Black Sabbath have responded to drummer Bill Ward's open letter pledging to leave the band unless he is presented with a "signable contract." In a statement on Facebook, Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler indicated they they will carry on with their new album and reunion tour without him. "We were saddened to hear yesterday via Facebook that Bill declined publicly to participate in our current Black Sabbath plans," they wrote. "We have no choice but to continue recording without him although our door is always open...We are still in the UK with Tony. Writing and recording the new album and on a roll...See you at Download!!!"
Tony Iommi was recently diagnosed with lymphoma, causing the band to move their recording sessions from Los Angeles to England, where the guitarist is receiving treatment. They reportedly backed out of a planned headlining slot at Coachella and their European summer tour seemed to be in jeopardy, though the above statement makes it clear they plan on performing at the Download Festival on June 10th.
Black Sabbath toured without Bill Ward when the original line-up reformed in 1997, but he joined up with the group the following year. In 2004 a contract dispute nearly caused him to not participate on that summer's Ozzfest tour, but he eventually wound up signing on. "After the last tour I vowed to never again sign on to an unreasonable contract," Ward wrote in his recent letter. "I want a contract that shows some respect to me and my family, a contract that will honor all that I've brought to Black Sabbath since its beginning."
He also addresses the possibility that the group might replace him. "If I'm replaced, I have to face you, the beloved Sabbath fans," he wrote. "I hope you will not hold me responsible for the failure of an original Black Sabbath lineup as promoted. Without fault finding, I want to assure everyone that my loyalty to Sabbath is intact."
It's unclear who the group plans to bring in to play drums on their new projects, though in the past Faith No More's Mike Bordin and Vinny Appice have played in Black Sabbath when Ward was unavailable.