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Music: Old devils of heavy metal make a new pact

Cardinal Ratzinger of the Vatican must be pleased, wherever he is. Black Sabbath, a band he once condemned as an instrument of the Devil, is back. Despite years of biting the heads off bats and being surrounded by the smell of patchouli oil, the original Brummie heavy-metal band is planning a two-night get-together in their home-town next month.

It was hoped that This is Spinal Tap might have meant the death-knell for the hairy old Satanists of rock, but irony, it seems, is an unknown concept in a world where songs have titles like "A Bit of Finger", "Fairies Wear Boots" and "Rat Salad". Old denim never dies and Black Sabbath have sold out for two concerts in front of 20,000 fans unable to see the original line-up since they went their separate ways in 1979.

Instead, bands called Black Sabbath, with a variety of members, have been playing with the original lead-singer, Tony Iommi, who made sure early on that he owned the rights to the name Black Sabbath. This made little difference to another member, a Mr Ozzie Osborne, who made himself famous in his own right by biting the heads off things on stage and once, it is reported, exploding a few tons of raw liver over an audience.

When Black Sabbath last played together in Britain there was also a Labour government, led by Jim Callaghan.

In the years that the different members have been trailing around stadiums full of spotty Americans or, worse, small theatres full of 35-year-old "snakebite" drinkers from Dudley, the heavy-metal scene has gone through a number of incarnations.

- Paul McCann