What is this I see before me? — the nature of music and its availability being what it is, I really don’t ask for music as Christmas gifts anymore, though this time around I did ask for one specific thing, Black Sabbath’s Black Box. And ridiculously great it is, but it was perhaps even more enjoyable an experience on Sunday when the rain was pouring down like buckets.

Now keep in mind I’m in Southern California, where the rain normally does not pour down at all much — this is the rainiest weather we’ve had since 1998, and being in what was essentially a nine-day storm was a rare feeling for me and all of us. Personally I loved every minute of it aside from going to work in the rain each morning, but on a Sunday where I had nothing to do, relaxing from a fine dinner party the next before, I idly thought I’d listen to the whole box set on and off throughout the day.

Arguably Black Sabbath is designed for rain, considering that its first album and first song on that album, “Black Sabbath” itself, starts with, in fact, rain, plus thunder and lightning (there was none of that outside, more’s the pity). So hearing the sound shift from a steady rain outside to a steady rain inside was a nice little audio indulgence, but indulgence defines the box as a whole. It’s a very tactile experience, designed perhaps to be even more so in a world of digital music — the box looks darkly beautiful, the choice to make/keep all photographs in the accompanying book black-and-white gives them a weirdly timeless feel, the book itself has a black crushed velvet binding. And, unsurprisingly, the music really sounds great, songs like “Symptom of the Universe” (probably still my actual fave song by the original lineup) just killing.

The idea of spending time on a darkened rainy Sunday listening to the complete works of the original Black Sabbath is sorta weirdly funny, though, in that thirty-five years ago the phrase ‘listening to the Black Sabbath remastered CD box set’ would have meant nothing. Given where we are today, who knows what phrase thirty-five years from now would mean nothing to the iPod generation?