SABBATH guitarist Tony Iommi was diagnosed with the early stages of lymphoma at the end of 2011. Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphocytes, a type of cell that forms part of the immune system. Production on “13” stopped while Iommi began chemotherapy, but it wasn’t long before he requested the band move operations from producer Rick Rubin‘s Shangri-La studio in Malibu, California to England so he could work on material between treatment sessions.
“Tony‘s the kind of bloke that doesn’t want to let us down,” Butler told Guitar World. “He wouldn’t let his illness interfere with this album. He wanted to get it done.”
Iommi‘s illness was not the only setback to befall BLACK SABBATH during the creation of “13”. Despite spending a year writing with the band, drummer Bill Ward opted out of the reunion in early 2012 over some well-publicized contractual disagreements. After much fan speculation regarding Ward‘s replacement, it was finally revealed this January that Brad Wilk — best known for his work with RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE and AUDIOSLAVE — had been brought in by Rubin to handle the album’s drum duties.
“We’d have loved to have Bill on the album,” Butler said. “But suddenly something came up. I went to Hawaii when Tony started his treatment, and when l came back, Bill wasn’t in the band anymore.”
“The only sad thing is that Bill couldn’t keep it together,” Osbourne told Revolver magazine. “It would have been great to have Bill with us. I’ve never understood the business side of this. I don’t choose to go there. My wife does that for me, and Geezer‘s wife is his manager, and Tony‘s got his manager. So, I keep my nose out of it. But they couldn’t come to an agreement with him. I mean, I still love him, and I wish him well, but…”
Although the band was skeptical at first about enlisting Wilk to lay down the drum tracks on “13”, he proved up to the task.
“I was really surprised,” Butler told Guitar World. “He had that Bill Ward kind of jazzy swing feel, rather than heavy metal bashing.”
The new BLACK SABBATH album — the band’s 19th overall — is due out in June. Songtitles set to appear on the CD include three seven-plus-minute behemoths “End Of The Beginning”, “God Is Dead” and “Epic”, as well as a track about killing pedophile priests (“Dear Father”) and another about the scourge of methamphetamine addiction (“Methademic”).
BLACK SABBATH last month released a behind-the-scenes video online that takes viewers into the studio for a glimpse of the making of “13”. All three original members seem enthusiastic about finally working together again after 35 years, with Iommi saying about the album, “You can’t always repeat what you’ve done, you’ve just got to go on. It’ll be today’s version of how it was 40 years ago, I suppose.”
Elsewhere in the video, Ozzy said, “This BLACK SABBATH album is quite possibly the most important album of my career,” while Butler added, “We’ll probably all be dead soon, so while we still can play and sing, then we’ve got to do it.”