Sound — 10
Everybody (at least at UG) knows Black Sabbath. They are the de-facto inventors of metal music. They were likely the first ones to tune their guitars so low (C# standard). They were the first band to fully embrace the devil in their music. They brought us such memorable hits as "Paranoid" and "Iron Man." They brought us such groundbreaking ideas as using the tri-tone in rock ("Black Sabbath") and they brought us the first songs to which we could truly headbang and mosh to ("Into the Void" and "Children of the Grave"). Unfortunately, they are likely coming to the end of their run. The band members are approaching their seventies; Tony Iommi has cancer; Bill Ward is apparently too debilitated to get through a whole set and; Ozzy well... On the other hand, we are extremely lucky that Ozzy decided to rejoin Tony and Geezer Butler to do one, possibly last, album and tour. And thus, they came to Rod Laver Arena in Australia. Whether or not this ends up being the final official release from the band, this DVD is certainly great. Tony, Geezer, and Ozzy appear not to have lost a step since the '70s, when they last released an album together. Tommy Clufetos plays the drums excellently, as any hired gun of this caliber should. Honestly, if Bill Ward couldn't successfully get through a whole set, I'm happy that Black Sabbath brought Clufetos along because it would be awful for anybody to ruin this masterpiece. And honestly, the old age of the original members plays nicely into their new, un-appointed personas; Tony the immortal doctor of black magic, Geezer the wizened, nimble fingered professor, and Ozzy the demon child running around and ingesting their teachings (his wrinkles from aging and drugs just add to this effect). Aside from these new monikers, Ozzy can still do a great, "I can't f--king hear you!" Geezer can still nimbly weave through his fretboard, and Tony can still play all his solos to mostly un-improvised perfection. The sound of each instrument breaks through the mix well and I can perfectly pick out each of them at all times. Probably because of newer technology, each band member's signature tone, especially Iommi's screaming, treble-boosted guitar, is heard with high fidelity. Although the band members seem slightly restricted by their age, in terms of movement, Black Sabbath still shows a fitting amount of stage presence; not too much and not too little. As I said before, they show no signs of failing in terms of musicianship (OK, well, Ozzy stresses at some points). Everything seems to be perfect in terms of sound and performance for a Black Sabbath concert on this DVD except that the crowd isn't really moving a whole lot or responding to Ozzy's calls to action. Still, this is a banner performance and it is certainly worthy of Black Sabbath's farewell to the world in terms of touring. As a side note, it appears to me that all the original members have started to develop bellies, so they would look much better if they buttoned their jackets a little.
Content — 8
I didn't really come to this DVD to survey the special features and honestly, the concert alone was enough. Black Sabbath chose a great setlist to sum up their career, though it is somewhat devoid of their later material. They played three songs from their newest album, "13," and the songs were so good that they were indistinguishable from their classic material. Maybe this is just because all of their material is so closely related (a la AC/DC or Iron Maiden) that the difference in fame and talent between the songs is unnoticeable. Either way, the entire set flowed well and the concert kicked butt all around, although Tommy Clufetos' drum solo wasn't the highlight that it could've been. Here is the setlist, taken from two different concerts: 01. War Pigs 02. Into the Void 03. Loner 04. Snowblind 05. Black Sabbath 06. Behind the Wall of Sleep 07. N.I.B. 08. Methademic 09. Fairies Wear Boots 10. Symptom of the Universe (Instrumental) 11. Drum Solo 12. Iron Man 13. End of the Beginning 14. Children of the Grave 15. God Is Dead? 16. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (Intro) / Paranoid
Production Quality — 10
The production quality is what puts this DVD above the rest and what takes the great performance by Black Sabbath and puts it over the top. There isn't really any special aspect of the production in terms of new technology or camera angles or anything like that (though the concert is stunning in Blu Ray). No, what really makes the production of this DVD special is its taste; it doesn't use an overabundance of camera angles; the cameras aren't constantly shaking; it doesn't switch between angles so quickly that the watcher can't form a decent picture. Most importantly, the DVD knows which camera angles are appropriate at certain times. The other cool part of the production of the DVD is the opening/introductory sequence. The introduction is a cool yet concise catalog of what happens before the show. It shows the band arriving and preparing for the show and it interviews Sabbath fans who were too young to see the band perform live in the '70s. The funny part is that this is not a novel concept. Many other concert films have done this type of thing before, but this one does it with such taste, that it just feels a cut above the rest. And of course, the way the concert starts with the "Master of Reality" like logo is just insane. It really revs up the viewer for the show. Overall, the production quality isn't groundbreaking in terms of technology, but it is certainly groundbreaking in taste. It provides a solid visual experience that provides a solid baseline for Black Sabbath's performance. And somehow, someway, it is the second best, production quality I have ever seen from a concert film, losing to the various Led Zeppelin DVDs.
Overall Impression — 9
This DVD is rock solid. It is just an awesome thing to behold and to listen to. Black Sabbath's performance is outstanding, though it somehow failed to get the crowd going. The production quality is second to none (well, almost) and the DVD as a whole is, again, an awesome experience, much better than any previous Sabbath release. In short, if this DVD is Black Sabbath's last, it sure lets them go out with a bang.