When pioneering heavy metal band Black Sabbath reunited with original frontman Ozzy Osbourne in 1997 after a 20-year split, a new album was expected. The band toured for nine years, but the disc never came, and Black Sabbath disbanded again in 2006.
So when guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward announced in late 2011 they again would reunite with Osbourne and tour to mark Black Sabbath's 45th anniversary, there was healthy skepticism about whether there would be a new record this time around.
That disc, "13," not only arrived in June — the band's first disc in 18 years and first with Osbourne in 35 years — but also won critical acclaim and became the band's first No. 1 ever in the United States.
Now on its first tour since 2005, Black Sabbath is playing songs from "13," as well as its classic hits such as "Paranoid" and "Iron Man." So what made the difference when it came to recording new material? In a phone call, Osbourne says Black Sabbath recorded material during that earlier reunion, but a "clash of egos" prevented the band from finishing it.
"I was doing this television thing with 'The Osbournes' back then, and I had my own career," Osbourne says, referring to the hit reality show about his family, which ran on MTV 2002-05. "It just didn't feel right. We tried to force an album. In fact we did, we recorded a demo, with a bunch of stuff, which is nothing like the way we used to do. We were forcing it out of ourselves."
Osbourne says the new album "just kind of came out — we just clicked. I mean, you know when you're in a band and you go into something which is working. You know, we didn't have to force it. It just came naturally."
Osbourne says part of that success can be attributed to producer Rick Rubin, with whom Black Sabbath worked on the aborted earlier attempt.
This time, Osbourne says, Rubin challenged the band not to do what was expected of it, but to listen to its 1970 debut — not think about its sophomore disc, "Paranoid," which contained both the title track and "Iron Man," and propelled the band to superstardom.
"Rick said,'I don't want you to think of a classic heavy metal album,'"Osbourne says. "I'm like, 'Well what the (expletive) do you want me to do, what are you looking for?' He said, 'Forget all the other albums. I want you to concentrate and zone into the vibe that you had on the first album.'
"And then I suddenly remembered that we originally started out as a jazz blues band, and that was a part of the first album. And so I got what he was saying. He wanted that freedom that we had on the first album, which was just a natural vibe."