer was backed by a sections of the film's score, by composer Martin Phipps.

As is Hollywood's want, a second trailer was released two weeks ago, and the music from the first is nowhere to be seen. Instead, viewers are treated to a unique version of Black Sabbath's anti-war classic War Pigs, with Ozzy's original vocal soaked in reverb atop a some suitably epic strings. The rest of the band are nowhere to be heard, but hell, it's an effective match.

This isn't a new thing: doctored versions of War Pigs soundtracked the trailer for the 2011 video game Gears Of War 3, and 2019's Spy Thriller The King's Man. The song simply lends itself to such epic use. 

"In the trailer for a film set more than 200 years ago, you can hear a crystal-clear Ozzy singing Geezer’s lyrics in the anti-war song War Pigs," says Black Sabbath's original manager, Jim Simpson, who looked after the band at the time the song was originally recorded. "'Generals gathered in their masses, just like witches at black masses…’ and it sounds absolutely perfect. 

"The ultimate proof of Sabbath’s enduring appeal is that they still have an army of fans all around the world across many different age groups and cultures. Like Beethoven, Mozart and all of the other great composers, you can imagine Sabbath’s made-in-Birmingham music will still be played and appreciated in 200 or more years’ in the future, too."

Simpson, now in his 80s, still works in Birmingham, and runs Henry’s Blueshouse at The O Bar, opposite the official Black Sabbath Bench.

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.