With a new tour and album just around the corner, there are some very busy days ahead for the guys in Black Sabbath. But until then, there's time for reflection, and during a recent interview with 'Birmingham Mail,' guitarist Tony Iommi opened up about the band's new music, as well as the cancer diagnosis that nearly sidelined him just as it was all coming together.

Looking back on the path to Sabbath's reunion with Ozzy Osbourne, Iommi claimed that his differences with Ozzy were never personal. In fact, he said, it was the prodigal singer who encouraged him to get checked out by doctors in the first place.

Recalling the moment when he first received the diagnosis, Iommi said, "I was gutted. I went home thinking, 'Christ, that's it, I've had it!' Cancer meant death to me. I started writing myself off. I would lie awake at night, thinking about selling this, getting rid of that and preparing everything: who should speak at my funeral and where I'd want to be buried. But I also kept thinking, 'I'm not ready to go yet. I've got too much to do, and I like being here.'"

These days, Iommi's treatment requires a periodic antibody drip, which means hospital visits every six weeks -- which, of course, complicates long-term tour plans. "The tour dates are arranged so that I can always get back for treatment," he said. "It's the only way I can manage my illness and keep on the road. I'd love to play more shows than we're doing, but my health has to be sorted out first."

Calling the band's reunion with Ozzy "something immediate to get my teeth into," Iommi admitted that the new album -- '13,' due June 11 -- is not what he expected. Not that that's a bad thing: "I could never have imagined that the album would turn out so well, but it has," he said. "I think it sits comfortably with our first three albums — 'Black Sabbath,' 'Paranoid' and 'Master of Reality' — and I think it's one you'll like. We wanted it to sound like the way we played in our early days, back to basics, and we recorded pretty much all of it almost live as a band."

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