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No one else is true - 65%

Metal_Thrasher90, March 22nd, 2014

By 1972, the band had recorded 3 iconic records in a row and obtained recognition and popularity. Master Of Reality featured their distinctive sound in all its splendor, so the future couldn’t look brighter. Nobody played it that way, nobody was that influential for that following new generation of British kids who would eventually form their own bands and lead a whole movement by the end of the decade. But in 1972, Black Sabbath were the one and only doing it that unique, that style some would tag later as doom metal whose basic characteristics were conceived for the first time ever by these guys, particularly this album has some of the darkest, most evil riffs you will ever hear from Mr. Iommi himself in their vast discography.

However, the musical patterns they follow on this one are pretty diverse, from cheerful and sinister to progressive compositions and a ballad. The opening of “Wheels Of Confusion” is especially surprising and includes the first seriously complex arrangements and structures the group would make complete use of on following records, a quite lengthy tune defined by numerous riffs by Tony that are absolutely inspired, introducing a few alternative sequences of different tempos and tones. An admirable level of progression is obtained, proving Black Sabbath were capable of performing something ambitious without any trace of vain pretension for difficulty, nor intended to just impress as most of progressive rock bands were trying to. But complication is an exception here, as “Supernaut” and “Tomorrow’s Dreams” make it clear and bring back the effective simplicity of the early albums with riffs taking control as usual, so simple, so straight, very casual and melodic on those 2, and even Ozzy’s lyrics have an explicitly positive message of hope. So rhythms in those tunes are pretty common and standard, still weighty in comparison with the speed of '80s metal, though have plenty of vigor anyway.

Other tracks are a big contrast: “Under The Sun/Every Day Comes And Goes” or “Cornucopia”, whose initial riff series are the most obscure and intense Sabbath has ever played until “Zero The Hero”, of course. Huge low-tuned lines developed quietly, supported by truly heavy rhythm bases as well, combine together to create a cathartic climax. Although soon, dynamic tempos reappear and guitars turn into something more traditional, in particular on “St. Vitus Dance”, the most humbly instrumental and simply focused of all. On the contrary, “Snowblind” avoids radical rhythm changes and keeps the slow drumming untouched, reaching greater strength and intensity, showing a clear determination for versatility with those unexpected orchestral arrangements.

Any other band might attempted to repeat the same record, making a sequel of something as solid and convincing as Master Or Reality instead of trying something different, but that wasn’t their style. They preferred to experiment and explore something distinct here, avoiding the temptation of recording the same stuff, neither using the same ideas nor following a similar direction. The musical variety demonstrates clearly the inventiveness and certain ambition of Iommi and co., who even include a sentimental ballad in the pack. “Changes” makes a difference for good or bad from the rest, not only because of those depressive lyrics, it’s also the first time guitar lines are deprived of their supremacy. They actually disappear relegated by that dramatic piano and mellotron, that instrument Fripp and Crimson made so popular on their debut. So these guys combined romance and tenderness (like you can check on the instrumental “Laguna Sunrise”) with dark imagery. That wickedness is perfectly reflected on those memorable original riffs of Tony, which are totally pioneer. The way they were tuned, executed and developed already determined new possibilities for the genre on previous releases, but on this album they’re even more fascinating and ahead of their time. Their texture and presence is unique, so crude, though low riffs aren’t the rule. In fact, they are part of ephemeral sequences that are soon transformed into more common music.

The percentage of melody and energy is bigger, at times making this material accessible and polite, but amusing anyway. It’s clear these numbers are competent and professionally constructed. On other hand, they lack the admirable inspiration and consistency of the previous release. Sometimes the songs' direction is unfocused, affecting their continuity and turning a few of them into discreet fillers. Those couple of intros (“FX” especially) are disposable and break the climax of the record and well, that production wasn’t the most appropriate either.

This is a decent work for sure, as it features some memorable moments and some of Iommi’s finest riffs, but it doesn’t reach the level of brilliance and splendor of the first 3. However, it was a sensible choice for them to not make the same thing twice, and certainly experimenting can be positive to discover new ideas and different sounds. In fact, their predilection for complexity started with this album's opening tune.

So the results are satisfactory and Vol. 4 shouldn’t be ignored by those who want to know the genuine roots of doom and heavy or hard rock in general. Better things were yet to come for sure, though it’s so unfair this one still remains so underrated among the Ozzy- years classic LPs.

40th Anniversary - 100%

FullMetalAttorney, September 9th, 2013

The first four Black Sabbath albums are considered by most metalheads to be some of the best records ever recorded. Few groups have ever had a run of quality releases that are even arguably comparable—Metallica’s first four and Death’s last four; Judas Priest and Iron Maiden have both had such runs. Within metal fandom, either Paranoid or Master of Reality is the most beloved of Sabbath's, but for many critics (myself included) Black Sabbath Vol. 4 is the pinnacle of the original metal band’s career. The 40th anniversary of its release is tomorrow, Sepember 1 [2012].

Iommi’s riffs are the main reason for its excellence. The riff from the fantastic “Supernaut” is widely considered his best. Contrasting with the slow-rolling doom riffs he’s better known for, “Supernaut” is exciting, and that is perhaps the reason the song looms so large in their discography. But he still writes some of his best doom as well: opener “Wheels of Confusion” is typically excellent, “Cornucopia” has an intensely heavy opener, while “Under the Sun” is the heaviest Sabbath song of all. “Snowblind,” as well, is one of the most iconic (and heaviest) songs of the band’s career.

The rest of the band is also as brilliant as ever. The aforementioned heaviness is due in large part to Geezer Butler’s bass. Drummer Bill Ward has never been in finer form, and the drum solo on “Supernaut” is absolutely entertaining and fits the song perfectly. Finally, Ozzy is at his best (pre-solo career). His default mode of suffering/fear/paranoia has never been on better display than on “Snowblind.” Piano/synth ballad “Changes” may be maligned by most metalheads and many others, but it reveals a side of Ozzy that had never before been seen. His energy elevates “Supernaut” from “great” to “classic” and makes “Tomorrow’s Dream” the underrated burner that it is.

So why is Vol. 4 held in lower regard among metalheads? Paranoid and Master of Reality are flawless records. They each have one curveball, but it’s an acceptable curveball that doesn’t do much to distract from the overall experience. Vol. 4, on the other hand, has weird experimental track “FX,” relatively long acoustic instrumental “Laguna Sunrise,” and the aforementioned “Changes.” As I’ve maintained before, “it's those imperfect, quirky albums that seem to be remembered a decade later. They grow on you.” Vol. 4 is one of those imperfect, quirky albums. It reveals a band with a command of what they’ve already proven they can do while confidently exploring new terrain, for good or ill.

When reviewing a new album, we critics (pro and amateur alike) tend to focus in on an album’s imperfections and penalize it for them. It’s only in retrospect that we can appreciate them for what they add to the experience. Black Sabbath Vol. 4 is the band’s greatest record in part because of its phenomenal successes, but also because of its sometimes-failed experiments.

originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/

A Slight Bump in the Road - 90%

TheZombieXecutioner, January 1st, 2013

Heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath were well on the road to glory after releasing their previous album, Master of Reality, but it seems they have lost their footing a bit on there next release, Black Sabbath Vol. 4. Somewhat carrying the heavy guitars from the previous album and making them flatter and louder, while drowning out the bass that made Sabbath so great in the first place. This is not at all a bad album, but can take some getting used to and could turn off fans of the first 3 albums due to its production.

First things first, the guitars. Iommi has somehow taken his monstrous tone from the previous album and made it thinner and louder, a lot louder. This new direction for the guitar tone can take some getting used to, but I'll admit it does have a great middle and high section and even a great low on the intros to "Cornucopia" and "Under the Sun". The riffs on this record can seem kind of unmotivated at times but can be overlooked with great riffs like that on, "Supernaut", "Tomorrow's Dream" and "Under the Sun". Iommi also shows his acoustic skill on the track "Laguna Sunrise" which is a decent track and definitely the weakest of his acoustic work. Some great solos are on this record including one of Iommi's best, "Wheels of Confusion". The biggest complaint about the guitars is they are too damn loud, but the riffs are good so its kind of a double edged sword.

Along with the guitars, the vocals on this record are loud. Ozzy's voice seems slightly too loud as if he is competing with the guitar for decibels. Ozzy's voice is rather good though, its full of energy and ready to play. "Supernaut" has some great energy from Ozzy and keeps the track moving at a great pace. "Snowblind" also has some nice vocals patterns and lines that make Ozzy really stand out. The lyrics on this album are pretty good too. Speaking about drugs, depression, and religion in the typical Black Sabbath style. "Under the Sun" has come great lyrics talking about not wanting to be preached at and told what to do. "Cornucopia" has come great lyrics as well, talking about government corruption and brainwashing. The legendary "Changes", which is a piano ballad piece, that is rather sappy with the lyrics but is a great tune in the end.

Bill Wards drumming on this record is pretty solid. Giving some decent structure to the songs but seems to be unmotivated and just came along for the ride. Ward's cymbals are also way too loud. Covering up everything that there is to be heard at times like on "Supernaut" and "Snowblind". Other than that Ward's drumming is just okay at best and definitely his weakest contribute to the bands discography.

Geezer Butler's bass is nowhere to be heard on this album which is definitely a huge problem. The bass being turned all the way down really takes the great rhythm section Black Sabbath is known for away from this album. Instead he lets the guitar stand up front, which is okay i guess, Iommi does a great job on guitar and but without the bass it does half the greatness it could have.

Overall this album is good but has a few fatal flaws that can turn away fans. Iommi's guitar and Ozzy's vocals are too loud, Ward's drumming seems uninspired and lacking with incredible loud cymbals and Geezer is nowhere to be heard. Yet Iommi provides some amazing riffs, Ozzy displays some fantastic vocal lines and lyrics, and Ward gives decent structure to the song. This can be a tough album to get into but it should be checked about by any metal fan.

A few notches down from their previous two... - 90%

SirMetalGinger, December 28th, 2012

Vol. 4 is a good album. No, a GREAT album. Sabbath really sounds like they're trying to do something new and it works most of the time. MOST of the time.

You may notice that this is probably the most "upbeat" album of Sabbath's Golden Age (70-75). It has its darker moments, but the tracks are more up-tempo and the lyrical themes aren't quite as focused on the occult. There's even a "breakup" song (Changes). I do admire this for the most part; the experimenting here is dangerous and consistently successful. There are two instrumentals that serve as simple filler (FX and Laguna Sunrise) and while this wouldn't be the first time Black Sabbath filled track space with minuscule tracks like this, they really don't serve much of a purpose. On Master of Reality, each "ditty" set the tone for a particularly epic track. On Vol. 4 they seem pointlessly shoehorned.

Tony Iommi can still riff as always. His highlights include opener Wheels of Confusion, the epic Snowblind, and the ridiculously fun Supernaut. His playing is a little bit faster than normal, but he doesn't lose the sludgy feel that he perfected on the other albums. One thing that HAS consistently changed are his solos, and they are absolutely STUNNING on Vol. 4.

Bill Ward and Geezer Butler make for a fantastic rhythm section as always. Sadly, they aren't given as many chances to shine, and sometimes they just feel "along for the ride", which is a shame, because they have the potential to carry a song. I wish they had gotten rid of FX and Laguna Sunrise and given Geezer a bass solo (like on the first album) or perhaps a song where Ward could show off a bit, like on Children of the Grave or Symptom of the Universe.

Even if a few of the riskier experiments don't quite work, Vol. 4 is packed with great, essential tracks. Snowblind absolutely rocks balls, and I can't imagine how incredible it would be to hear live. Supernaut is a great song to jam out to, and Wheels of Confusion packs the free-jamming and soloing that made the first album and Master of Reality so great. I recommend it to you if you consider yourself a Sabbath fan.

One step back, two steps forward. - 70%

ConorFynes, May 31st, 2012

Each album that Black Sabbath released up to the point of "Volume Four" had showcased some sort of development. After all, most great bands are rarely satisfied with staying in the same place for so long, and it would be natural for these Birmingham gents to want to explore their 'heavy metal' invention in different ways. Although the diversified approach of "Master of Reality" surprised me when compared to what came before it, "Volume Four" is an even greater leap forward for the band, at least stylistically speaking. Here, the progenitors of heavy metal are embracing the progressive rock movement that was reaching its peak around 1972; if not accepting it with open arms, then at least acknowledging it with a nod and a wave. For all of the new possibilities that Sabbath open for themselves here however, I cannot help but miss the heaviness of their earlier work.

Although I do not hide my love for progressive rock, much of the reason that albums like Black Sabbath's debut and their masterpiece "Paranoid" appealed to me so much was due to Tony Iommi's mastery of the almighty riff. Not only that, but his guitar tone was heavy and thick, even by today's standards. While "Volume Four" has not entirely lost these traits, it's clear from the uncharacteristically mellowed intro to "Wheels of Confusion" that Black Sabbath are trying to do something different with their music, for better and worse. While "Volume Four" may not be as heavy as what came before, the incorporation of prog rock and American psychedelia is an exciting change of pace. The eight minute rocker "Wheels of Confusion" and beautiful mellotron-laden "Changes" are major tips of the hat to prog, which was reaching its artistic peak that year with albums like Yes' "Close To The Edge" and Genesis' "Foxtrot". Among the other unconventional pieces on the album is a listless sound experiment in "FX", and "Laguna Sunrise", an acoustic piece accompanied by full-blown string orchestration that could easily score the happy ending to a Spaghetti Western film.

"Supernaut" has Tony Iommi evoke the spirit of Jimi Hendrix with a playful central riff that ranks among the band's best. "Snowblind" is a rocking fan favourite involving the band's love of the Businessman's drug. Although the instrumentation generally feels less defined and powerful than it did on earlier albums, Ozzy Osbourne gives one of the best vocal performances of his career here, his distinctive voice complimented with a trembling vibrato and greater range than previously expressed. The result is an album that often feels more like hard rock than metal in the traditional sense. The songwriting is layered with keyboards, and tricks that the band innovated on "Master of Reality" have been developed further here. Although this is the most musically sophisticated album the band had made yet, it lacks the same atmospheric intensity I felt so profoundly with their early work. Although they have sacrificed an aspect of their sound on "Volume Four", Black Sabbath's newfound progressive outlook on their music would open a world of new possibilities for them.

Sabbath conquers the mainstream - 80%

Warthur, August 18th, 2011

Just as their first two albums defined the parameters of doom metal and Tony Iommi's downtuned guitar sound on Master of Reality yielded the seeds of sludge metal, Black Sabbath's fourth album sees them redefining heavy rock yet again. This time, though the sludge sound is still present here and there (as on Tomorrow's Dream) and there's the occasional slow, doomy section (as on Snowblind), the sound of the album is a bit more commercial. It'd be easy to mistake this as Sabbath selling out and moving to the mainstream, except at this point in time heavy metal didn't have a mainstream.

Instead, with up-tempo, feel-good songs like Tomorrow's Dream and Supernaut, Sabbath define a new accessible style of metal which would become a touchstone of middle-of-the-road bands for years afterwards, but in 1972 this came like a bolt from the blue and still stands up to its imitators even today. It's far from perfect. In particular, the first half of the album is marred by Changes and FX. Changes is a sappy piano ballad where the band apply amateurish mellotron in an apparent attempt to justify their presence on the Vertigo label (which was supposedly a progressive rock label rather than being a home of hard rock). Even if you set aside the horrible Kelly Osbourne rendition from a few years back, the fact is that the song stinks - the musical backing is simplistic and repetitive, the lyrics are laughable, and in general it simply isn't the sort of music you want to hear when you're listening to a Black Sabbath album. FX is even worse, a laughable stab at musique concrete clearly and thrown in as filler - needlessly, since if FX and Changes had been taken off the album would have been around 37 minutes long, which at the time was a perfectly acceptable length.

It's marred by two really lousy songs, and it isn't quite as interesting or groundbreaking as the three albums that preceded it, but on balance Volume Four is another great Black Sabbath album that deserves to be in your collection if you loved what came before it, but I'd still recommend any of the previous three over this one.

Sabbath Goes Snowblind - 90%

rocknrolldoctor, September 23rd, 2010

Black Sabbath's Vol. 4 was a major milestone in their creative thinking and their production. This was the first time the band had really tasted success, and the proof is in the pudding. (Even though their second album, Paranoid, was their biggest hit even to this day, they didn't get much money from it; it wasn't until after their third album, Master Of Reality, that they really got to cash in on their success.) Sabbath had been opened to a world of drugs, women, mansions, and cars that was beyond what they could've imagined. They could buy all the cocaine they could snort, and they took advantage of that, and it is evident in the content on the album.

However, Black Sabbath had a way of turning quite negative things into large assets that essentially brought about their success. In this case, they took the abundance of drugs that they were taking to create some truly powerful music. Bassist Geezer Butler used his excellent lyric-writing abilities to piece together some words worthy of rivaling Pink Floyd, with the rest of the band laying down some excellent instrumental and vocal work.

The songs on Vol. 4 are significantly crisper and cleaner sounding than their previous album. Tony Iommi's guitar has really satisfying crunch, and Bill Ward's drums sound really polished and professional. This is also the height of Ozzy Osbourne's vocal ability; his voice was in top-shape from large tours, he had finally mastered the art of harnessing his sheer power, and the effects of drug use and the long-term effects of performing hadn't killed the lower end of his voice. All in all, Black Sabbath was force to reckoned with during the writing and recording of this album.

Songs like Snowblind, Supernaut, and the eight-minute epic Wheels of Confusion were stylistically the classic Black Sabbath everyone knew from the previous three albums, but the production value of the songs is through the roof, but still have the raw power that inspired the shock-rock genre.

The album also has some more innovative material, such as St. Vitus Dance and Tomorrow's Dreams. They weren't necessarily as pure and disctinctive as some of their other works, but they were driving, rhythmic pieces that would dictate much of Sabbath's later styles.

Sabbath also took a lighter approach with songs like Laguna Sunrise, a double acoustic piece with some great melodies, and the piano ballad titled Changes, which could rival Elton John and Billy Joel with surprising credilbilty.

Furthermore, songs Cornucopia and Under The Sun were aeolian-mode scale based songs that gave hint to some of Sabbath's more signature songs yet to come, and even their definitive doom metal feel.

Along with experimental piece "FX", merely a two-minute mosaic of sound effects seemingly taken from the page of Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath's fourth album is complete. Vol. 4 represent's Black Sabbath's new-found love of excess, something that although it ultimately brought about their demise, allowed them to create some fantastic music. Definitely not an album to be taken lightly.

Simply metal - 100%

SleepingFinger, May 8th, 2010

This album is easily worthy of a perfect rating. But I'm sure that some will say that "Paranoid" or "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" is better. Compared to the three albums prior to this one and the one that would come after, this record is a bit ignored. But this album hits just as hard, and sometimes harder than all of the other early 70's Black Sabbath albums. It's full of the gloom and doom that we all love.

The music doesn't really differ that much from the typical early 70's Black Sabbath albums. Ozzy's vocals are the same. Tony's guitar is still heavy and down tuned. Geezer and Bill are still a powerful rhythm section.

Now let's get to the songs. There is some slow, heavy and bluesy stuff on here, most notably "Wheels Of Confusion/The Straightener", and the unmelodic dark song "Under The Sun/Every Day Comes And Goes". There are some more upbeat songs too. Such as "Tomorrow's Dream", my personal favorite "Supernaut", and "St. Vitus' Dance". A cool doom metal band from Los Angeles got their name {Saint Vitus} from the previously mentioned song. "Cornucopia" is a mid paced song and seems political. Another very catchy song in the slower range is "Snowblind", and it is indeed about cocaine. There are also a few misfit songs on here as well. The melodic instrumental known as "Laguna Sunrise" is Tony Iommi showcasing his guitar skills with a harp in the back round. "Changes" is just a piano ballad {I hate that word!} with some sappy violins in the back round, not that bad but is miles behind the ominous heavy stuff. And last but not least there is "FX", which every Black Sabbath fan except me hates. It is really just a bunch of beeps and noises, I actually like it a lot. The name "FX" really says it all for this one.

This album is essential to every collection of metal albums. As are the other early Black Sabbath albums. You can easily find this album online. So put down that Slayer, Venom, Bathory, or whatever evil metal you're listening too, and check out the band that started it all. You will not be disappointed.

"I'm Going Through Changes" - 98%

Gothus, November 15th, 2008

Every once in awhile, you’ll find an album that just blows your mind away. Whether it’ll be the crushing riffs or the extreme vocals or whatever, you’ll have your reasons. Now, Black Sabbath has a knack for this, writing masterpieces within a year or a little more between each other. By law, the first 6 Black Sabbath albums are necessary additions to any metalhead’s collection. My third favorite, behind the pot-ridden Master of Reality and the progressive Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, is Black Sabbath Volume 4. The album art is iconic, featuring a colorized picture of Ozzy Osbourne at a concert, and has been copied by many other bands. Like a little bipolar kid on cocaine, the mood on this album fluctuates from sad and depressing to happy and jovial.

Black Sabbath Vol. 4 is Black Sabbath’s last album that features a mainly doomy feel, at least with their classic, and best, line-up. Volume 4 has a more polished sound and feel than its three predecessors, and it features some of their best songwriting. When you pop in the disc, and you hear the emotionally depressing beginning of Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener, you know that you’re in for a great, moody, and HEAVY experience. As the longest song on the album, it’s one of the most varied songs, with great riffs and, as other reviewers said before me, three apparent parts. The second part starts at around 1:28, and The Straightener at around 5:17. Each of these parts has a heavy sound and wonder riffs (The Straightener highlights Iommi’s soloing skills), but…will it hold its greatness? Indeed- the quality remains excellent, with a few shifts both good and bad.

Let’s just get the bad out of the way- FX is useless. It’s just a bunch of sounds with little meaning. A waste of two minutes, it’s probably best to skip this boring, “experimental” interlude.

However, everything else on this album features quality songwriting, even the somewhat cheesy Changes, which understandably some people detest. It’s a great and depressing soft little ballad for all you cheese lovers (like me). Ozzy’s vocals sound very emotional, and the piano is just excellent. Laguna Sunrise is another beautiful soft song on this album, with some nice acoustic work. Of course, if you’re all for crushing songs and none of this soft crap, you wouldn’t like these either.

The best track on this album is a fan favorite that focuses on cocaine. Yes, it’s Snowblind, a midpaced song that distinguishes itself from the rest of the album. It is a very depressing classic with great melody. It opens in a very melodic tone, sending chills down your spine. The main riff is just godly, and Ozzy’s vocals are just plain outstanding here. It even features an orchestra, hinting at what will follow in Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. When the track begins to fade, it leaves you wanting more.

The rest the songs are as heavy as they can come. Supernaut is a great jamming piece and showcases the happy and carefree side of Black Sabbath. The beginning riff is just plain wacky and so damn good. The drumwork on this song is maybe the most memorable on the album, especially at arount 1:38, where there is a crazy drum solo by Ward. Tomorrow’s Dream is another great song featuring some more jamming awesomeness. It also has one of the best melodic parts Black Sabbath has ever made at 1:28, where Ozzy’s vocals will just take you away. Both of these songs are so damn catchy, and you’ll have a very hard time getting it out of your head (but why would you want to do that, in the first place?).

The beginning of Cornucopia is one of the heaviest moments on this album and is somewhat reminiscent of the beginning of Electric Funeral, on Paranoid. You’d have to lock your head in a vice to prevent yourself from headbanging to it. And St. Vitus Dance begins with an almost country-like riff. It’s not a bad tune, but it is somewhat forgettable, with no huge highlights.

The album ends with Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes. The opening riff of Under the Sun is so heavy and crushing that it can kill anyone with a heart condition. Bulter’s basslines is most evident and distinct here. It’s the slowest, ugliest, most melancholy song on this album. The riffs are just great here, sometimes doomy, sometimes technical. In the middle of the song, it switches from Under the Sun to Every Day Comes and Goes, then back to Under the Sun. The last part is an excellent ending to this album, filled with what can only be called doom. The main riff is repeated and it gradually slows until it ends in a subtle note.

In conclusion, Black Sabbath Volume 4 deserves as much lauding as its three predecessors, and features some of Black Sabbath’s best songs. If you find it anywhere, buy it. Do not download it, do not borrow it- buy it. This is a must-have for any fans of metal.

Highlights- Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener, Supernaut, Snowblind, Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes.

A Turning Point in the band's career - 75%

Nhorf, July 30th, 2008

Yes, “Vol.4” absolutely represents a turning point of Black Sabbath's career: before the release of this record, the band was getting heavier and heavier and reaching the pinnacle that “Master of Reality” was, they had to search for another directions and styles. The result is a very very heavy album (at least as heavy as its predecessor, that's for sure), but featuring clear and innovative progressive elements, since the songs are all very varied, following distinct structures. If you look to the song lenghts you may conclude that the songs CAN'T be that complex, but the truth is that they are short but pretty complex, you see? The band adopted an even more progressive sound later with “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” and then with the absolute proto-prog metal opus “Sabotage”.

As I've already said, the heaviness is still an important characteristic of “Vol.4”, with all the tunes also being quite slow. This is a reason why so many people claim this album to be one of the doomier Sabbath efforts, and I can't help but agree with that. Not only all the tracks are, as I've already said, pretty slow, but also the atmosphere that surrounds you when listening this record is absolutely EVIL. Indeed, Sabbath always produced very obscure music and this opus follows the same path. Only “St. Vitus Dance” is an exception, being a quite “happy”-sounding track, with that catchy main riff and vocals. “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes” is like the other side of the coin, carrying a very dark vibe, thanks to those awesome riffs, courtesy of the always inspired Tony Iommi.

As “Paranoid” or “Master of Reality”, “Vol.4” is another extremely guitar-driven album, the riffs playin a very important role indeed. It's not easy to produce midpaced/slow music, you got to really have good riffs, solos and songwriting to entertain the listener, and Black Sabbath absolutely nail that. The drumming is very proeminent, much more proeminent on this album than on its predecessor, and that's a good thing at the end of the day, because Bill Ward sounds awesome here, with his aggressive beats and fills (example: “Every Day Comes and Goes”). Geezer's bass is unfortunately a bit low in the mix and Ozzy's performance is pretty competent, all in all.

“Vol. 4” also has a notorious melodic edge, mainly with the presence of the ballad “Changes”. It's a very different and distinctive ballad, if you compare it to the first two ones Sabbath ever composed: “Solitude”, on “Master of Reality”, and “Planet Caravan”, on “Paranoid”. While the first one is very focused on the gentle vocals and on the mellow guitar work and the second on its dreamy vibe, “Changes” differs, with the piano assuming the main role. Unfortunately, and despite carrying a otherwise strong chorus, the track is very repetitive (when I say repetitive, I really mean repetitive... think “St. Anger”), with the vocal and piano lines being far too similar to work. The sublime “Snowblind” is another example of the melodic elements “Vol. 4” contains, the song slowly building up in the middle section, leading us to a fantastic and heartfelt solo, one of the best Tony Iommi ever played. One of the highlights of the album, no doubts about it.

On other hand, the melody is also present on some of the other heavier tracks of the album: the last segment of “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes” is an example, and so is the beginning and ending of the opener “Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener”. The two songs are also two of the most complex tracks of the album, and you can easily recognize that, since both are divided in separate movements. “Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener” is the longest track of the album, and it sounds like the mixture of three separate and distinct tracks. All the movements are very different, but the transitions are excellent, mind you. It begins with a very bluesy and emotional solo, then going through varied heavy sections, and ending with a marvelous outro, filled with excellent guitar solos, all of them extremely melodic. “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes” is also pretty exquisite and uncommon on a songwriting level, the song being pretty heavy all the way through, but containing at least three different segments, each one highlighted with a different riff. The best part of it is, again, the last part, with that beautiful riff, God, Tony Iommi is amazing at creating riffs.


“Supernaut” is another example of why Tony Iommi is so good, its main riff being one of my favourites ever (my all-time favourite is the first one on “A National Acrobat”, which is THE perfect riff, but this one is damn close). Its middle section is pretty good too, with those strange guitar, piano (?) lines and drum lines. “Tomorrow's Dream” is a catchy tune, with some more amazing riffs, even though it is actually weaker than the ones I've already mentioned. “Cornucopia” is a bit on the forgettable side though, and so is “Laguna Sunrise”, the obligatory acoustic number that, unfortunately, doesn't go anywhere, even though it contains some really beautiful lines. At least it's shorter than the boring “Fluff”, of the “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” album, so that's something. Finally, “FX” is the weakest tune, by far, being another POINTLESS interlude filled with strange sounds. Absolutely worthless indeed.

So, another Sabbath classic, even though it's a tad weaker than its three predecessors. Despite its doomy vibe, mainly represented by the heaviness and slowness of the songs, this album also shows the Sabs exploring and using constantly more and more progressive elements which would lead the band, later, to release, like I've already said, the extremely complex and ambitious “Sabotage”. There are some killer songs here, but, unfortunately, tracks like “Changes” of the infamous “FX” harm the whole listening experience. Worth listening at the end of the day, though, especially if you like the three predecessors of “Vol.4” and also, why not, its two sucessors.

Best Moments of the CD:
-the beginning of “Wheels of Confusion”.
-the melodic last segment on “Every Day Comes and Goes”.
-the first time the main riff of “Supernaut” is played.

Sabbath’s train runs low on steam. - 87%

erickg13, May 31st, 2007

In September 1972 Black Sabbath released their fourth album fittingly titled “Vol. 4”. “Vol. 4” is in many ways more of the same from Sabbath, then again it is completely different. This album is much more of a hard rock album, with many influences of psychedelia, which may explain the experimental nature of this album.

“Vol. 4” is the first album to show signs of decline within Sabbath, but put that statement into perspective. This is Sabbath taking 5 steps back after making 100 steps forward.

Another sign of decline is the lack of utterly memorable riffs. “Vol. 4” still has its share of good riffs however this is not the riffing monsters “Paranoid” or “Master of Reality” were. Also, after it seemed that Sabbath had abolished those annoying aimless jams to a minimum on “Master of Reality”, they fall back and provide us with the electronic exploration that is “FX”.

While on other albums it seemed that the band became more proficient as instrumentalists from the last album, that’s not case on “Vol. 4”, they tuned down, and slowed down. Ozzy Osbourne’s vocals are beginning to become whiney and electronic, however it is not ad nauseam as it is on later releases. Tony Iommi has seemed to have run out of those amazing riffs he conjured on previous efforts, but his performance hasn’t suffered at all. Bassist Geezer Butler again provides the steady performance which he has always given, and while nothing special, is another rock solid effort under his belt. Bill Ward, reverts to his jam style once again, which on this album, works to a fairly good effect.

The lyrical themes and mood of “Vol. 4” pertains mostly overtly drug influenced chaos of the mind. While other albums pertained to depression, society, and some sci-fi, “Vol. 4” goes very little into that area, and it seems to be obsessed with itself and its drugs.

And yes while this album has some weaker material compared to its predecessors, it has a handful of very worthwhile tunes from the opener “Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener” to the (utterly doomy) closer “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes”. But it also has its duds too, namely “FX” and the ballad “Changes”. Also, an unexpected bright spot is the instrumental “Laguna Sunrise” however, the key tracks to this album are the middle two tracks of “Supernaut” and “Snowblind”.

So, all in all, Black Sabbath’s “Vol. 4” is yet another quality release from the Sab Four, even if it doesn’t live up to its predecessors. So while maybe time was catching up with Sabbath this manages to still be very worthy of its namesake.

Heavy metal's origin, draft 4. - 84%

hells_unicorn, October 29th, 2006

We have now come to the fourth studio effort of the Black Sabbath journey and things pretty much are going as they have gone. In many ways this album is more comparable to “Master of Reality” than to the two previous releases, as Tony has his guitar down-tuned even further, resulting in a still heavier sound. Ozzy’s voice is getting better, although when it’s exposed enough it can still grate on the ears. However, the experimental aspect of the band is still going full steam ahead as we have some new ground broken in a few of the tracks.

Amongst the longer and more structurally inventive works on here are “Wheels of Confusion” and “Under the Sun”, the song that opens the album and the one that closes it. The former has a mostly pleasant melodic vibe that is comparable “After Forever” off the last album, but at the end it kicks into a more complex figure that sounds a bit like the later work that Sabbath would do with Ronnie Dio, and we have a rather excellent guitar solo to close things out. The latter, by contrast, is one of the heaviest tracks that Sabbath has ever put out, using a set of notes that sound almost as eerie as the ones that compose the main riff of “Black Sabbath”.

We also have a rather exceptional collection of straight-forward rockers on here that have the same heaviness to them. “Supernaut” is probably the heaviest out of the shorter tracks, although it is also where the drums get a chance to shine during the long middle section. “Tomorrow’s Dream” is probably the most memorable track on here, highlighting 2 very distinctive riffs and a rather simplistic yet riveting solo. “Cornucopia” is another very heavy track with some rather cryptic lyrics, I’m guessing it’s some sort of a song about either the horrors of drug addiction or the power of government. “St. Vitus Dance” is a shorter quasi-doom track that features some rather negative lyrics about love, the only thing I wish is that the put some sort of guitar solo into this or some musical change, this song seems a bit underdeveloped. “Snowblind” has a highly distinctive main riff to it, but the real treats are the primary solo section and the trill happy outro solo that’s loaded with pentatonic shredding. The subject matter of the lyrics deal primarily with cocaine addiction, which was probably the only major drug that they have yet to cover in their songs.

The lone ballad “Changes” is the obvious weak link on the album. I’m a metal fan who tends to show a lot of tolerance and even approval towards ballads, but in this particular case we have some serious problems. The first is obvious, Ozzy still can’t get his voice to sound good when it’s overly exposed. “Planet Caravan” worked so well because of the effects on his voice and the atmosphere of the overall song, but on this song we have only a piano to accompany Ozzy, and a piano doesn’t cover up anything. The other problem is that the song is far too repetitive and also lacks any solos or contrasting sections. Ultimately you have 2 different piano lines, both of which are extremely simple, and you have the occasional entry of some background strings.

The two instrumentals on here are essentially night and day. “Laguna Sunrise” is a fun and enjoyable instrumental with some charming acoustic guitar work and some accompanying orchestral sounds. “FX” is a collection of digital delay steeped sounds made on a guitar that are devoid of anything musical. The obvious function of such a song is to freak out someone who is listening to the album while high, and as I’m not into destroying my own mind, I have little use for such incoherent noise.

To sum it all up, we have 8 rather excellent songs and 2 that are pretty much throwaways. I’m going to cut the band some slack because it’s obvious that they tried a bit too hard to keep things original with these 2 particular songs, but also keep in mind that there is such a thing is creating something that is both original and horrible. Although this album comes highly recommended, I think the audience for people who would have an interest in this particular album for historical value would be limited to the heavier genres of doom and thrash, as this album is built more upon riffs than melody.

Snowblind in the Sun - 70%

Frankingsteins, September 2nd, 2006

After recording heavy metal’s definitive unholy trinity, Black Sabbath under the helm of guitarist Tony Iommi entered an experimental era that would soon see the band’s popularity and credibility plummet over the course of the decade. The un-cryptically titled ‘Vol. 4,’ the band’s self-explanatory fourth album, represents a thoroughly impressive and inspired cliff edge from which the band would later throw themselves like a kindle of coked-up Brummie lemmings.

Originally to be titled ‘Snowblind’ after the album’s happy cocaine anthem, but soon changed for pretty obvious reasons, ‘Vol. 4’ is one of Sabbath’s very best albums, paling only in comparison to its immediate predecessor, the gritty ‘Master of Reality.’ Rather than replicate their established and massively influential sound, Sabbath instead focused on a more hard rock direction incorporating progressive elements, and for the most part it’s a success. The band continued to pioneer heavy metal as an original genre, and this lack of established guidelines granted them enormous freedom to experiment: as such, ‘Vol. 4’ is more varied and adventurous than most metal albums that would follow, it’s nearly all excellent, and often pleasantly poetic.

‘Vol. 4’ is primarily let down by a generally thin production sound, and a lack of imagination as the album draws to a close. Whether the latter was due primarily to fatigue brought about by rapid album releases, disagreements between band members or the increasingly worrying amount of drugs the band was taking, I can’t be sure. Nevertheless, when this album is good, it really rocks. The unimpressive production is especially disappointing after the spectacular sludge of the ‘Master of Reality’ album, and gives the guitars and drums a more traditional hard rock sound akin to Led Zeppelin. The predecessor’s tightly edited thirty-five-minute playing time is also lost this time around, as the blues influence returns somewhat and causes most songs to over-run with unnecessary jams.

The lyrics predominantly display fear of an approaching insanity, similar to but less eloquent than Roger Waters’ preoccupation in Pink Floyd, and at a stretch this could be considered an unintentional concept album. ‘Wheels of Confusion’ and ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ both describe a blur between fantasy and reality, while ‘Changes’ is a more simplistic cry for help after bereavement, perhaps indicating the need to escape, and this is picked up on in ‘Cornucopia’ and ‘St. Vitus’ Dance.’ ‘Under the Sun / Every Day Comes & Goes’ offers the final solution, advocating the escape from “their world of make-believe,” and only in the controversial ‘Snowblind’ are the speaker’s eyes opened thanks to the power of drugs. It may not have been intentional but it works pretty well, and likely provides an insight into the band’s collective psyche at this early and successful point in their career. Life is one big overdose.


1. Wheels of Confusion / The Straightener
2. Tomorrow’s Dream
3. Changes
4. FX
5. Supernaut
6. Snowblind
7. Cornucopia
8. Laguna Sunrise
9. St. Vitus’ Dance
10. Under the Sun / Every Day Comes & Goes

Longer Black Sabbath songs have been divided into ‘movements’ right from the debut album, but this is taken a step further when bluesy, hard rocking opener ‘Wheels of Confusion’ morphs seamlessly into a piano-led guitar jam from Iommi. The first note is abruptly loud and clear, but sadly acts as a perfect demonstration of the weak production sound. Ozzy sings Geezer Butler’s customarily pointless fantasy lyrics in a noticeably more irritating whine than the lower pitch of the previous albums, but his trademark cringe-inducing singing style wouldn’t properly develop until the next record. Taking this into account, the second (instrumental) half of this song is far more impressive, as Iommi’s seemingly relentless solo plays perfectly over the simplistic repeated bars of the piano. Depending on my mood, this song could be much, much, much longer.

‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ is the most commercially viable song on the album, and was rightly selected as the single. Taking cues from the earlier ‘After Forever’ and predicting all the big numbers on the next few Sabbath albums, this is a relaxed song that veers on ballad territory but is a bit too heavy on distortion to allow it. Ozzy sings inoffensively for a change, and there’s a nice jazz-influenced break towards the end of the song allowing Iommi to show off some groovy guitar and keyboard tricks, in something of a failed attempt to emulate psychedelia in metal. The next song takes the balladic leap, and it’s not a pretty sight.

I’ve heard that Ozzy and his daughter re-recorded ‘Changes’ a couple of years ago and it somehow got to number one. I haven’t heard it, but I’m very sure it’s godawful. Sabbath’s original is lacking in depth for all the wrong reasons; Ozzy’s echo-enhanced voice is more irritating than it’s ever been before or since, especially when required to fill a vast chasm occupied only by Iommi’s feeble piano ditty that sounds like something a seven-year-old could have come up with. (Then again, much of Basil Poledouris’ soundtrack for ‘Conan the Barbarian’ was based on melodies his seven-year-old daughter improvised. I’m not sure what point I’m making here, but it’s a funny fact). This is one of my all-time least favourite Black Sabbath songs, including their pitiful output from the eighties and nineties – and that’s saying something.

Concluding this undemanding sophomore section of the album, ‘FX’ is nothing but an entirely pointless interlude. The band’s probably trying to sound spacey or surreal, and indeed it might have been pretty cool for the acid-drenched hippies, but two minutes of nothing but random amplifier feedback makes even the most obtuse Tangerine Dream composition sound palatable. I tend to lump it along with ‘Changes’ as the part of the album that it’s always necessary to skip. Things can only get better, and the off-road swinging ‘Supernaut’ doesn’t disappoint. Led entirely by a selection of Iommi’s brilliantly simple riffs, a technique we’ve seen does not translate to piano, this is a relatively roundabout and circular four minutes of rolling guitars and sparse vocals with a fantastic steel drum refrain. One of the high points of the album and a genuine Sabbath classic, perhaps because it really doesn’t go anywhere.

The album takes a more epic turn with ‘Snowblind,’ the band’s not-so-secret song about cocaine that even features a very loud whisper of “cocaine!” after the first verse. Considering the pressure put on the band to remove most of the more oblique references, this really stands out as an effective mockery of Warner records. Laugh in their hypocritical snow-covered corporate faces. The music is slow and dingy, although not to the extent of past classics like ‘Lord of this World’ and ‘Black Sabbath,’ but the tempo and style shift excellently between verses, choruses and instrumental sections. This is the most technically accomplished song on the album and one of the very best, although after the simple fun of ‘Supernaut’ it may take some time to really grow on the listener. Ozzy’s voice defies expectation by sounding really good in the sing-song verses (akin to ‘Into the Void’), and Iommi seems to have finally grasped the potential of keyboards in providing effective background ambience.

‘Cornucopia’ desperately yearns for the production sound of ‘Master of Reality’ or ‘Paranoid,’ and would sound a whole lot more impressive if this had been granted. The trademark sluggish guitars don’t sound anywhere near as powerful in the opening section, and the song doesn’t really pick up until the pace is increased and Iommi adds a couple of solos. Everything about this song sounds like a last-minute re-hash of previous material, but thankfully it doesn’t last too long to become tedious. This is followed by the pleasant but overlong ‘Laguna Sunrise,’ the only acoustic instrumental on this album following the previous release’s ‘Orchid’ and ‘Embryo’ and unfortunately lasts for longer than the combined length of both. At just under three minutes, there shouldn’t be much difference between this repetitive ditty and ‘The Straightener’ so long before, but this one is a whole lot duller. Iommi plays a single repeated riff on a Spanish-sounding guitar that I’m not technical enough to provide any more information about.

Following the instrumental is another below-average-length song, but this time Ozzy contributes some vocals. ‘St. Vitus’ Dance’ has a bluesy feel to it, and acts as a weaker companion to ‘Supernaut’ in its focus on repeated riffs. It’s a nice song, especially for its length, but this time the lack of progress acts as a hindrance rather than an advantage as it was earlier. These things work very strangely. The final song is something of a caged beast, again restricted by weak production from being the Sabbath classic it perhaps deserves to be. Ozzy’s vocals over the guitars remind me a lot of several points on ‘Master of Reality,’ but this song doesn’t work quite as well, sounding repetitive for the most part but saved by some creative guitar by Iommi and a speedy departure into ‘Every Day Comes & Goes,’ which is effectively a different song in-between two halves of ‘Under the Sun.’ Butler’s bass can be heard clearly for the first time under Iommi’s solos. The album ends in excellent fashion, with overlapping melodic guitars soloing their way into the fade in a way Iommi would unfortunately never be able to play live, having only two hands. The final crushing note ends as abruptly as the wail that opened the first track forty-four minutes earlier.


Black Sabbath’s first three albums already contained progressive elements, especially in the Medieval-style ballads that remind most strongly of patriotic English prog bands such as King Crimson and Genesis. With ‘Vol. 4,’ keyboards are introduced and it becomes a lot easier to incorporate established prog traits, most notably the mellotron lurking in the background of ‘Changes,’ a fond staple of progressive music to this day. Only with ‘Snowblind’ does the synthetic sound genuinely add to the song, and the piano / guitar outro to ‘The Straightener’ is a real highlight, if a little self-indulgent at such an early point in the album. The loose and jazzy structures also detract from some of the songs, leaving only ‘Supernaut’ and ‘Snowblind,’ and perhaps ‘Wheels of Confusion / The Straightener’ sounding like true classics, the first of which could quite conceivably be traced as the direct origin of the ‘groove metal’ scene that dominated much of nineties metal, led by bands like Pantera and Machine Head.

A few too many liberties are taken with unnecessary jams in the weirdest places, and for every cool musical innovation (especially in Bill Ward’s percussion) there follows a blatant rip-off of earlier material. The band would proceed to incorporate synthesisers more strongly in their following albums, especially 1973’s ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ which manages to feature both an accomplished cameo by keyboard virtuoso Rick Wakeman and an absolutely abysmal composition by Ozzy Osbourne that’s up there with ‘Changes.’ Not down here in Hell where all of Black Sabbath’s best songs really belong.

Mixed Sabbathry - 84%

westknife, July 29th, 2004

The fourth volume of Black Sabbath songs doesn’t disappoint. The production is obviously a bit more expensive than before, which is a trend the band would continue to follow into next few years. The music itself is top notch Sabbathry, starting with the monumental “Wheels of Confusion.” The opening bit of this song has a brand new, psychedelic quality that launches me into a different universe (in which I remain for the rest of the album). When Ozzy says “…in the land of fairy tales and stories,” that is the moment when you know for sure that you are in for a ride. Nothing has really changed about the way Black Sabbath plays, but it still sounds so fucking good. It is also commendable that they start the album off with an epic 8-minute masterpiece, which is definitely not radio-friendly. I think that’s a bold move, because it’s going to turn off anyone who doesn’t like metal. Sucks for those losers. But regardless, this song is a brilliantly constructed metal symphony that continues where the band left off with Master of Reality, still pushing those boundaries of heavy metal. This song is most representative of the creative advancement in this album, I think.

“Tomorrow’s Dream” shows very well that the band can still play shorter length, more pop-oriented metal songs in the vein of Paranoid. And while this song is maybe not quite as good as Paranoid, it comes damn close. Starting out with a bold, mid-paced, stooooned riff, the song simply rides along, fueled by the immense talent of the band members. Best part: “…and let tomorrow’s dream / become reality to MEEEEEEE…” Oh man, this shit is so good.

“Changes” is the inevitable attempt at a pop hit, and I’m going to assume it was a failure, because it sucks. It is a piano-based ballad with mellotron and bass, but no guitar or drums. I don’t really MIND it that much, except that it is intensely boring. The lyrics are nothing but clichés, and there are long passages where the background instruments just play without vocals, resulting in a pretty tedious listen if you ask me. The album loses points for this one. It’s too bad, because there’s some strong stuff on the rest of the record; it’s a shame throwing a stinker like this in to slow it down.

“FX” is pointless filler. It’s probably supposed to mess with you when you’re high, but I can tell you it doesn’t even really do that very well. Guitar effects have advanced so much in the last 30 years that DELAY isn’t making my jaw drop. I’m glad it’s short.

Well it’s about time they picked things up around here after tracks 3 and 4, and they do that quite nicely with “Supernaut,” a fast rocker that is based on a strong, almost sing-songy main riff. The verse riff is very creative, using a seventh chord and a lot of sliding around on that sixth string (which is dropped to D flat). The middle section is mostly percussion, along with some acoustic guitar, and it just ROCKS the hell out of you. And then when the main riff comes crashing back in, it’s like, “Damn!” It sounds like it’s about tripping. Why am I not surprised?

“Snowblind” is a bona fide metal classic, and one of my favorite Sabbath songs. Slowing things down a bit from “Supernaut,” the band is in their full glory here. Bill Ward stands out on this track actually, with his light strokes and rolls that carry the song along in a very stable groove. Also notable is the oddly syncopated fast part in the middle, with a rhythm that would be directly imitated by many future metal bands. “Cocaine…”

“Cornucopia” is a shorter song, and this is where the album starts to feel a little same-y and dare I say it, formulaic. Don’t get me wrong: the song rocks like a mofo, but it doesn’t really bring anything new to the album, it simply uses elements from the rest of the songs. Everything about it is good, however, and it does well as a hard rocking album track.

“Laguna Sunrise” is a sequel of sorts to Master of Reality’s “Embryo” and “Orchid.” It is a guitar-based instrumental that works really well, compared to the mundane instrumentals on the previous album. It is a tad repetitive, but that is a small complaint – this really is a good song, and a surprising one too. The string section manages to NOT be cheesy, which is amazing after hearing “Changes.”

“St. Vitus Dance” is a throwaway filler song, but it is still pretty good. It is notable for having a significant part in a major key, which is unheard of in Black Sabbath country. As a whole, the song is not the best in the world, but it still works as a near-the-end-of-the-album song.

“Under the Sun” is another deathly slow number, which I like a lot. However, it suffers from the same difficulty as the rest of the songs on the second side of this album: it just sounds the same. Taken on its own though, it is a very good song, in the same vein as much of their previous work. The ending is spectacular, where they repeat a riff a bunch of times, slowing down dramatically each time, until the song finally ends with a *thunk*. This song is a good note to end the album on, and the “Every Day Comes and Goes” part in the middle is pretty sick, too.

The album could have used some work, some of the songs toward the end sound uninspired or under-rehearsed, but at least half the album is pure classic Sabbath material. This is some of the best heavy metal ever made, so sacrifice a goat to this album! You can skip “Changes” if necessary.

a poor signal-to-noise ratio - 67%

UltraBoris, June 5th, 2004

As essential as this album is in the history of things, I cannot wholeheartedly endorse it, because some of the songs on here are complete crap. It's hard to say exactly why this happened... this was not the primitive origin of the debut album, where half the songs were blues because the rest of the world was entirely blues. This just seems to be a concerted effort to not make any sense. When this album is on, it is dead on - unfortunately when it is off, it is pretty much unlistenable.

This stands in stark contrast to an album like Sabotage, which is brilliant all around, including in the interludes... or Master of Reality, which only has a little bit of off kilter stuff. Here, the off-kilter stuff comes in when you least want it, and just ruins the continuity of the album.

The opener, Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener, is completely brilliant... it starts with a little melodic acid-rock riff before suddenly and abruptly switching gears into that godawfully triumphant metal stuff that only Iommi could execute so perfectly. This is probably the first of the later-Ozzy era epic style numbers (see: Megalomania, for the quintessential example), in that it's more complicated than an earlier number like Hand of Doom or Black Sabbath. Both of those songs go through their mood changes as well, but Wheels of Confusion completely takes this to a new level - starting slow, then speeding up (Iron Man, Black Sabbath, etc) and then slowing down again (Hand of Doom, Into the Fucking Void), and then throwing in the outro piece, which is far more complex than anything that came before it... I'm pretty sure The Straightener comes in when you'd expect it (it's one track, so I'm not sure exactly where the break is, but I have a good idea), when you get another really cute acid-rock Ten Years After style riff, and then a lot of midpaced soloing and heavy riffage over it. Imagine the closer of "Layla" (Eric Clapton) gone horribly, horribly wrong. There's quite a bit of instrumentation going on here, with the line between 'riff' and 'solo' getting quite badly blurred - and it all works brilliantly well. Along with Black Sabbath and Into the Fucking Void, this song is the highlight of Sabbath's career up to this point.

The rest? Well, nothing will top the brilliance of that one song, but there are certainly a few others here that are quite good. Pretty much, all the heavy songs, which feature Tony's masterful riff work, are all very good. When they want to be Black Fucking Sabbath, they are that, and they are good at that. The highlight for me is probably the closer, Under the Sun, which also brings in a few acid-rock sounding moments, but makes them so much more unbearably heavy than a band like Cream ever could've imagined sounding. When the verses kick in, it's a typical Iommi riff, and then the song gets faster and faster, with Ozzy's vocals more and more desperate. This album is about an average Ozzy performance, meaning that it isn't as brilliant as Sabotage, but it is listenable, unlike some of the later efforts. There's a riff in here that reminds me of the fast riff in Paranoid, before the whole thing turns back into a midpaced assault, and then the outro solo is a bit War-Pigs-like, but sufficiently twisted inside out (see that break riff out of nowhere around 5:25) as to be completely interesting.

The other heavy songs... Tomorrow's Dream, Cornucopia - both good Sabbath songs in their own right; easily recognisable for what they are. There's no one else that writes riffs like this. Snowblind's intro riff is actually the same note sequence as the intro riff in Heaven and Hell, except the notes are different lengths. Another great song, and the use of the subliminal "cocaine!!" vocal line is there just in case someone's retarded and thinks the song is about skiing or something. Hah.

Then Supernaut is also a morbidly heavy song, though there's a bit of an interlude that seems somewhat overlong. Still, probably the fastest song on here, and very well done, with a nice gallop riff that screams Judas Priest before Judas Priest ever screamed. Though the song is a bit simplistic, with the only real change coming in the way of a drum interlude. Wheels of Confusion, this is not.

Saint Vitus Dance is the last of the heavy songs... a cute little song that spawned a great doom band. Sort of an average little song, though, that has an atmosphere of late 60s hippie rock. Not even acid rock, but general happy-go-lucky stuff they play on the oldies station. Then throw on the lyrics. Hah! The song alternates between one heavy riff and one happy one, and in general it's not bad, but the worst of the actual songs on here.

The rest? These are pretty much completely worthless. Changes, F/X, and Laguna Sunrise. Laguna Sunrise actually seems like it was designed with some effort in mind, but it just does nothing for me. It's an acoustic number, that doesn't work nearly as well as the acoustic stuff bookending Symptom of the Universe (Don't Start/Too Late, and the end of that track itself). Then F/X is just a terrible string of noises whose purpose eludes me, and Changes is a completely worthless ballad, that makes their other completely worthless ballads actually seem not completely worthless. Puke.

So there are SEVEN heavy songs on here, which is more than there are on some of the other albums, and all of them range from 'pretty good' to 'completely brilliant', but the fact remains, that I can't listen to the entire album from beginning to end. Putting the godawful Changes after the excellent Tomorrow's Dream? Sorry, but that doesn't work at all. Then preceding the riff monster Supernaut with the stupid F/X? Welcome to planet Not Making Sense. Population: Black Sabbath, circa 1972. Then Laguna Sunrise is probably the most sensible of the poor songs, and it doesn't sound all THAT out of place, but it just sucks, and I would have no problem with Cornucopia leading into Saint Vitus Dance.

Worth getting? I suppose, but don't start with this one. If you're new to Sabbath, you've probably heard most of Paranoid (who hasn't?), so start with that, Sabotage or Master of Reality.

Transition to a different style - 91%

radiohater, January 16th, 2004

Black Sabbath had released a trilogy of classic metal albums, and had been on numerous tours since. The band temporarily relocated to Los Angeles for the recording of the album, and got promptly caught up in the rock-and-roll lifestyle. Somewhere amongst the chaos, Vol 4 was concieved and release to the public in September 1972.

This album seemed a little unfocused, probably due to the partying and drugs the band did during the recording of this album. Some of the band's most brutal cuts are here, but there are some songs that plod along without much direction. The instrumental performances are all well done, but are detracted from by meandering song structures. However, these songs are well-performed, and act as a sort of precursor to their next effort, with more keyboards and acoustic guitars being used throughout the album.

The Cast

John "Ozzy" Osbourne (vocals) - Ozzy is in top form on this release as usual. His improving voice is evident throughout the album. Top points include a slightly more aggressive feel on Supernaut, and the melancholy performance on Snowblind.

Frank "Tony" Iommi (guitars, keyboards) - Tony picks up keyboards on this release to add a little extra to some of the songs, such as the strings on Snowblind and Laguna Sunrise, the latter being another acoustic track that improves on past performances by Iommi. More classic riffs are found here, such as Supernaut, Snowblind and Under The Sun. The only downside
is that Iommi's patented 'twin guitar' solos are far less prevalent here, as his lead playing takes a more conventional feel.

Terence "Geezer" Butler (bass) - Geezer still continues in his signature style on this album, punctuating songs with his basswork when necessary. Best examples include Wheels Of Confusion, Snowblind and Under The Sun.

Bill Ward (drums) - Bill still continues in his style, but is becoming a steadier timekeeper in the process. He adds some deft snare fills to Snowblind, and adds an impressive percussion section to Supernaut, driving it along with a vengeance. Another noteworthy performance can be seen on Under The Sun, in the fast section where he adds quick fills when everyone drops out.

Production was handled by Patrick Meehan in conjunction with Black Sabbath, and the difference is instantly apparent. Geezer's bass isn't as dominating, and Tony's guitar sound has become fuller, heavier and more aggressive. The drums are mixed nicely, with just a little more hihat presence than before. Ozzy's voice is also slightly lower in the mix as well.

Choice Cuts

Wheels Of Confusion - This track feels like 3 different tracks pieced together as one. It starts out with a really bluesy section built upon an arpeggiated riff, before going into a powerchord riff. The vocal melody here has a slight
middle-eastern tinge here. About 2 and a half minutes in it gives way to a stomping uptempo section featuring some nice chord-melody work, eventually giving way to an aggressive chord riff, which is then laden with lead melodies. It then returns to the powerchord riffing established earlier in the song. This eventually gives way to another crushing power chord riff
which is used as a base for some nice harmonised lead work. This song fades out with a patented Iommi 'twin guitar' solo ... or so we think until it fades in with a melody line based on the previous chord progression drenched in reverb.

Supernaut - Quite simply one of the most aggressive tracks they'd done up until this point. That verse riff is crushingly heavy, and is accented by Geezer's bass and Bill's drumming. This contains one of Ozzy's catchiest vocal melodies. An extended lead from Iommi comes in later, which is soon followed by a percussion-only section from Bill Ward. An excellent track that is a huge fan favourite even today.

Snowblind - Apparently this song was intended to be the title track of the album, but the record company refused to release the album until the album title was changed. Continuing in the tradition of bleak cuts such as Electric Funeral, this song is quite possibly the most desolate cut on the album. It begins with an arpeggiated riff before going to a power-chord riff in the verse. About 1:40 into the song there begins a rather melancholy arpeggiated riff underpinned by Geezer's active playing and some nice snare and kick work from Ward. This is used for a solo by Iommi a little later. About 3:27 into the song it speeds up slightly featuring an atypical drum pattern with a hyperactive kick pedal. Totally bleak track that has deservingly become a fan favourite.

Under The Sun - This thunderous track in places brings to mind Children Of The Grave from the previous album. It begins with a slow heavy chord progression before locking into a thick chugging riff that could be seen as one of Iommi's finest. At 1:56 the song speeds up a little (a section reputedly called Every Day Comes And Goes), dropping out every now and then for a
quick fill from Ward, before going into a guitar solo. The end is a slowish section built on nice guitar line, featuring a patented 'twin guitar' solo from Iommi reminiscent of the one in N.I.B. and some kickdrum abuse from Ward. Excellent way to cap off the album.

Off Cuts

Changes - This one doesn't really fit in with the rest of the album, being entirely piano-driven, in stark contrast to the guitar-driven nature of the rest of the album. This is not to say that this isn't a good song, as it captures a feeling of despair quite well, but it drags on a bit and doesn't fit well with the rest of the songs.

St Vitus Dance - This one doesn't seem as memorable as the other tracks on the album, as the riffs don't seem to stack up to others found elsewhere on the album.

Raw Sewage

FX - Unfortunately the first blemish in Black Sabbath's illustrious career, it consists of nothing but 1:43 of random effects (as the title implies). Totally pointless and worthless track.

Closing Comments

Although not as good as the two that preceeded it, due to it's inconsistency, it is still an album that holds its own against the rest of the Ozzy-era output, and marks the transition toward the sound on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Do not hesitate to buy this.

Sabbath's Finest Indeed - 97%

SufferingOverdue, April 24th, 2003

Most people tend to overlook this album, which to me is quite a shame. Whilst the first 3 albums are indeed heavy metal classics, the material on this album is just total lightyears ahead of anything else Sabbath has done. It has it all, the doom, the heavy, the slow, the weird, the folk, the blues...it's just everything Black Sabbath has ever been associated piled into 43 minutes of complete sonic bliss.

From the bluesy and lethargic intro of "Wheels of Confusion" to the down right doom of "Cornucopia", this album is absolutely perfect, aside from one glitch. I understand it's probably something of a drug induced experiment, "FX" just isn't necessary to the album. Had the album progressed from the tear jerking "Changes" straight into the raucous "Supernaut", I think the contrast between the two songs would have made a much welcome change as opposed to having to skip "FX" in between. But all that garbage aside, what we have here is Iommi has his absolute prime, Bill Ward as his most technical and Geezer Butler with some of the best bass work you'll ever hear. And not to forget Ozzy's vocal performance, I don't think this album would have worked had Dio done vocals on it, in the same way Ozzy just wouldn't sound right on the Dehumanizer album.

To me this album is the definitive album in the "classic Sabbath" era with Ozzy, it covers all they done together, from their doomy and gloomy beginnings, to their more progressive and technical sound on their later albums together. If the classic line up ever does another album together, one can only hope it's half as good as Volume 4, which to me stands as an absolute giant in the heavy metal genre.