Book review: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath by Joel McIver

By Steve Earles

Not for nothing do I refer to Joel McIver as “The James Brown of Metal Writing”, because like the Godfather of Soul, Joel (see what I did there? Poet and I don’t know it), Joel is the hardest working man in show-business… metal show-business.

Now, the Black Sabbath story is a huge one, beginning when giant Bill Wards roamed the primordial prehistoric swamps of music to the metal scene of today… well, how does one describe the metal work in 2012, certainly it has sprouted a vast variety of offshoots, most of which near urgent pruning (especially those that end in ‘core’), and it’s to Joel credit that he embraces the tale and makes it so engaging. This book had been updated to include the death of the great Ronnie James Dio, whose legacy is an antidote to any of the negativity in the present-day metal scene.

Covering not just the Ozzy period of Sabbath, but also the times when Ozzy wasn’t there which produced marvelous music, the Dio years were outstanding, and the Tony Martin era produced some superb and sadly underrated music. Listen to the amazing “The Shining” or “Eternal Warrior” or the title track of The Eternal Idol (and all of the splendid Headless Cross).

But best of all, he covers in all its Spinal Tap-like detail, the glory that is Born Again, in all sincerity my favourite Black Sabbath album featuring the classic trio of Ward, Butler and Iommi with Deep Purple legend Ian Gillan on vocals, and one every metal fan should own (Interestingly, recently Iommi and Gillan got back together to do a charity record called Who Cares with the likes of Jason Newsted. But guys, I want a proper sequel to Born Again!).

The fact that Joel is a talented musician as well as talented writer give the book an added dimension for all the musicians out there.

A splendid read!

(Omnibus Press)

Sean is the founder/publisher of; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.