As the title of “Snowblind” from Volume 4 hints at though, the troubles that would eventually destroy them had already surfaced by 1972. Butler explained the situation to Guitar World magazine in 2001: "The cocaine had set in. We went out to L.A. and got into a totally different lifestyle. Half the budget went on the coke and the other half went to seeing how long we could stay in the studio.”
The final two ‘70s albums from Black Sabbath were Technical Ecstasy (1977) and Never Say Die! (1978). The cover art of Technical Ecstasy was done by Hipgnosis, and is one of the greatest examples of their distinctive style ever. Sadly, it is the best thing about the album. Never Say Die! does not even boast great artwork.
There was a primal brilliance to the songs of Black Sabbath and Paranoid, which were almost punk in their primitivism. By the time of Never Say Die!, this had been replaced by a bland competence. They sold their souls for rock and roll? No, they just got boring.
I will never forget the Never Say Die! tour. It was my first opportunity to see Black Sabbath, and I was kind of excited. But it was the opening band, Van Halen that my high school buddies and I were really there for. Van Halen were the worst possible opening act Sabbath could have chosen at that time, because they absolutely blew the headliners off the stage.
That was a very long time ago though, and the big question today is, what will 13 sound like? A clue emerged at the November 2011 announcement of the reunion, which was hosted by Henry Rollins at the Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood. All four original members were there, and Butler said that the new material “has the old Sabbath style and sound." Since that announcement, Ward has dropped out. Although the details have been kept under wraps, there has been a new contract drawn up regarding the brand name “Black Sabbath.” Ward calls the document he was presented with “unsignable,“ and is not participating in the reunion. 13 will feature Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine’s on the drums.
With all due respect to the rest of the band, it has always been the guitar of Iommi which has defined the group. He has been the only member to appear on every one of the 18 studio albums released under the name Black Sabbath. Most of the later records were basically Iommi solo albums though, with a revolving door of back-up musicians.