Review Summary: They're baaaaaaaaaaaaaack!
When I first listened to Reunion, I could practically hear Ozzy Osbourne, wailing "Can you help me?" on Paranoid, Iommi beginning the guitar riff to "Iron Man", and Butler picking away at his bass in "N.I.B.". It's hard to believe that it was almost twenty years since Ozzy left the group, almost fifteen since Iommi and Butler left.
Perhaps the most difficult thing to swallow about Reunion is that, with the exception of Heaven and Hell / Mob Rules, Black Sabbath had gone downhill like an accelerating cadillac. Ever since 1983's Born Again, the band was putting out records that were universally panned time and time again, and the cycle continued and continued until it had been beaten to death, and Forbidden was the last record to ever be released. So now that they've returned: the famous guitarist, the infamous vocalist, and the similarly infamous bassist in 1998's Reunion, the question still remains: was I overcome with a wave of awe and nostalgia, the same that astounded me throughout the band's first three albums, the albums that created heavy metal? Well...yes and no. A hefty time with Reunion will prove that this is the album fans have been waiting years for, but is also an example that you're forced to endure the occasional torture of live performances for a glimpse of perfection.
There's no denying this: nothing more can be asked of the reunited band members. They are still, without a doubt, some of the best metal artists, despite their ripe ol' age. Be it the heavy guitar riffs, the pounding drums, excellent solos, or cataclysmic bass work, Sabbath is still brilliant, years after the break-up, and still will be for decades to come. And there are some damn fine tracks: the overwhelming anti-war statement War Pigs and Into the Void, the eerie Electric Funeral, or the famous riff of the self-titled track.
But what does degrade Reunion? The times when the spastic energy fails to deliver, no matter how small the parts be, turn out to be painful and dull at times. It's sometimes a victim of it's own identity. For a reunion, one of the most ambitious and expectation-setting Sabbath albums since Heaven and Hell, it's terribly aged, and Ozzy can sometimes sound bad. Everybody doesn't have the same ignited power as they did in their mid-20's, which is understandable, but there's further problems.
There's sometimes little or no reactions to the audience, and, annoyingly so, almost every cuss word is lashed out. Well that's a ***ing piece of ***! For starters, the absence of audience reactions in performances such as "Snowblind" and "Into the Void" are great examples. It is a pain in the ass when Ozzy's vocal performance doesn't match the power it did in Black Sabbath. Let's be honest, I understand they're much older now, but Osbourne never really was the best vocalist, Dio was far more superior. He's not bad, but it can become annoying to the eardrums.
So how is it that a live album REUNION, an album that sets ambitions sky high, manages to annoy me so many times, manages to get even more than a passing glance in the realm of purchasing? When this album is at its best, there are some of the most impressive sequences in a live album I've ever heard. There are times when the album is so damned good, times when it does a lot
of things right, that you'll forget every annoying pitch of Ozzy's voice, every ripe song performed (Some songs are worse than others, let's admit). It's still engrossing, and the vision many fans wanted years ago have come full circle is this near-phenomenal live entry, and it's a great rehash of the early days.
Will the high points be enough for you to endure the occasional breakdown? It is not the ultimate expression of metal genius, as many people, if not everybody, would of called it more than twenty-five years ago (at the time of release). But if you think that the reunion of the Paranoid and Master of Reality brothers is worth the purchase, then buy all means go ahead. It just may surprise you.