Japan At Last (SABS 013)
Makuhari Messe, Japan – May 12, 2013
Disc 1 (46:41) Introduction, War Pigs, Into The Void, Under The Sun, Snowblind, Black Sabbath, Behind The Wall Of Sleep, Basically / N.I.B.
Disc 2 (43:41) Fairies Wear Boots, Member Introduction, Symptom Of The Universe (Instrumental), Drum Solo, Iron Man, God Is Dead?, Children Of The Grave, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath Riff / Paranoid
Ozzfest made its Japanese debut earlier this year when the traveling music festival made its way to The Land Of The Rising Sun for two days in early May. The re united Black Sabbath headlined the second night and at least two audience sources and an IEM source are know to circulate. Pro CD-R titles exist for these other sources as Ozzfest Japan 2013 Definitive Another Master and Ozzfest Japan 2013 Ozzfest Japan 2013: Complete In Ear Monitor Recording. Both days drew capacity crowds of 20,000 and the event was considered a success, after these shows Sabbath would make its way to Australia for a tour. The recording featured here is a very good to near yet slightly distant excellent audience source, slightly bass heavy and since the show was outside there is some volume fluctuation. All instruments and vocals are clear and there is very little crowd interference near the taper, all in all a fine capture. The core of Osbourne, Butler, and Iommi are augmented by Adam Wakemen on keyboards and drummer Tommy Clufetos (who comes from Ozzy’s solo band as well as Rob Zombie and Ted Nugent).
The warning siren sounds as Ozzy tells the crowd “Let Me Hear You” before maniacally laughing; this certainly gets the crowd warmed up to give the band a huge ovation as they take the stage. “War Pigs” lumbers across the stage in a really heavy fashion, slow and methodical. As the band move into the main part of the song Iommi’s guitar slashes through the air and the band kicks it into overdrive showing there is still life in their old bones. Iommi’s playing is very sharp and shows his battle with cancer has not affected his abilities. The crowd sings along with the band as the song goes into “Now in darkness” section, so typical of the bands rabid following, it does not matter where in the world they play, metal fans are all the same. “Into The Void” from Master Of Reality follows, the band has chosen the heaviest of the material for the set list. When I first saw the reunited line up back in 1997 at an Ozzfest this was the song that blew me away, its main riff and a real groove that makes it perfect for head banging. I must comment that Ozzy is in fine voice and with the help of his TelePrompTer does a fine job with his vocals. He tells the crowd to go crazy when the song goes into the fast paced section. For me the highlight of the recording comes with the next song, “Under The Sun” from the Vol. 4 record. The band started playing the song the previous year with excellent results and much praise from fans as the material was briefly in their set list back in 1972. Like much of Geezer’s best lyrics the songs deals with one’s questioning of region and what is being told to them. Iommi rips an incredible solo that has many close clapping along and then Iommi breaks back into the songs main riff.
From the same Vol. 4 record the band plow through “Snowblind”, the song written as an ode to cocaine, the drug the band were using copious amounts during its recording. This is the first song where you hear Adam Wakeman’s keyboards, he adds them to flush out the sound to great effect and the song has a full lush sound to it. The band play their signature tune “Black Sabbath” next, it has the church bell and storm introduction as Ozzy tells the audience to get their lighters out, he is out of date as most use cell phones. The song retains all its darkness but it felt Iommi’s solo was not up to par as if he could not pull it together and for a minute was thinking that perhaps he was tiring. My fears were abated as the band play “Behind The Wall Of Sleep”, the song still has that wonderful swing to it and Iommi rips through it with ease. The crowd is equally enamored and claps along for good measure. I also really enjoyed Geezers playing during this song; he is throwing some tasty lines in there as well as much of the very early material showcases their ability to improvise. Geezer gets a brief solo in the form of an extended introduction to “N.I.B.”, one of his great lyrical takes from the first Sabbath record has lost none of its brilliance. Seems like over the past few years I have listened to so much of the Dio era versions of the song that I found this Ozzy rendered version most interesting and quite satisfying.
The second disc has Ozzy introducing “Fairies Wear Boots” and teasing the crowd with owl like sounds, he is in a jovial mood. “Fairies” smokes as always, it is a personal favorite as it always delivers. Ozzy introduces the band and they roar into “Symptom of The Universe”, sadly it is an instrumental version and will serve as a vehicle for a Tommy Clufetos drum solo. I found his playing superb as he interjects a youthful passion into the music. His solo is a mixed bag as he gets too much going on and parts of it seem to rumble together. His solo ends with a simple drum beat that forms the intro to “Iron Man” as Ozzy demands the crowd to clap and cheer louder, he gets what he wants. Again the Japanese crowd sing along sound very much like their European counterparts, “Iron Man” is a pre requisite and no show should be without it!
Ozzy introduces a song from the fourth coming record, 13 (in shops now) and we are treated to “God Is Dead?” The crowd is very quiet for the song, intently listening to the new music, the band seem focused on their playing and deliver a perfectly excellent version of the song. Again Geezer paints a theological tale that finds common place in this new millennium, the music lumbers across in true Sabbath fashion and the fast riff section is very good. The band finish strong with a pummeling “Children Of The Grave” and as Ozzy directs, the audience goes crazy as they interject “Hey” in all the right places. The single encore ends with “Paranoid” complete with a “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” riff tease that is nice and heavy. A well played concert that deserves many listenings and shows us that Sabbath is far from dead.
The packaging is simple color inserts featuring Ozzfest Japan graphics over pictures of the event itself, I found the cover picture particularly striking, and all this is housed in a slim lined jewel case. With the release of the excellent new 13 record and a USA summer tour this is the perfect way to start the journey, one that will culminate in early August when I make the trek north to see the band. Nice to have a silver release as many of the recent shows have been out but unfortunately the trend has been on CD-R.