DVD Review: Black Sabbath – Live ... Gathered in Their Masses

DVD Review: Black Sabbath – Live … Gathered in Their Masses
All Access Rating: B+

Black Sabbath - Live ... Gathered in Their
Masses 2013
Darkness had spread across Australia in the spring of 2013, as the originators of doom metal, Black Sabbath, brought their live, and fairly ancient considering their advanced age, evil to the land "Down Under." 

Meteorologists may not have had an explanation for the atmospheric anomaly, but the reunited original Sabbath lineup – except drummer Bill Ward, that is – did. They had embarked on a world tour in support of their comeback album 13, one of 2013's most critically acclaimed metal albums, and Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Ward's replacement, ex-Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper tub-thumper Tommy Clufetos, rode into Melbourne like the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." 

It wasn't the end of days. Grizzled, yet fully capable of churning through and grinding out old sonic blasphemies and new abominations alike with a tenacious spirit, Sabbath just needed a place to practice their dark arts. On April 29 and May 1, Melbourne audiences were able to witness what might be their last chance to see Sabbath's unholy trinity do their worst. The filmmakers who shot the amplified, electrifying "Live … Gathered in Their Masses" must have been thinking along those lines as well.

As is the case with most, but not all, concert DVDs these days, high-definition cameras were used to sharply and vividly capture Sabbath, awash in purple and blue hues, rolling through its set list like a Sherman tank. While briefly shedding a light on what goes on behind the scenes at the start, the film slams forward, with Sabbath diving headlong into "War Pigs" with an appropriate amount of blood lust. Slogging through the heavy sludge of "Loner" and raging through "God Is Dead," off the new LP, with the sinewy muscle of men half their age, Butler and Iommi plunder their blackened past with confident and brutal efficiency, relentlessly kicking with scuffed boots at the still red-hot embers of "Iron Man," "Symptom of the Universe," "Snowblind," "N.I.B." and "Fairies Wear Boots" and slowly coaxing them into burning conflagrations of oily, industrialized metal that Sabbath bulldozes into piles of smoldering ruins as the fires die down.

Lenses smartly seek out Butler and Iommi, instinctively catching them in action as the bassist thunders and gallops along to every bludgeoned, crusty riff or every spell of solo wizardry that blasts its way out of Iommi's bottomless bag of tricks. And yet when they want to build the kind of gallows drama that plays out in a condemned man's head the night before his execution, the pair tease, in the most torturous manner possible, the haunted "Black Sabbath" as it crawls along like a death sentence, as does this viscous, "head pounding against a wall" version of "Into the Void."

Still a deranged cheerleader, Ozzy, on the other hand, is not the strongest vocalist anymore, and his incessant yammering on about not being able to hear the crowd roar its appreciation becomes somewhat distracting, grating and tiresome. Still, there is some demonic life left in that ravaged, frail voice, and when it comes to interpreting Sabbath's most horrific Satanic verses in his uniquely insane manner, nobody compares to Ozzy. All in all, "Live ... Gathered in Their Masses," available as a single DVD or a CD/DVD version, finds Sabbath possibly making a last punishing stand as Butler, Iommi and Ozzy confront their own mortality. If they are nearing the end, this powerhouse concert DVD will testify to their explosive potency as a live act, even as most of their contemporaries have long since retired. http://www.republicrecords.com/
– Peter Lindblad

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