Although Rhino is nearing the release of the first installment in a multi-year Black Sabbath reissue program, the band's next studio album -- the first to feature its classic lineup of Ozzy Osbourne (

Although Rhino is nearing the release of the first installment in a multi-year Black Sabbath reissue program, the band's next studio album -- the first to feature its classic lineup of Ozzy Osbourne (vocals), Tony Iommi (guitar), Bill Ward (drums), and Geezer Butler (bass) since 1978's "Never Say Die!" -- looks certain to remain on the back burner for quite a while.

Iommi tells Billboard.com the band has come up with about six songs, none of which have been formally recorded. "The tracks were good; actually, I thought, very good," he said. "But we didn't get as far as actually recording them; we demoed them." None of the songs have formal titles yet.

The project, which was to (and may still) be helmed by Rick Rubin, was delayed so that Osbourne could finish and tour in support of his most recent Epic solo effort, last year's "Down to Earth." Then came the launch and ensuing massive popularity of "The Osbournes," followed by this past summer's Ozzfest, headlined by Osbourne. "Things just get pushed back," says Iommi.

On the future of the project, the guitarist says with a laugh, "You never know with this band. You can never say 'yes' or 'no.' It could turn up in another 20 years somewhere [laughs]. We're just sort of gonna see what happens. But we have got some really good tracks there. Rick liked them."

Early last year, prior to the premiere of "The Osbournes," Osbourne told Billboard that he's very much interested in following through on what he and his bandmates started. "It's worth a shot," he said. Regardless, he beamed, "I'm really happy that I'm on friendly terms with Tony."

On Oct. 22, Rhino issues the two-disc "Symptom of the Universe: The Original Black Sabbath (1970-1978)," a long-overdue survey of Sabbath's best material. The set is the first deluxe Sabbath best-of to be released in the U.S., and features remastered versions of such influential metal anthems as "War Pigs" and "Paranoid."

Over the next two years, the revered catalog label will issue a Sabbath boxed set, followed by "upgrades" of each classic album, according to VP of A&R David McLees. The recent "Past Lives" concert collection was issued by Sanctuary and is not affiliated with the Rhino releases.

In the meantime, Iommi is working on ideas for his next solo album, on which Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo will contribute lead vocals. Anselmo and Iommi are to formally begin work on the project in January in England. Iommi says he and Anselmo plan to tour to support the set.