Black Sabbath – Download 2016 Review

Well what can you say about the finality of one of the most prolific bands in history’s last ever show at their spiritual home of Donington Park? The band have played here time and time again, Monsters of Rock, Ozzfest, Download – Donington in all it’s incarnations. Black Sabbath are sewn into the fabric here and the arena is awash with black shirts in all shapes and sizes, from a tour history spanning decades and generations. Families making sure their kids get to experience this once in their lifetime, the younger crowd who may not be die-hard Sabbath lovers but are here nevertheless, and those original fans with a tear for the end of an era. Everyone feels the gravity of tonight’s performance, and that’s a pretty big weight to put on any band’s shoulders.

As the sky darkens ominously and the purple Black Sabbath logo lights up the big screens, there is a hush of anticipation for the Birmingham band, one city over from where they were formed – this always feels like a homecoming. With visuals depicting the birth of Satan from an Aliens-esque egg the band alight the stage to an almighty roar and thousands upon thousands of hands thrust into the air in horns.

Starting off with namesake Black Sabbath (we really enjoy it when artists sing about themselves… well, maybe not Craig David…) it’s clear that Ozzy’s voice is ahem, off. The difference between this show and their last Donington stint is pretty noticeable and there’s a lot of chatter in the crowd to that effect. It also seems like they’ve purposefully slowed down their already trademark slow heavy metal, to accommodate Ozzy’s vocals, but hey, we’ve been listening to upbeat bands all day… that must be it… right?

Yelling his standard “I can’t fuckin’ hear you” there’s a little nostalgic twinge as someone nearby retorts an unheard “That’s cause you’re fuckin’ deaf”, I think I’ve heard that every single time I’ve seen Ozzy live and this will be the last time. Fairies Wear Boots is a fan favourite and everyone is singing along but the wind and rain have notched up and the 4 speaker stacks in the middle of the arena just aren’t good enough to travel it up the hill. Every year the same argument – it’s fine for the earlier bands when the crowd is split, but for the headliners it leaves at least half the arena with shockingly poor audio.

Into The Void and Snowblind are fantastic, with Iommi shredding the hell out of his guitar in his nonplussed style, and despite the constant rain (maybe there was a market for changing the name to Rainblind…), the swishing of ponchos and smack of wet hair on cheeks says that everyone is having a headbangingly excellent time. Sabbath anthem War Pigs however is absolutely epic, due to the thousands strong crowd singing every bit of it at the maximum capacity of their lungs.

We get a traditional gratuitous drum solo and then everything we wanted to hear; N.I.B, Hand of Doom, the heart-stoppingly good Iron Man (complete with flaming pyrotechnics on the stage and sound tent) and Children Of The Grave.

With an encore of Sabbath’s biggest hit Paranoid, and a tear-jerking ‘The End’ plastered on the big screens, it’s time to say goodbye to arguably the most important band in heavy metal, the forefathers of everything you see here. Though it might not have been the best we’ve ever seen Black Sabbath, there is an overwhelming sense of importance, that we were there, the very last time the godfathers of heavy metal played the most iconic location in heavy metal. It almost makes you want to get a commemorative tattoo. Or, you could go snatch up a ticket for their final UK tour dates EVER. Whimper. Sniff. Sabbath – we will miss you, always.

Photo Credit (Ozzy): Ben Gibson

Photo Credit (Stage): Jen O'Neill

All photos courtesy of Download Festival

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