Last Monday (12th June), Gigwise went along to the IndigO2 in Greenwich for the 2017 edition of Metal Hammer's prestigious Golden God Awards. Celebrating the good and great of heavy metal over the past twelve months, this year's awards ceremony saw some of the genre's biggest names collect gongs presented by WWE's Chris Jericho.
Among the winners were Mastodon ('Best Live Band'), Pallbearer ('Best Underground Band'), Exodus ('Inspiration') and Devin Townsend ('Riff Lord'). The coveted Golden God award for services to metal went to Black Sabbath, arguably the genre's most influential band of all time having kickstarted the scene nearly forty years ago.
Formed in Birmingham in 1968 by Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward. Despite numerous personnel changes over the years, that's still considered to be the definitive Black Sabbath line-up so it was perhaps fitting that it was Iommi - incidentally the only member to remain with the band throughout their entire existence - who collected the award on behalf of the band.
With a near flawless back catalogue that includes nineteen albums totalling over 70 million sales, their legacy remains intact despite the band no longer being a going concern having finally called it a day earlier this year.
B-Real, founder member of Cypress Hill but this evening on duty as part of the Prophets Of Rage supergroup goes on to say:
"I was a huge Sabbath fan and his riffs were some of the darkest aggressive riffs. I remember seeing a Black Sabbath show in the Forum in LA when they first got back together. It was incredible. I'm in awe of the man, it’s great to see him collecting the award."
Mastodon, here collecting their aforementioned award for best live band, also pay tribute. Drummer Brann Dailor keenly shares his memories of how the band had an impact on him: "Black Sabbath was on my radar as a very young person, one of the first musical memories I have is 'War Pigs'. It definitely spoke to me, probably because it was always around. I loved the imagery, picking up the albums and looking at them."
Another of metal's old school who's been in the industry nearly as long as Iommi is Biff Byford, lead singer of metal legends Saxon: "Tony is one of the innovators of the darker side of rock n roll, he’s a nice guy as well." Frowning slightly, he adds: "I think it’s sad when bands stop. Why should they stop? If he’s ill then fair enough."
Byford puts Saxon's longevity down to the fact they've continued to make records so will be happy to learn that Iommi isn't anywhere near retired. Speaking to Gigwise, the Black Sabbath guitar legend tells us, "I'm busier than ever. I'm just not touring for months on end these days in order to preserve my health."
It seems to be doing the trick. Iommi looks remarkably well as and he's upbeat about his plans going forwards. Of a future Sabbath one-off gig at a football ground in Birmingham, he says: "I think it would be nice to be able to do that at some point. I haven’t spoken to the others but I’m sure they would be up for it. It’s early days yet, it hasn’t even sunk in that we’ve finished." As for future recording projects he talks about a Tony Martin reissue series being on the cards:" I spoke to him one day of doing a couple of things. He adds that the sessions are "Good stuff that some people have never even heard."
There's also the prospect of something truly phenomenal happening. "Brian [May] came to my house a couple weeks ago [to discuss doing a riff album]. Tt’s quite possible, again he’s going on tour fairly soon. But, yeah I’d like to do something with Brian."
Talking about his current activities, Iommi tells us: "[I've] done a track recently with a choir and writing bits for films. That was nice to go onto a different field, to break things up."
Despite continuing to pursue new ideas, he has a very content view on his legacy: "I’ve done most the things I want to do,” and he's very humble about his commercial success: "It's never been about the money, we do it because we enjoy it."
He also offers the following advice for new bands. "I think you’ve got to believe in what you do if you’re writing your own things you’ve got to believe and enjoy what you’re doing. You can’t copy things you’ve got to do what comes out of you."
Having diligently stuck to his guns throughout Black Sabbath's entire lifespan, Iommi remains one of the most likeable, successful and influential musicians of all time. When people think about greats, they put Iommi right up there with Beethoven and Bach. While the terms "legend" and "God" are often bandied about undeservedly, Iommi has rightfully earned this status and along with his bandmates, the prestigious title of Golden God couldn't have been awarded to a more deserving group of artists.