Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe (St. Martin’s Press) by Mick Wall is a fully comprehensive biography of not only the legendary self-same titled metal band but of each of the core band members of the group.
The 320 page book spans the entire career of the band and its diverging members up through their reunion tour in 2013. Perhaps the most interesting time periods portrayed, though, cover the lesser known years of the band’s youth before they were Black Sabbath. To learn that guitarist Tony Iommi bullied Ozzy Osbourne in primary school or that when Ozzy first joined the band he had a shaved head were interesting, odd facts that made the narrative more fully engaging, especially for a Sabbath fan who might know a good deal about the band to begin with. Though fans might be aware of the fact that Iommi lost the tips of two fingers in a factory accident, they are less likely to know that he made substitute fingers out of a melted down bottle so that he could continue to play guitar.
At first the reader is drawn into the emotional pull of the band’s inception and the excitement of their finally being recognized for their obscure and novel style of music. However, since the book covers such a large expanse of time, reading about the continual rise and fall of the band can become a bit burdensome and repetitive. This though, a fact of the band’s existence, was something that couldn’t be avoided by Wall.
Wall, a writer, editor, and press agent, writes Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe almost as if it were a novel. His descriptive language and storytelling style, though, does err to the side of grandiose and can be rather overbearing. There is a sense of hyperbolic animation that at times detracts from the pure sentiment that could have been conveyed in merely telling the story rather than interposing adjectival descriptions in a scene where the emotion and verve are obvious to the reader. Wall does his best to tell the band’s history from as many viewpoints as possible, lending a level of intrigue to the text in the dissimilarities portrayed. Though he clearly shows bias in terms of which perspective he favors, he still strives to include multiple viewpoints that the reader is able to interpret on her own.
The story of Black Sabbath, of Ozzy Osbourne, of Ronnie James Dio, and of the numerous other band members who played a part in the history of both Black Sabbath’s success and demise is told in a complete and linear manner that leaves little left to be imagined.
Slated to be released by St. Martin’s Press April 14, 2015, you can preorder Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe by Mick Wall at your local bookstore.
FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the publisher in return for a fair and honest review of the text.