Black Sabbath - Past Lives
Classic Heavy Metal
Disc 1: 9 songs (57'07) Disc 2: 9 songs (60'03)
Release year: 2002
Black Sabbath, Sanctuary
Reviewed by Marty
Major event
It's about time someone released some "official" live material from this band that was recorded during the band's glory years (circa 1970 - 1975). Over the years, numerous bootleg albums have surfaced, recorded at various venues throughout the world. Although the sound quality of most of them is pretty bad, there are some shining moments where the band was pure magic, cranking out an endless stream of Black Sabbath classics with awesome tightness and almost flawless performances. There were some nights though, due to the numerous excesses of recreational drug and alcohol abuse, where the band just went through the motions and struggled to complete their set. Regardless, listening to this release (limitations of sound quality and all) re-affirms to me what I've known ever since first hearing this band in 1972. They are the inventors, the godfathers and the true creaters of heavy metal music. Sure, other bands at the time, played heavy songs (Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep to name a few), but none had the uncomprimising and original approach to making menacing and very doom-laden heavy music. The palm-muted guitar technique was not invented by any of the Bay Area Thrash bands (Metallica, Megadeth, Exodus etc.) but by Toni Iommi and first appeared, to my knowledge on the Paranoid album on the title song. Lyrically, they chose to look at the world through a different pair of eyes, tackling such topics as politics, the Vietnam war and the corruptions that existed in religion and in our everyday life. They presented a unique look at the darker side of the realities of life that most people either ignored or just didn't want to talk about.

This album comes as a 2 CD set and is available as a limited edition with a poster and a genuine Black Sabbath guitar pick. The first disc is actually a remastered version of the previously released Live At Last album, a sort of unofficial live release by a small label that owned the rights to some live recordings of the band. It sounds better, but still has it's limitations. I never could stand the versions of Sweet Leaf, War Pigs and Paranoid. Those three tracks are in a different key than the rest of the CD. The band was known to explore lower tunings in a live situation due to the fact that Ozzy's voice sometimes couldn't reach the higher notes. The band would actually tune to whatever his voice could produce, resulting in some strange sounding live stuff. The lower tunings (probably a whole step down) resulted in the songs being in a whole different key. Mixed in with songs recorded at other gigs where they used standard tuning, Sweet Leaf, War Pigs and Paranoid sound very different and I've never cared for these versions.

Some of the better moments on this release are found on the second disc. A few of the tracks were recorded in 1970 (Hand Of Doom and a few others) and really have a bootleg quality to them. They have very little stereo separation and the drums sound like cardboard boxes. Looking past that, the band offers up some great performances. Hand Of Doom actually contains part of Rat Salad from the Paranoid album and the version of Iron Man, recorded not long after it's release, is very well performed by the band despite the sound quality. Tony Iommi offers up a cool, jazzy and at times eerie intro to the song Black Sabbath and is something that I've never heard him do before......very cool indeed! The versions of N.I.B. and Fairies Wear Boots, although suffering from very muddled sound quality, show the band firing on all cylinders.....great performances.

The highlights for me are the three tracks from Sabotage recorded live in New Jersey, U.S.A. in 1975 prior to the release of the album. Hole In The Sky, Symptom Of The Universe and Megalomania have the best sound quality of everything on this 2 CD set. I've heard lots of live versions of Symptom Of The Universe, but not of the other two. All three songs are played well despite the fact that the band was experimenting with elaborate sound effects and overdubbing in the studio at this stage of their career making the live performances of some of their songs harder to pull off.

Bottom line on this one? This is for serious fans only. The live Reunion album released a few years back is far superior. The sound quality on most of this is marginally better than most of the bootlegs that have been around for years. The performances are great for the most part and it's great to hear some "official" live material from this band during their glory days after all these years. It's like hopping into a time machine back to a time when this band were pioneers, forging a new sound and approach to making heavy music which still continues to be an influence on metal music 30 years after most of this material was originally released.

Killing Songs :
Tomorrow's Dream, Snowblind, Wicked World, Hole In The Sky, Symptom Of The Universe, N.I.B. and Fairies Wear Boots
Marty quoted no quote
Other albums by Black Sabbath that we have reviewed:
Black Sabbath - 13 reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Black Sabbath - Classic Albums - Paranoid (DVD) reviewed by Marty and quoted no quote
Black Sabbath - Headless Cross reviewed by Adam and quoted 81 / 100
Black Sabbath - Forbidden reviewed by Khelek and quoted 65 / 100
Black Sabbath - Mob Rules reviewed by Khelek and quoted CLASSIC
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