"This Is The End - Definitely," Tony Iommi States

23 March 2016 | 2:48 pm | Mark Hebblewhite

"I can't work to the level I did before. I have to think about that and, as much as I love to play, I can't handle the actual touring anymore."

When veteran metal bands claim that they are 'retiring' eyebrows are often raised. In Black Sabbath's case this is particularly pertinent. Ozzy Osbourne first 'retired' in the early 1990s and, after many decades of saying that there would never be a new Sabbath album, 2013 brought us 13. So are the band's current claims that this is indeed their final-ever tour sincere, or just a case of clever marketing?

"I don't think you've ever really heard that 'this is the end' in the past," says a very determined Tony Iommi. "This is the end - definitely; we've had a great run but you have to stop somewhere. With my illness [in 2012 Iommi was diagnosed with lymphoma] I can't work to the level I did before. I have to think about that and, as much as I love to play, I can't handle the actual touring anymore. I have to play it safe now, and we all talked about it and we decided that this would be the last tour and the last time we'll be playing live in Australia.

"I have to play it safe now, and we all talked about it and we decided that this would be the last tour ."

"Don't get me wrong, there's no problem with the shows — the band has been sounding great. But it's the rest of the stuff in between that I find it difficult to deal with — especially travelling late at night."

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One of the unique elements of this tour is that the band have unveiled four unreleased tracks from the 13 sessions, which, backed with some live numbers, are being sold at the band's shows (and which will be available at the upcoming Australian gigs) in the form of a CD bearing the obvious title of The End. Given that these albums have been regularly selling out, will the band be making them available to a wider audience?

"At the moment they will just be available at the shows. I'm not sure if they will go to the full market," admits Iommi. "The original plan was to go in and do another album but then we decided not to do that and go on tour instead. I thought it was a real shame to waste the tracks we hadn't used from the last album and we came up with the idea of doing the album that we would sell at the shows. So far the fans seem to be liking them and it's allowed us to do something really different for people coming to the shows."

Although he's enjoyed the first North American leg of the tour, Iommi admits that playing in Australia is always special for him. After confirming that the band intends to play the same setlist that has been wowing fans from Toronto to Houston (with the long-neglected likes of After Forever and Hand Of Doom making a welcome return), Iommi shares some of his favourite memories of Australia.

"There were four cars but now two of them are underwater'..."

"We first came down to Australia very early in our career," he says. "I've got a lot of great memories of Australia but one in particular I'll never forget. Our first time there we played the Myponga festival — we had a fantastic time, the promoter treated us like gold and rented some cars for us which we were driving around on the beach. One of the cars got stuck with the tide coming in, so I went down to try and tow it out and I got stuck. It was a bit embarrassing, really, trying to tell the promoter that, 'Well, there were four cars but now two of them are underwater'," laughs Iommi.

While all the focus is currently on the classic Ozzy Osbourne-fronted version of Black Sabbath, many forget that Iommi played with a range of different musicians under the Sabbath banner. Iommi is more than happy to open up about the 'forgotten years' of Sabbath. After confirming his desire to re-release a range of out-of-print Sabbath albums featuring Tony Martin, Iommi turns to the contentious Born Again LP that featured the talents of one Ian Gillan and even inspired the cult classic Spinal Tap.

"I really wanted to re-mix Born Again because originally we had a lot of problems mastering it and it came out sounding very muffled," says Iommi, in reference to the album's long-awaited re-release that hit shelves in 2011. "In the end, though, we couldn't find the original tapes. We tried to trace them but it turned out to be very difficult to find out where they went."

Iommi is also happy to shine some light on another long-discussed corner of the Sabbath universe. After reuniting with Ronnie James Dio in 1991 for what would become the Dehumanizer album, Iommi had a brief falling out with the diminutive frontman and called in ex-vocalist Tony Martin to fill the gap. Many Sabbath fans have speculated that as a result of this brief interlude there exists a version of Dehumanizer with Tony Martin on vocals. 

"No I don't remember that," laughs Iommi as he smashes many a Sabbath nerd's fantasy. "We went in and played some of the stuff with Tony but we didn't do any recording."

So no holy grail alternate version of Dehumanizer then? "Well if there is, I don't have a copy of it."