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LIVE REPORT: Black Sabbath, By The Home Of Metal Project
The Quietus , February 14th, 2017 13:55

The Home Of Metal project was at every one of Sabbath's last shows to photograph the legion of Ozzy devotees. Gallery and live report below.


All pictures courtesy of Katja Ogrin and The Home Of Metal

As Black Sabbath made their final bow earlier this month with a conclusive pair of dates at Birmingham's Genting Arena, it was a welcome return to Birmingham for perhaps the favourite sons of the monumentally influential array of metal to have come from the city and surrounding Black Country.

The Midlands' formative, and sometimes overlooked, role in the history of music has since 2007 been celebrated by curators Capsule's 'Home Of Metal' project, who aim, as they say, "to explore how the music of four working class lads from Aston, Birmingham captured the hearts and minds of fans globally."

As Sabbath embarked upon their final UK dates, the Home Of Metal was at every gig to document the masses inspired by the band on an individual level, with fans invited to have their portraits taken by a team of volunteers. These photos are being made available online, and will later be used as part of an upcoming touring exhibition exploring the diversity of Sabbath's global fanbase.

You can check out a selection of the best portraits taken in Manchester in our gallery below as well as a report written especially for tQ from one of the project's many volunteers, Darren Milburn. In it he takes us through the experience of one of Ozzy and co's final outings at the O2 in London, and just why the Home Of Metal's work is so vital to the preservation of Midlands music history.

Black Sabbath Live At The O2 Arena, January 31, 2017

So this is it - The End for Black Sabbath, at least as far as touring goes anyway. It does seem somewhat inevitable that the band will play together again at some point in the future, but for now at least this all does actually feel pretty final. With the stage engulfed in a sea of thick fog and flames licking up at the backdrop, Sabbath take to the stage for this final run of shows, and somewhere in the gloom Tony Iommi unleashes that familiar 3 note progression to that unforgettable title track which still sounds every bit as dark and forbidding as it did the first time I heard it as a kid.

The performance itself is executed every bit as well as you'd expect from a band that have been kicking around for the best part of five decades, and they are certainly playing as well as they ever have in recent memory. Tony and Geezer are predictably flawless and whilst Ozzy might occasionally fall a little flat on his vocals there's no doubting he gives it his all. Bill Ward's absence is always going to be controversial but, aside from his ridiculously overlong drum solo it's hard to fault Tommy Clufetos's playing, even if many don't consider this to really be Sabbath without Ward. The set list covers pretty much all the classic obvious tracks you'd hope to hear get a final outing, with only the inclusion of 'Dirty Women' over other perhaps worthier tracks like 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath' (which only gets briefly teased out as part of a riff medley) being the only slightly curious choice.

I'm here at the gig tonight as a volunteer with the Home Of Metal project, who are here taking pictures of the Sabbath fans who make up this audience for the final tour to create an archive of portraits of the fans behind the bands success. One of the very first people I speak to about having their photo taken is a young lad over from Canada especially for the final run of four shows, taking in two in London and then the final two in Birmingham. There's a staggering number of overseas visitors like him here tonight who have put their lives on hold to come over for this final tour to catch the band one last time. When I ask him why he's made the pilgrimage of 4000 odd miles each way to take in these last shows he gives me an answer that I will hear again a number of times during the evening: "It's because they invented it - without Sabbath there's no metal. All the bands I love came from this".

The Home of Metal project has been key in documenting the social history of Birmingham and the Black Country that led to the birth of metal, and it is important work as the area has been uncharacteristically quiet about its musical heritage and legacy until now. For some reason Brummies do sometimes seem reluctant to shout about their musical pedigree, especially when compared to other cities. To try and redress the balance, Home Of Metal first took over a number of venues in 2011 with a number of events and an exhibition charting the origins and evolution of the genre, and it's back to do the same thing again now.

The photos being taken at these shows will form part of a touring exhibition next year before coming home to Birmingham in 2019, giving the visitors who come from all other the world to the city a focal point for their attention and taking the fans themselves centre stage for once. It's something that certainly deserves to be celebrated. The ever present references to the sound of the drop forge hammers permeating the air around Aston have become somewhat of a cliché whenever heavy metal history is told but there's good reason for that- it was only ever a place like Birmingham, an area at the heart of the Industrial Revolution leading to its legacy of desolate industrial areas and noisy metalwork factories constantly polluting the grey skies, that could have become the birthplace of heavy metal.

Heavy Metal is very much a product of its environment, and with Sabbath you had four working class lads escaping from their monotonous dead end jobs in Aston to create a genre defining blueprint which they then honed to perfection.
Darren Millburn

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