Live Review: Black Sabbath, Download Festival, 11 June 2016 by Mark Wong

After a shaky start on Friday where the heavens decided to greet me with an insane downpour of rain, my dampened spirits needed to be amended immediately. Ever since Black Sabbath announced that Download would be their last UK festival date ever, I simply had to take the opportunity to see them, no matter how much Donington’s weather and mud baths tried to destroy me both physically and psychologically.

Live Review: Black Sabbath, Download Festival, 11 June 2016

Before Sabbath’s entrance on the stage, a short video is played where the audience is given an insight into what we would all imagine Hell to look like with Satan making an appearance at the end. Then Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi & Geezer Butler took to the stage; the Brummie Godfathers of heavy metal had arrived. Black Sabbath kick things off with the iconic yet gloomy 1970’s track Black Sabbath.

I was actually disappointed that Download didn’t decide to chuck it down at this point as it would have perfectly synchronised with the opening bars of the track where rain and a chiming bell can be heard. Guitarist Tony Iommi greeted the audience with those three doomy notes, which will always be considered as the evilest guitar riff in heavy metal. From the first lines “What is this that stands before me?/Figure in black which points at me” Ozzy’s drained delivery makes his vocals sound like they’re unsurprisingly out of key.

Ozzy exclaims: “It’s another f****** wet one!

They then delve into the fantastical elements of 1971’s Master of Reality where a noticeable emotional shift can be felt within the audience. However Sabbath have the crowd going ballistic once again in a matter of minutes through the apocalyptic anthem War Pigs. After the loud blaring sirens and musical build up to War Pigs, Donington does everything it can to drown out Ozzy’s attempt at reciting Butler’s unforgettable lyrics “Generals gathered in their masses/Just likes witches at black masses”. Ozzy hilariously addresses the poor weather in true British style “It’s another f****** wet one!” which at the same time makes me contemplate whether £5 was a suitable price for a flimsy poncho that lasted only a couple of minutes.

However the song that stayed with me for the entire night was N.I.B. This gave constant flashbacks to my secondary school days. During my period of teenage angst I used to trade songs via Bluetooth and MSN with friends on a weekly basis so that we always had a new song to obsess over. It was the exchanged tracks like N.I.B., Iron Man & Paranoid that really gave me more insight into why Iommi was so much more than a heavy metal guitarist due to the number of genres he touched on in his playing.

N.I.B. had me on the verge of tears

Once Butler initiates the wah-wah pedal and starts to play, I look over my shoulder to discover that one of my friends is already trying to imitate Butler by pretending to play the intro riff on an air bass guitar. Hearing the soulful bluesy solos that are locked within N.I.B. had me on the verge of tears as I realised how consistent and competent Iommi was as a live guitarist. There were times in parts of the set where I definitely tried to get a glimpse of Iommi’s famous finger extensions!

Despite this being the last ever UK festival show for Black Sabbath, they delivered in every way possible to make their headline slot unforgettable for both the rookie and veteran Download Festival goers. With their last ever UK live show due to place in their hometown of Birmingham on 4 February 2017, this will be a very special occasion as well as a sad one as all fans will feel their huge absence in the metal community once they leave for good. Thank you for everything Black Sabbath; your epic riffs will be missed.


  1. Black Sabbath
  2. Fairies Wear Boots
  3. After Forever
  4. Into the Void
  5. Snowblind
  6. War Pigs
  7. Behind the Wall of Sleep
  8. N.I.B
  9. Hand of Doom
  10. Rat Salad
  11. Iron Man
  12. Dirty Women
  13. Children of the Grave
  14. Paranoid