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The influence the Sabbies have had in metal and rock music for more than forty years now is as evident just as it is undeniable. Furthermore, according to Mr. Type O Negative, Peter Steele himself – and I’m quoting here -, “Black Sabbath are responsible for all metal, hardcore and gothic music out there”, and that’s saying a lot. I totally agree, by the by. Being so, it’s interesting if not baffling how their fans are into 4 or 5 of their releases only, and that’s just in case they don’t belong to the group of fuckos who only play “Paranoid” every now and then to remind their hipster buddies “Dude, that was the first heavy metal song. Sabbath rules…” Anyway. Take “Born again” for instance (recorded the very year I was born, by the way), which on the paper appears as one of those HUGE moments in the history of metal and rock. I mean not daily a band has the chance to combine the talents of Ian Gillan, on of the most gifted 70s hard-rock singers, Mr. Tommy “Riff” Iommi and Mr. Geezer Butler themselves godfathers of extreme music around the world. Why the idiotic media at the time disregarded and even mocked this jewel giving it names such as Deep Black or Purple Sabbath is far beyond my comprehension.
Even though both Sabbath and Purple sort of fit into the same musical genre, the approach each act had to it was almost opposite. While Sabbath were totally into minimalistic sometimes sharp, sometimes crushing, but always groovy riffs plus eerie vocals, Purple guys would rather go for virtuosity, stoned atmospheres, long trippy songs and heavy but exquisite vocals. Combining both styles resulted in an almost experimental form of 70s heavy rock… recorded in the early 80s. If I were to describe “Born again”‘s sound by attempting to define a sub-genre it fits, I would say it’s heavy doomy stoner rock or something, all finely flavored by Mr. Gillan’s amazing work, which gives to the record a unique and elegant touch of real old school. Now, the tag experimental has been used pretentiously by progressive and technical bands, but in this case I think it’s got more to do with the intentional overuse of simpleton lilting riffs, always sticking to mesmerizing ostinato patterns. Also, Tony Iommi stuck to his tightest chops this time, and made each section endure long periods, so that the songs sound like hellish hypnotic engines.
Not that the production excels, but taking the decade it was recorded and released into account, as well as considering the type of music this is, it’s quite decent. Everything’s clearly audible, there’s little else to say.
Once I read in a quite famous metal magazine I shan’t mention here that “Sabbath’s style was unique despite the lack of proficiency of Iommi…” Bullshit. Tommi’s performance is sloppy, that’s fo’sure, yet that’s part of his style, which has nothing to do with today’s obsession with perfection – pointless precision and velocity in most cases if you ask me – plus, I’d love to see any contemporary technical guitar player doing any better, especially with their fingertips gone. When it comes to “Born again”, good ol’Tommi brilliantly managed to integrate his peculiar style to something that appropriately fit the whole fusion concept of the album. The guitar solos are not that memorable though. We all know soloing has never been his area of expertise. Fuck it, that magazine was Hell Awaits.
Ian Gillan used to be one of the greatest heavy singers ever, no matter my colleagues disagree. This record is another proof of that. He sings consistently and dynamically according to each song, and he’s more than capable of theatricalizing quite convincingly like in “Disturbing the priest”, a song in which he also shows off his falsetto skills. Also, Gillan is responsible for one of the catchiest Sabbath choruses ever: the one sung in “Zero the hero”. The whole song is a jewel, goddammit! No wonder why even Barnes couldn’t resist covering it. In the end, it’s such a pity Ian just collaborated on this Sabbath record… Are you aware of WhoCares?
The same he’s always done, Geezer knows his role. He knows it, but we’re lucky enough he ignores it all the fucken time, meaning yes he can and does accompany songs providing a solid ground, however he can and does face up to Iommi’s chops with his own. Butler isn’t into showing off either, so you could call his lines somewhat discreet if you like though. That constant battle between guitar and bass is one of the features making Sabbath sound so special. This work’s not an exception.
I ain’t a fan of Bill Ward. Never was. Since he hasn’t been included in latest Sabbath reunion, everybody claims he’s da drummer. In my opinion his work here is appropriate, and that’s all there is to it. Yes, he does OK, and yes, any other drummer could have done equally good or even better. Who’s the best friend of a musician? His drummer!
Lyrics are average the Sabbath way. They’re fun and catchy, although not that profound or anything. Good and irreverent enough: “Good life is contradiction because of the crucifixion…”
Not having ever had the chance to hold a physical copy of this in my paws, I’m only to judge it’s frontal cover. The legend speaks of Ian Gillan throwing up when he first saw the raw and bizarre graphic treatment they gave to the picture of this cute little baby. Obviously, he wasn’t used to the ways of such an obscure and even evil imagery in a band. Of course, Gillan wasn’t the only conservative cunt who felt frankly offended by it. Then again, when it comes to the godfathers of metal, the more controversial, the better.
Sabbath switch logos in almost every release. Sometimes they’re cool and sometimes they’re shitty. This one happened to be shitty.
Make no mistake, “Born again” is the most underrated release by the Sabbies. It truly was a re-birth of the most influential heavy sound ever, and it stands alone as their most experimental work; at the same time it’s a display of pure and traditional hard-rock meeting doom and heavy metal. As it often happens with great works, it’s a little too short though.
Originally written for www.globaldomination.se
**Note: This is a review of the 2011 Deluxe Edition**
Black Sabbath was back into rebuilding mode after the mighty Ronnie James Dio and drummer Vinny Appice left the band due to some miscommunication and poor handling of the “Live Evil” album. Tony Iommi went into his bag of tricks and turned heads with the announcement of Ian Gillan coming into the Sabbath fold. Purple and black mixed together sounded intriguing and it culminated in the release of “Born Again” with the one of the most infamous artwork ever created. The demon baby from hell is definitely eye catching and may also induce vomiting, like Gillan stated when talking about the cover. Finally, after all these years of trying to find a reliable copy, a deluxe edition was bestowed upon the masses in 2011 with the baby in all its glory along with a studio outtake and a live show from the Reading Festival in 1983.
The most noticeable aspect of the original release of “Born Again” was the poor production which had a very flat sound and muddy guitars. The deluxe edition remedies the problem as much as it could as the original tapes could not be found, but there are some noticeable improvements as each instrument is distinguished as the drums give a sharper snap, bass lines are recognized, and Iommi’s guitar is clearer.
As for the songs themselves, it’s like Sabbath received a shot to the system. Ozzy Osbourne and Dio never really used their voices wildly like Gillan does here. He carries an attitude and does not use his screams judiciously. In the opening moments of “Trashed”, Gillan sends a shriek to announce that he means business. The track itself is a solid opener featuring a driving riff with Gillan seeming to enjoy himself singing about how he took Bill Ward’s car for a joyride and wrecked it.
Iommi pays back Gillan’s eagerness by conjuring up some of his most sinister riffs. The crashing cymbal and snare provided by Ward act as a crescendo to Iommi’s hellish guitar in “Disturbing the Priest.” Gillan laughs like a madman and provides some vocal theatrics to one of the standout tracks. Iommi provides another gem with the most famous song from this album, “Zero the Hero.” The song seems like the successor to “Iron Man” as they both have that signature riff, interesting characters, and are very memorable.
The meld of Deep Purple and Sabbath comes into play with the final tracks “Hot Line” and “Keep it Warm.” The titles don’t exactly seem something one would see on a Black Sabbath album, but with Gillan penning the lyrics, there are some tongue-in-cheek sexual moments, but it works well with the content. Iommi lets the blues roll on the latter track featuring a great jam at the end with him, Geezer Butler, and Ward letting it fly. “Hot Line” has the as expected energetic vocal performance and a very catchy riff to knock your head to. Iommi nails down a gritty solo to round out a very cool song.
The only truly weak song is the goofy titled “Digital Bitch.” The vocal lines are weak and the guitar isn’t as strong. It does not help both as the chorus is not memorable and hearing Gillan sing these lyrics as well as the song title is too silly to take seriously. The title track also just falls short of being very memorable as it has a slow, dooming atmosphere, but it does not go anywhere. It has potential, but a stronger chorus and more interesting instrumentation could have helped. The last bit of quibbles is the two little tracks of sound effects in “Stonehenge” and “The Dark.” “Stonehenge” has eerie effects similar to “E5150” and then segues into “Disturbing the Priest”, but serves little purpose and “The Dark” is some low, strange noises that transition into “Zero the Hero.” This leaves only seven actual songs on the album.
Apart from the record is the gem on the second disc of this deluxe edition. There is a studio outtake of a song called “The Fallen” which shows Ward flexing his muscles on the drums and the guitar puts together competent notes when it hits the chorus. An extended version of “Stonehenge” is also included and it’s basically three more minutes of eerie, spacey sounds.
The live concert at the Reading Festival is when business picks up. All I can say is Gillan is a beast singing the Sabbath classics. His performances of “Iron Man”, “War Pigs” and “Paranoid” are stellar. He unleashes spine-tingling screams to go along with the riffs in instrumental parts and injects new life to tracks associated with Osbourne. These moments make me wish that this lineup stayed together, but then “Perfect Strangers” would not have happened.
Bev Bevan filled in for Ward on the tour and does a competent job. He does not have all the groovy fills that Ward provides, but he certainly did not detract from the performance. “War Pigs” gives the indication that he knows what he’s doing.
The “Born Again” tracks receive some good pub too as “Hot Line” comes across well, but I was not too fond of “Digital Bitch” in the set. “Zero the Hero” retains oozy guitar and a wonderful solo from Iommi. In the encore, the boys throw a nod to Gillan’s previous band by pumping out “Smoke on the Water.” I could only imagine how awesome it was seeing the Sabbath guys playing a Purple classic with Gillan. The crowd was electric during this performance and definitely gives that feeling of wanting to be there.
The deluxe edition of “Born Again” also contains notes on the album came into being and also an essay by the man who created that darn devil baby explaining its origin and how it was accepted as the design. The live show is worth the purchase alone and serves as a time capsule for that period of Black Sabbath. Any fan curious of this collaboration and looking to finally get their hands on this album should take the plunge into Purple Sabbath.
By all means, a collaboration between Black Sabbath and Ian Gillan should have ruled. Sabbath had spurred the heavy metal sound, and Gillan had dished out some of hard rock's most enduring records with Deep Purple. Not only that, but Sabbath now had a precedent to become awesome with a new vocalist. Dio's induction led to "Heaven And Hell", the album that saved the band from crippling mediocrity. "Born Again" has no such luck, however. The songwriting standards are back to the way they were with "Technical Ecstasy", and for whatever reason, Gillan's vocals to not fit nearly as well as they should have. "Born Again" is a disappointing chapter in the band's history.
Although not as articulate as Dio, Ian Gillan had an amazing voice throughout the 70's. Particularly in his shrieking falsettos, there is no doubt that he was one of his era's vocal greats when it came to hard rock. Listening to his performance on "Child In Time" from Deep Purple's "In Rock" album makes it clear that his haunting voice would have worked well with Sabbath's relatively dark sound. Although many argue that his bluesy style does not fit with the heavier sound that Black Sabbath goes for, it could have been incredible. Sadly this potential is far from realized; the whole thing sounds underbudgeted and generally uninspired. Gillan's falsettos sound great for the most part, but the songwriting falls flat for the most part. Barring the moments where he sets his voice on fire, Gillan's performance feels like he doesn't care about the music, and who can blame him? The composition falls flat more often than not; there isn't a melody of riff that sticks after the album's over.
The biggest fault here is undoubtedly the production and mixing. Apparently, the rough cuts were accidentally published rather than the refined mix, and if that is true, it's a pretty juvenile slip-up for a veteran band to make. The album sounds like a rough demo, or a work-in-progress. As a result, the more upbeat 'rock' tracks are completely unenjoyable to listen to, with only Gillan's shrieks clambering above the mess. However, something very unexpected happens as a by-product of this. Also thanks in part to Gillan's eerie falsettos, this is the darkest Sabbath have sounded since the debut. The slower tunes and ambient interludes are actually pretty good, and the lo-fi sludge gives it a diabolical atmosphere that I might compare to some black metal. "Disturbing The Priest" and "Zero The Hero" rekindle this evil sound. Further proof that not everything is black or white, especially when it comes to music.
"Born Again"s creepy vibe is not near enough to save it from being considered one of Sabbath's weakest efforts, sadly. Taking into account the fact that most of the album still defaults on conventional hard rock songwriting, it becomes nearly unlistenable when paired with a production that sounds like it was engineered by a studio intern. It might be worth checking out for Ian Gillan friends, but this is a chapter in Black Sabbath's history that is best left forgotten.
My relation to the Black Sabbath 1983 album "Born Again" has been changing a lot since I once heard it on Youtube two years ago. At first my reaction was, like most sane people's "What the F**K is this? crappy mix, weird screams etc." "Deep Sabbath" have been hated by many, to some extent even by themselves. But one day when I was really bored I forced myself to listen through the album on youtube one more time, after all, it IS sabbath.
I am glad I did that, it made me realise what a masterpiece this album really is. In my opinion this is THE darkest album ever released by Black Sabbath.
- Did he say the best???? is he insane???
No I never said that. There are Sabbath releases that are musically finer than this one, but none of them manage to create such an evil atmosphere. The theme of the album does actually seem to be thought through (even though some parts of it are just random). The cover was meant to be rejected, but it fits into the theme better than anything else. The instrumental songs "Stonehenge" and "The Dark" together with parts of "Born Again" and "Disturbing the Priest" give one more dimension to the album, making it more than just another metal release.
OK, but what about Gillan? To many people, partly including himself, he was one of the major problems on the album. He wasn't Sabbath, he wasn't metal, he isn't good at all etc etc. Now, thats all crap. In Born Again Gillan founds a new use for his unique screaming. Instead of the more correct and balanced screams in "Child in Time" he screams like a demon, very well fitting into the main theme of "Born Again". The most wicked song on the album in my opinion would be "Disturbing the Priest" since it combines the devilish laughter of Ian with the dark atmosphere created mainly by Nichols and Iommi. When on tour, Gillan had problems singing some of the old sabbath songs, he said himself that "I just couldn't relate to the lyrics". But he did bring something more into the tune "Black Sabbath", again with that evil laughter.
The weakest part of the album? Definitely the mix. Ok, I understand some people that claim it to be a part of the whole dark and evil thing but seriously, its been taken too far. Especially when listening to Hot Line, you just want to close your eyes and imagine yourself remixing the song, you start dreaming about how good it could be... But reality is that its not, the excellent music makes up for it, but thats no excuse. The Demos are not much better, simply because they are demos. But sometimes it can be liberating to listen to them instead of the original album.
Overall the album is a one-of-a-kind evil, dark and interesting release. Today I think of this album as my greatest inspiration, again not since it's the best album I have ever heard, but it's different... And even though what is different is doomed to be misunderstood, I always get a special kind of feeling when those simple first tunes of "Born Again" ripple through the air.
I like a lot Black Sabbath's 1970s oldies, riffs are great, sound is heavy and atmosphere dark... But in my opinion there is one problem on those recordings - a big one. It's named Ozzy "The Sheep" Osbourne, who's vocals could be described as a mix of bleating and drunken yelling. Well, this problem was fixed when Osbourne departed and Dio came in... And Heaven and Hell was good album, so was Mob Rules (and of course, Heaven & Hell band is also great...). Then Dio gone away. Who could be capable to be the new vocalist of Black Sabbath? Answer was Deep Purple's former (and also forthcoming) vocalist Ian Gillan. Gillan did great job on classic Purple albums, and he does great job on this album as well - and by the way, he did a good job on the other Black Sabbath tracks also as several bootlegs from this era prove.
Album starts with speed metal piece called "Trashed". It really has energy and power with great guitar solos, and some really heavy riffing. High pitched vocals by Ian Gillan are something new for Black Sabbath and work very well. Moody keyboard intro track "Stonehenge" leads us to insane "Disturbing the Priest", which starts with Ian Gillan's trademark yelling, mixed with (nowadays almost clicheic) laughing that reminds me of the end of Deep Purple's "Speed King". "Disturbing the Priest" also has kind of evil which fit very well to the scary downtempo atmosphere and 'horror' sound effects of the track.
But as it turns out, whole "Disturbing the Priest" is actually just a introduction to colossal "Zero the Hero". Though "Zero the Hero" starts with another keyboard intro named "The Dark" this song really shouldn't be titled as own track in my opinion - it's just short piece of keyboard effects... It works anyway, and as the actual song starts it presents us both good lyrics about the easy-life idler who just sits and watches as the life goes on and on - and finally figures out he had not own life at all! The well done lyrics are sung greatly and bit aggressively by Ian Gillan with a way which some way sounds a bit like rapping and makes the track, especially it's chorus, extremely catchy. But "Zero the Hero" is not only catchy hit song, but also has deeper dimensions in it's doomy and gloomy mass and even some progression in it's structure: you can hear how the track slowly grows to it's massive ending through the long, atmospheric solos and guitar effects of Tony Iommi.
So, this was the A-side of the album, that is really good. Then we have there a B-side, that is something else. While it starts with rocking, humorous and quite good "Digital Bitch", the messy and overlong yet beautiful title track leads us to two last tracks - which are completely fillers. This may be reason why many feel that this is a bad album - together with the production.
Well, I like the production. It is a bit muddy, but that makes the overall feeling of the album darker and heavier. This is heavy and has evil atmosphere. But I can't understand people who says that the production is terrible. Maybe that's because I've listened a lot of old-school black metal which definitely has not too good production, but I actually like the overall sound of this album a lot. But the two things that really make this album worth listening are Ian Gillan's excellent vocals and Tony Iommi's great guitar riffing and even better solos. Of course also Geezer Butler's heavy bass and Bill Ward's strong drumming find their place on the big picture.
And, I even like the cover. It's scary, strange, and symbolic image of the Antichrist's - all that what we think as 'evil', 'wrong' and so on - birth to this world. Much like this album is with it's crushing overall sound and two doom metal monoliths of the A-side. If you can forget the production, which can be problem for some, and two or three fillers, you get a very well done album.
Born Again was the first Sabbath album I bought without Ozzy. What made me want this album so much was the fact that it had the legendary Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan on vocals (I was already a bit of a Purple fan myself too). OK, because the fact that it was my FIRST post-Ozzy Sabbath album is one reason why it's my favourite of all the 80s-onwards studio albums, but the songs all mean business too.
There's also a lot of history behind Born Again. I wont get into that, but I think all Sabbath fans will know that the tour for this album was the tour with the Stonehenge 'incident'. And it was also the tour where Black Sabbath became Deep Sabbath because Tony Iommi went into the 'Smoke On The Water' riff and the band actually performed the song live. Definitely Sabbath's strangest era. When Dio was out, drummer Vinnie Appice went with him and original drummer Bill Ward steps in once again (though he wasn't well enough to play on the tour).
The music is superb- opener 'Trashed' has awesome lyrics based on a real-life event, chugging guitar riffs and great solos from Iommi, and wailing vocals from Gillan. Perfect way to start. 'Stonehenge' is a very dark, moody keyboard instrumental, kina like 'E5150' from the previous Mob Rules album. 'Disturbing The Priest' follows and is my favourite song off Born Again. it starts with a crushing riff and Gillan laughing his head off in an evil manner. As well as that are some pummelling riffs throughout, dark breakdowns and more ecellent lyrics.
'The Dark' is another atmospheric interlude which fades into the monolithic 'Zero The Hero', which, to many fans, is the best song off the album. The song has an awesome chorus and some really great guitar soloing. 'Digital Bitch' is a cheesy but fun track- the lyrics are kinda dumb but cool. The title track is another strong point- it's dark and provides an immense chorus with Gillan singing like his life depended on it. 'Hot Line' is another heavy affair and album closer, 'Keep It Warm' is a metal ballad.
The biggest complaint about this album is the production job, which is of course, poor. But i've never had a problem with this as it just makes the album sound more raw than it is. An Gillan in Sabbath is, to me, one of the best post-Ozzy line-ups the band went through. Shame this was the only album they made, because Gillan proves he can do a good job in a heavy metal band as well as Purple and some of his own solo groups.
Born Again is a strange album, but a very, very good one. I love every minute of it, and I think most Sabbath fans should give it a chance. Any Deep Purple fan would enjoy it but for the hardcore Sabbath purists, it's best to be treated with caution.
As a huge Black Sabbath fan I really wanted to love this. I wanted to give it a perfect rating and rant on about how all the haters are wrong, how the Black Purple was awesome and so on and so forth. Unfortunately I can't do that. But that's not saying the album is bad - it's just very very weird.
Let's we take a look at the individual songs, starting with the opening track, "Trashed". The first time I heard this, I found it to be utter crap with boring guitar and the really fucking annoying drawn-out parts with "I was turning / the tires burning / The ground was in my sky". Then I heard it a second time, and suddenly the track was all fun, and I labeled it one of the good songs of the album. Now I'm caught in between: True, the song has some catchy parts (and Gillans screams are just as awesome as they are with Deep Purple), but overall, the song is nothing special and tend to get plain boring. Also, the lyrics about drunk driving are nothing special, not anywhere near the old-Sabbath material - but then again, apparently Gillan had overtaken the writing from Geezer.
The next so-called "track", "Stonehenge", is the same kind of ambient interlude stuff that Iommi back then had decided to put on almost all of the Black Sabbath albums. Admitted, some of the interlude stuff has been good, and this one is really awesome (but then again, I love Burzums "Hłidskjálf", so maybe I'm not that objective), but the "Stonehenge"-interlude suffers from one obivious problem: It's too fucking long for an interlude! The ambient niceness cools you down after the ragingly incoherent "Trashed", and you can hear the distant heartbeat among the synth, and then - BAM! - it suddenly flings into the next track, "Disturbing the Priest", which has a really EVIL intro, that almost scared me the first time. Gillans demented laughs and Iommis weird and slightly atonal guitar never complimented each other better. The actual song sounds a lot like British Steel-era Judas Priest (disturbing the Priest, eh?) with extra Satan. The lyrics are dark, much much darker than the drunk "Trashed" - check out "The force of the devil is the darkness the priest has to face / The force of the night will destroy him but not disgrace / To get into his mind and to his soul you gotta set alight / The flames of doubt so deep inside". Well... Not pure poetry, but it works fine in this evil atmosphere. Also, the chorus with "We're disturbing the priest / Won't you come to our feast?" is pretty good. Towards the end of the song are some screams, and slight elements of soul, that really smells like Deep Purple, and then the evil intro riff comes again and the whole song ends in a demented craze that even Ozzy would have trouble recreating.
Following is, surprise, ANOTHER ambient track, "The Dark". Well, at least it's very different from "Stonehenge": Where "Stonehenge" almost got to sound like a full track from some ambient album cut short by the insanity of "Disturbing the Priest", "The Dark" is just an 45-seconds interlude. Nothing more. It sounds much like the "E5150" from the Mob Rules album: A lot of dark wah wah-like effects and, really, nothing else. The only remarkable thing about is is the outro, or maybe more like the intro to the next track: Where "Disturbing the Priest" would just barge in at the end of "Stonehenge", the fifth song, "Zero the Hero", comes sneaking in during the last 5-10 seconds of "The Dark" in a really cool manner. It's actually quite fun to sit and listen to the track in order to figure out when "Zero the Hero" is coming. "Zero the Hero" grows and grows until it completely takes over with it's strange and twisted intro with a strangely shrieking guitar and another guitar doing deep, slow Iommi riffs. Then Gillan start singing something that in some funny way reminds me of rapping. "Zero the Hero" is undeniably my favourite track on the album, it hass everything that's good about Black Sabbath: it's dark, gloomy, evil, has cool riffs (4 or 5 of them), a solo that gets to sound all twisted in the musically disturbing atmosphere created. Yep, the track has a lot of atmosphere, from the constant buzzing from the guitar buried somewhere under the bass in the mix, to the way the keyboard "The Dark"-like effects that return close to the outro, to the way the guitar coughs a bit here and there. The lyrics are nothing special, though. Or, well, they are special, VERY special - Gillan was almost certainly tripping on something when he wrote them. Lines like "You're going so fast you're never ever gonna get down there / where the heroes sit by the river / with a magic in their music as they eat raw liver" really make you wish Gillan would put down the pipe, or perhaps hand the writing duties to someone else. The chorus, however, is damn catchy, and I've had it spinning around in my head for several weeks, which annoys me greatly. If you only had to get one track from this album, make sure it's this one!
No more interludes! Unfortunately, that doesn't mean better songs - quite the opposite: The next track "Digital Bitch" plain sucks. It's apparently some sort of song dissin' Sharon Arden (the later Sharon Osbourne), but that doesn't help the song in any way. Right from the start the too-high-pitched screaming guitar annoys you with it's presence, and continues to do so as it rambles on throwing random solos here and there without ever truly making sense. The song is as fast-paced as "Trashed", but has several more detractors: as mentioned, the guitar totally destroys the song, while the lyrics perform the killing blow - Gillans voice can't change the fact that the lyrics are simply bad, not to mention way too personal. All in all, this is one of those songs that the band should have fooled around with, but let remain on the demo tapes! How the hell this got past production is a mystery to me.
Following the fast, chaotic "Digital Bitch" is the title track, "Bor(i)n(g) Again". Here, the band ventures into new terrain: a power ballad! The guitar provides some sad, wailing tones while Gillan mourningly sings about some bleak subjects that I really haven't figured out yet. The only real change is in the chorus, where we get a bit of the ol' distorted guitar to remind us that this is still supposed to be a heavy metal record. Even though the last couple of "Booooooooooooooooooooooornnn agaiiiiiiinnnn, you'll be booooooooooorn again" are okay, and the guitar solo is quite good, this has one problem: It's not what Black Sabbath should do! I keep expecting to hear "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" in this song. Guys, leave the whining to Aerosmith, and get rocking!
The next track is "Hot Line". Right off the bat you get to let out a sigh of relief, because we're out of the power ballad territory. Instead, this is plain rocking. And by "plain" I really mean "plain": There's nothing special whatsoever about this song, it's just a decent rock song with decent rock lyrics, and a solo where Iommi goes nuts - yes, he can play fast if he wants to! But, except for the solo, the guitar really doesn't do that much here - just a couple of boring rock riffs. This is a prime example of the fact that Black Sabbath, too, can make filler material.
The last track, "Keep It Warm" starts out with some promisingly heavy guitar and Gillans vocals going all bluesy. Then the chorus, a nice sounding, sing-along friendly chorus. Gillan continues on his almost spoken-word-like blues singing in the second verse, another chorus and then: guitar. The guitar solo starts off in a pretty wailing way, but then suddenly halfway through, it speeds up and gets even more awesome - only to speed down again, and throw Gillan back in the ring to continue singing the chorus ad nauseam. A love blues song, and a nice and safe way to finish off one of the strangest albums in the history of Black Sabbath.
Looking back, this album, named the Ugly Duckling of the Black Sabbath records, is actually a pretty diverse album: It covers a lot of ground from the fast heavy metal of "Trashed" and "Digital Bitch" over the rocking "Hot Line" and bluesy "Keep It Warm" to the pounding heavy and evil "Disturbing the Priest" and "Zero the Hero" and the somewhat weak power ballad "Born Again". Throw in the two interludes and you have rock-solid proof to show to anyone who would tell you that "all Black Sabbath sound like the same".
Comparing Gillan to his predecessor Dio, as well as his successor Martin would not be entirely fair as both of those had a better production (and neither of them were stoned). Speaking of production, the production of Born Again has been bashed by many, but it's really not that bad. Sure, it can sound a little muddy at times, but to call it a major detractor would be to overreact (but then again, I listen to Darkthrone - compared to that, this is a stellar production!).
+ Iommi's still got it: Many awesome guitar solos.
+ Gillans screams in "Disturbing the Priest"
+ The doomy, gloomy depths of Zero the Hero.
- "Digital Bitch" is annoying and hurts my ears!
- "Born Again" gets too slow towards the end.
- The production may sound a bit muddy to some.
Bottom line: If you buy this, don't expect the Second Coming of Dio or Ozzy. Expect a very strange experience, which may be appealing or appalling.
With ‘Born Again’ Sabbath’s career entered the realms of Salvador Dalí, things got really bizarre. The only rational explanation for this album was indeed the actual reason for its inception; Geezer, Tony and Ian got pissed as newts in the Dog and Bollock, and then decided;
Black Sabbath + Deep Purple= ‘Machine Head’ and ‘Master of Reality’ times infinity!
Well, not quite. But ‘Born Again’ was one hell of a hangover and what exactly do you do when you get drunk? Wear a lampshade as a hat, kiss un-shapely women, direct traffic and converse with trees, exactly, perfectly normal. Ian ‘flash bastard’ Gillan goes and joins Black Fucking Sabbath…some people have all the luck, aw well, bet he doesn’t have a redwood, oak and a pine as acquaintances.
Even twenty-five years on, some people have difficulty with ‘Born Again’, with tracks called ‘Stonehenge’, ridiculous stage props and being, well, a Black Sabbath album. Johnny Rock Press will no doubt compare this strange brew to Spinal Tap. Indeed, ‘Born Again’ is often considered quite the shit sandwich of Sabbath albums. But to these ears at least, ‘Born Again’ is something quite splendid, a musical marriage between two of rock’s heaviest giants…but being a showbiz marriage it didn’t last long. Still, ‘Born Again’ to those who “get it” is a true cult classic and the epitome of an oddity.
Sounds great eh? Well, not as such. ‘Born Again’ is a superb album and strange enough to keep the most ardent Sabbath nerd, i.e. me (although, I’m sure Dio would call me a Neon Knight or something), occupied for hours…much like a jigsaw of Tony Martin getting fired by phone. But it doesn’t sound great; the production is about as clear as the sea at sunny Scarborough! Apparently according to Gillan, the album sounded fantastic until a certain bass player (Jo Burt? Gordon Copley? Who could it be?) decided he didn’t find the bass sound to his liking and then fucked up the mix to the point where we get, ‘Born Again: A Bass Players Production!’ Unsurprisingly, the bass still sounds fine, but we get Iommi’s muddiest sound ever and Bill Ward gets the dreaded 80’s snare sound. But if the production is too much for you to handle there’s a bootleg available on the interweb or in the Black Sabbath rarities section of local library that has the album in much clearer, albeit raw form. Actually, I find this strange murky dated sound has given ‘Born Again’ even more of its quirky drunken charm and truly “fuck off, ‘Paranoid’ only fans” and “fuck you, Dio only fans” vibe as ‘Born Again’ is truly for the tried and tested, dyed in wool Sabbath faithful…we are those who dream of what Tony Iommi had for breakfast in 1993, buy bootlegs but still wonder what they sounded like at the next gig and know the name of Tony Martin’s orthodontist!
‘Trashed’ gets things off to a roaring good start. It’s dafter than the last stop on a pub crawl and aptly enough, its lyrical theme suits its inherent daftness, Gillan’s drunken exploits in Bill Ward’s new car which he flipped and sent into a man-made lake, indeed, the bitch was trashed. Musically, it’s a twisted take on ‘Highway Star’, whereas the old Purple classic was the sound of a precise automobile speeding down a German autobahn, ‘Trashed’ is more of a lumbering speed metal song, not so much precise engineering as the sonic equivalent of a bloke, on the wrong side of thirteen pints of Cider with a Madras burning in his lap, driving down winding rural roads with a blithe, devil-may-care attitude. The song also functions as a introduction to Gillan’s vocal histrionics combined with the Sabbath full-throttle roar, if you don’t like this peculiar mix, you’re certainly in for an uneasy thirty five minutes!
‘Disturbing the Priest’ is one of the most unique songs the band have done and all the better for it. Atmospherically heavy, it’s a clear continuation of the “Songs wot scare people” theme, with the;
‘You just gotta listen to the night at the ending of the day…’ section being spooky, with a deft touch of homemade Englishness…you know, paper mâché zombies and what not. To the detractors of this album it could come across as somewhat of a pastiche of the genre with its stop-start riffs and harmonics (sounds like a precursor to nu-metal, fret not, it isn’t), but I can’t help but be enthralled in this spooky, hazy kitsch. Lyrically, the song can be taken quite literally; the Sabs were blasting away in rehearsals that disturbed a local priest in his daily duties of molestation, penance and exorcisms, so he asked the Sabbath boys to turn it down. Gillan being the agreeable and friendly chap he is (unlike that Blackmore…cor wot a twat) met the clergyman over a drink and as such the song takes a more universal tone on the nature of religion. It’s certainly a interesting listen and shows Gillan adopting an approach that is more in keeping with Sabbath that his more down to earth past.
‘Zero the Hero’ shows a simple almost obvious layering of ideas; it’s not rocket science but by God is it heavy with the skulking main riff, a dramatic tri-tone and a bent squealing note. This once again proves why Tony Iommi is the quintessential metal guitarist, it’s his unadorned ideas executed with intensity and conviction. The main riff itself is a monolithic slab of creeping sludge, this is one of the moments where the production actually works in the albums favour, the unbridled heaviness of the main riff is emphasised by the sludgy murky production. It’s a similar effect that Venom had on ‘Black Metal’, albeit this time it’s less intentional. Geoff Nicholls’ eerie, phantasmal keyboards really shine on this one. ‘Digital Bitch’ is a fun little rocker and yes, they rhymed bitch with rich. Musically it’s probably the most clear-cut track the band had done since ‘Paranoid’. The chorus reminds me of punk rock staple ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’…by um Green Day… as they do share the same root, 4th, 5th chord progression played to a very similar rhythm. Interestingly enough, this is the first of two anti-Arden songs Sabbath did, the ‘Digital Bitch’ being Sharon Arden herself. I refuse to call her Osbourne, as she is not married to Ozzy so much as enslaved him in some sort of capitalistic relationship, Sharon keeps Ozzy alive and famous for the price of his soul and the spawning, clothing and feeding of what can be only deemed grey and plastic retards – bloated troglodyte figures that bear little resemblance to the once beautiful man of John Osbourne. ‘Digital Bitch’ is one of the albums modest tracks, but again it had no great aspirations other than rocking and warning of the she-devil that is Sharon ‘ZOG’ Arden.
The title track itself is again something extraordinary from Sabbath, a power ballad in the truest sense of the term. Gillan really soars in the chorus, his vocals here may not be quite as staggering as the holy trinity of Purple albums were a decade before, but still something quite astounding, especially the way those unearthly banshee wails are harmonised. Again, the ropey production can be seen as working to this songs advantage the murky phased guitar sound gives a sense of undeniable pathos and heightens the poignancy of Gillan’s introspective lyrics. Although somewhat introspective they do have an open-ended quality for the listener to interpret for instance:
‘Look at the prince of evil, fighting for his life’ for me could be seen as a comment on Bill Ward, a prince of evil, as one of the original Sabbath members. Although those who know Bill know he’s far from evil but rather a lovely, caring man (this is all from second hand sources, I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting any of Sabbath’s plethora of members). But indeed, Bill’s alcoholism had left him in a desperate state, with his mental well being exacerbated by the fact he was living somewhat of a lie still playing in Sabbath without his best friend Ozzy. A funny yet tragic anecdote of this was that Tony; proud of Bill’s six months of sobriety, went to get him a plaque. Upon return, Tony found Bill had panicked and got himself drunk. But again, these lyrics are completely open to the listener’s own meaning, to someone else they could mean simply that Count Duckula is a sweet cartoon… which, if my childhood memory serves me right, it is.
As you’ll have noticed I haven’t really made many comparisons to Sabbath’s other albums, that because ‘Born Again’ is a complete curio to the Sabbath canon and as such rather incompatible to say the Dio and Ozzy eras which preceded it or the Martin era. Especially compared to the power metal friendly Dio albums ‘Born Again’ comes across as a particularly filthy and brash album lacking the finesse of ‘Heaven and Hell’ and ‘Mob Rules’, but again that’s right up my street. ‘Born Again’ is a situation strangely reminiscent to Motörhead’s ‘Another Perfect Day’. A heavy metal stalwart takes aboard a high profile member to replace a fan favourite with musically fascinating results which have been misinterpreted by critics for decades as some great failure, when in fact a great deal of the bands fan base love these albums in all their bizarre, unique quirkiness. If sales alone were anything to go by one could suggest ‘Born Again’ went down well with fans, as it was the band’s biggest seller since 1975’s ‘Sabotage’. Which is a testament to ‘Born Again’ and its resounding quality as back in ’83 it would have taken two people to get this onto the turntable… yes, it is that heavy!
‘Born Again’ is somewhat of the ugly duckling of Sabbath albums and to some is about as appealing as actually birthing that impish baby on the sleeve… but in full Sabbath fanboy form I fucking love it. Again, if anyone’s keeping track this was a far superior product to Ozzy’s ‘Bark at the Moon’ (3 – 0 already!) and the artwork is garishly fantastic!
While most people were introduced to Black Sabbath by any of their first six albums, or maybe their most popular compilation: We Sold Out Souls For Rock And Roll or maybe even Heaven And Hell. Few were introduced by the band or even like the albums released after the departure of Ronnie James Dio. I was introduced to Sabbath with this album when the song 'Digital Bitch' was played on the radio and I think this is a mighty fine way to be introduced to the band, as this is the closest album to their most harraled releases. Dark, Morbid and horribly woeful, set against the back drop of a very plain and dated production job. While some will complain that the tracks are bleak and boring or even lifeless, the material is actually quite strong and direct. One only needs to look at the album cover and title to be reminded why this album is saturated in darkness and gloom.
Trashed kicks the album off with a fast jagged riff reminiscent of "Neon Knights" or "Turn Up The Night" along with Ian's ear-piercing scream to remind us that Sabbath was making a strong statement here. The lyrics are direct and very literal with a tale about heavy drinking and driving that ended up with him trashing a car. The track is pure energy with a killer riff by Tony and fiery vocals from Ian.
Much like "E5150" on Mob Rules, or even 'Embryo' on Master Of Reality. "Stonehenge" is used as a segue into the next 'full' track and was also used as the band's intro on the tour and leads into..... Disturbing The Priest, which is perhaps the worst song on the album. It's a throbbing mid tempo number with sludgy riffs, slow atmospheric sections with contrast as we get plenty of evil laughter and demonic cries mixed with some quiet singing. Bill's awesome drum work is the true highlight here
Like previously pin-pointed on "Stonehenge", the next track, "The Dark" serves as the intro to... Zero The Hero, which is probably the best known track on the album. Tony's primitive chugging riff, which could have easily fit on Paranoid or Master Of Reality, is underlined nicely by Geezer's driving bass. It does become quite repetitive and the idea is beaten into the ground by the length of track, standing at seven-and-a-half minutes. The solo in the middle is pure bliss, complete with cautious effect pedals to add to the snarling tone set forth by Geezer's almost-psychedelic bass line.
Digital Bitch is a fast-paced rocker with lyrics denouncing the idea of someone, whom is born into riches, having any kind of integrity. This is one of the better tracks on the album, and the ending with Ian screaming "BITCH BITCH BITCH!" over and over gives this a great atmospheric feel. The verses head bang with authority and Bill is drumming like a madman. Apart from "Thrashed" this is a very catchy song.
Hot Line is another fast-paced rocker, with a riff borrowed by so many since 1983, with it's amazing simplicity. Geezer has a grooving bass line, Tony has two awesome solos, Bill's drumming seems quite influenced by Jazz and Ian screams like a banshee, especially on the end, which seem to meet brand new heights. This is also a better song on the album and gives further proof that the second side is far better than the first.
Keep It Warm is the obligatory ballad in the same tradition of Heaven And Hell and Mob Rules, ending with a slower song, but this time it's a down tempo ballad. This is a heartfelt tune with a bluesy feel providing a sense of sadness and understanding for a loved one. A nice downtime kind of track to end the album.
You may notice that the title track is not in the correct spot and this is due to me thinking it would have made a better closer, not just because of it's atmosphere but because it's the best song on the album. I will even go as far as saying this is the third best song on the bands career, only bested by the masterpieces, "Nightwing" and "Cloak And Dagger" from the "Headless Cross" album.
All I can say for those who haven't heard this track is: Make sure your not depressed when hearing this woeful tales, as it goes through phase after phase of pessimism. Feel your romantic hardships brought to life as you are hammered by the pounding drums. Feel your buried rage manifest with the aggressive screamed chorus, your heart becomes the target of the 'Mutant Gods' as they 'control your mind and use your mind for fortune and fame. You'll likely find your freedom become bloodless, like 'Grey and plastic retards all floating in circles'. And as your soul drifts admist the 'Fruits of new sensations", the final verses cement the evil deeds with a riff cast forth straight from the depths of Hell. I'm not kidding, the way this track flows is one of the most morbidly beautiful successes in music ever! And remember, this was released in 1983, not 2004, when all music is about is life being 'shitty'. The song ends with a minute and a half guitar solo that is so beautifully meticulous and precise, it's gut wrenching and sorrowful, yet brightly optimistic in it's delivery. Pure slab of taste and class, never bested by anything that preceded it.
Born Again is Sabbath's darkest, thickest, most evil-sounding slab of metal with Ian adding a maniacal vocal by screaming, howling, and wailing like he's possessed. The classic Sabbath core return to their bluesy roots of the Ozzy-era albums. It's too bad this lineup fell apart, as it probably would have resulted in more great albums. But the only good thing about this being a 'One Off' album is it EVENTUALLY led to the Tony Martin Era, which is arguably the greatest era Sabbath has/will ever see.
Black Sabbath's 1983 album "Born Again" is possibly the most controversial album of the band's lengthly career. After Ronnie James Dio's departure the band enlisted former Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan. Personality-wise Mr. "Jesus Christ Superstar" was an inappropriate choice but vocally Gillan is known as one of the best vocalists in hard rock and his powerful voice was certainly befitting Sabbath's legendary status.
The sole studio output from "Deep Sabbath," as their detractors have called them, begins with "Trashed," a high-speed cautionary tale against the evils of drunk driving. Gillan's powerful high-pitched screams are introduced quickly, and guitarist Tony Iommi lays down some heavy riffing on this one and finishes off with a smouldering guitar solo. "Instrumental track "Stonehenge" is one of underrated keyboardist Geoff Nicholls' best contributions, and segues into "Disturbing the Priest," the album's most evil-sounding track. More than twenty years later this one still sends a chill up one's spine. Geezer Butler breaks out the bass effects for "The Dark," leading into the classic track "Zero The Hero." One of Sabbath's most memorable riffs, this one has seemingly been copped by many artists, including Danzig and Gun's And Roses.
Side two (yes, I still have my well-worn cassette copy) begins with "Digital Bitch," featuring more great lead work from Iommi. Title track "Born Again" is a beautifully melodic song and one of Gillan's best vocal performances since his early days in Purple, singing spot-on in his upper range. The heaviness kicks back in with "Hot Line," one of the "sexier" numbers on the album and finishes with midpaced rocker "Keep It Warm" which features Bill Ward's patented "thumping" drum style.
Critics have "trashed" this album for it's lack of production value. I beg to differ and in my opinion this is the best production sound of any album ever recorded! Supposedly recorded in a haunted castle, the album's sound perfectly captures the doomy and mysterious mood of the music. Also reviled (even by some band members) is the album cover artwork. I love that little devil and think the artwork was perfectly suited to Sabbath's often controversial music.
Sabbath "purists" may hate this, but this "forgotten" album has some great tunes that should not be overlooked by any Sabbath fan. It is sad that these songs are no longer played in the live setting, but the music of this short-lived lineup is some of the best and heaviest in Sabbth's history.
It’s pretty much an accepted fact that after the exodus of Ronnie Dio and Vinnie Appice that the line-up of Black Sabbath was thrown into a state of disarray. However, this time period also reveals the true master and driving force behind the Sabbath machine, Tony Iommi. If he had not been in the band, you would have had just another stoner group who would have been passed off as a slightly angrier version of the hippie scene. “Born Again” was recorded by all 3 of the instrumentalists that founded Black Sabbath (although Bill Ward didn’t last for the following tour), but the one who really gives this album its unique charm is the man throwing out the memorable guitar riffs.
For those of you whom are not historical buffs when it comes to Black Sabbath, Ian Gillian was quoted as stating “I was the worst singer Black Sabbath ever had”. To this I only agree in the respect that other than Glenn Hughes, whom is not considered by most to be of an era where Sabbath existed, he lasted the shortest and thus didn’t contribute as much as Ozzy, Ronnie Dio, and Tony Martin did. However, when it comes to his singing, his voice was not at all out of step with what Sabbath does, his banshee wails were right at home in the post-Dio era where Sabbath was more defined by it’s epic pursuits rather than the politically/horror charged elements that defined the Ozzy era. The only thing that really contradicted with Sabbath was Ian Gillian’s image and his inability to see the humor in the album cover they got.
The songs on this album are highly varied, thus the overall flow of this album is more comparable to the mid-70s Ozzy era (Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Sabotage), rather than their more recent work. You have your more straight-forward rock metal tracks such as “Hotline” and “Keep it Warm”, featuring some inventive pentatonic riffs and some rather sexually charged lyrics. You’ve also got some rather interesting short instrumentals in “Stonehenge” and “The Dark”, both of which provide rather unusual yet powerful sounding segues into the two most memorable tracks on here. You’ve got your more up tempo metal tunes such as the amazingly heavy yet lyrically lighthearted “Trashed” and the equally fun yet slightly less heavy track “Digital Bitch”. We also have what resembles a slow ballad in the title track, although the vocal performance and heavier sections put a more agitated feel to it.
We have two songs on here that, unlike the former ones, are groundbreaking in their makeup. “Zero the Hero” is a rather brilliant riff monster that clocks in at over 7 minutes and features some rather evil sounding keyboard work. This formula to song creation would be brought back in some ways with such tracks as “Anno Mundi” and “The Eternal Idol”. And the highlight of the album “Disturbing the Priest” is an interesting hybrid of the evil sounds that had disturbed the priests back in the early 70s and the epic feel of the Ronnie Dio era. Ian Gillian’s wails, contrary to what other critics may say, are not in any way out of place on this song, nor are the evil laughs that he throws in at the end.
Although this would otherwise be a perfect album, we do have 2 rather noticeable flaws. The primary one is the production, which is a bit too heavy on the drums and doesn’t bring out the heavy guitars enough at times. This is most obvious on a few parts of “Zero the Hero” and “Digital Bitch”, though in general I think the production of the drums is a bit overdone. The other flaw is that although Ian Gillian doesn’t sing any sour notes on here, at times he sounds like he’s slightly behind rhythmically. This must have been the result of hearing loss when Ritchie Blackmore pointed his maxed out amplifier right in Gillian’s direction during their lengthy tours in Deep Purple together.
In conclusion, this is a very misunderstood release that I would hypothesize is the victim of core Ozzy fans ripping on an album without even listening to it carefully. The songs on here are strong, as are the individual performances contained within. I can recommend this album to fans of Sabbath’s Dio and Martin era catalog, as it tends a bit more towards those eras, although we have some obvious references to the early days of the band. Fans of Power Metal may find some things to like, and certain pockets of the Doom base may like this album at moments.
This album gets bashed alot, which makes no sense at all because it rocks! Of course, it really isn't traditonal Sabbath at all, as 1983 saw the introduction of frontman Ian Gillian of Deep Purple fame, and he did bring some of the influence with him, which makes for a great album. Now the only 2 bad points of the album here is low production, and the fact that its short on actual songs, with "Stonehenge" and "The Dark" just being creepy noise tracks, not that theres anything wrong with them, they give off a great feel and do great on the album, but there's still room for a few more songs to be fit on here. Also, there's no real big deal about the cover on this, it looks pretty cool & evil, and is far from offensive unless your a complete dumbass (sorry Gillian, but it's not appalling, if anything it looks like it came from Monty Python).
With that said, the music on here is great, the riffs are heavy and tear along, Iommi solos at his best, Gillian's voice fits very well, and Geezer's bass thunders along right with Ward's drums, and for the most part this is a great dark & heavy album. The album starts off with the excellent rocker "Trashed" that has a great driving riff and it just really rocks out, one of my favorites. It then moves into the above-mentioned "Stonehenge" which serves as a great connector piece into "Disturbing The Priest" which is a great heavy classic doom song that has some nice guitar playing in it. Gillian's laughter is a little laughable after awhile though. The lyrics here are great though, and very true. "The Dark" serves as another piece that segues into "Zero The Hero" which has a great riff, and is just a classic song. The solo's are great on all of these songs and it just leaves you wanting more. This would be the end of side 1 on the original album.
"Digital Bitch" is the next song up and the songs rocks along, however the lyrics are a little silly. The title track is a ballad, and a great one at that, Gillan's vocals sound excellent on this going from low to high notes. "Hot Line" is another song that rocks along with some nice riffs. The album closes with "Keep It Warm" which is another slower song whose lyrics arent really typical for Sabbath, but its a good song and ends the album well.
I strongly suggest buying this album, it ranks among their best, and is really the last excellent Black Sabbath album (there's a few good ones to follow, but they never really came back full force), you'll love it.
According to the notes in the booklet, Ozzy was quoted saying that "Born Again is the best album Black Sabbath recorded after my departure." This just further proves what a fuckin moron Ozzy really is. Born Again is not a good album and is FAR from being the best Sabbath release after Ozzy. It may not be Sabbath's worst release of the post-Ozzy era (that 'award' goes to 1995's Forbidden) but it is one of the worst.
Born Again, Sabbath's 11th studio album, introduces their third vocalist into the line-up. This time we get Ian Gillian of Deep Purple fame. I was never big on Gillians vocals when he was in Purple but I still went into this album with an open mind.
The fist thing that shocked me about the album was the shoddy production. What the hell happened? It's as if the producer fell asleep at the mixing wheels dreaming he was producing Heaven and Hell instead. Shit, I've heard band demos that have better and more balanced mixing than this....and I even have the remastered release!
One thing that did not shock me was Gillian's vocals. Like I expected they just didn't grab me. His voice just doesn't have the charisma or range of Dio. His performance also just reeks of "session vocalist" like he was just hired as a temporary fill-in so he didn't give the album his all. Sorry, but when it comes to all five vocalists that have sang under the Sabbath logo, Gillian is at the bottom of the barrel. I have heard though, but have not witnessed, that Gillian has a good stage presence and maybe that was what Sabbath was going for instead of vocal performance.
Gillian isn't the only one at fault as Tony Iommi also seems to be on auto-pilot. His simple but memorable riffs are like small pimples compared to the volcanoes present on Sabbath's past releases. The songs themselves lack substance. It is noticeable in the songwriting that Dio was not present to help write as the music is just average to flat. The album opener Trashed is a decent rocker and so is the more moody Disturbing the Priest, but the rest of the album is just poor. The lyrics are just for the most part lame. Ironically I can barely stand the albums one single Zero the Hero. My finger just inches towards the skip button when that track starts up.
I apparently am not the only one feels this way as the band themselves have talked about their disappointment with the release. Gillian even ended up leaving the band over the outcome of the album, which was just fine with me (bring on Glenn Hughes and Tony Martin!).
The album may not have impressed me, but the cover art made me chuckle. I found it fitting for Sabbath's British humor. People who are offended by it (as Gillian was) need to get a grip. It's just a shame the album ended up still born.
Overall if you like Sabbath and were wanting to check out material from the band after Ozzy, then get the Dio era albums Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules or the Tony Martin era albums Headless Cross and TYR. Leave Born Again as one of the last....
Disturbing the Priest
Zero the Hero
Okay first off, I actually like the cover of Born Again. The devil-baby thing. I mean, sure, it just screams Spinal Tap, but it’s still pretty cool. Come on, it’s got yellow fingernails! Yellow fingernails, can you believe it? And yellow teeth! It must be a lifelong smoker.
“Trashed” kicks things off with a bang, but Ian Gillan’s scream soon comes in to ruin things. I mean, he’s not all bad, but this scream is just awful. The lyrics to this song are actually really cool (about drunk driving of course!), and there are some rockin riffs if you ask me. The production is really really really really cheesy. REALLY cheesy. It’s just so… eighties! And you can’t hear the bass at all. But whatever, “Trashed” is alright. I have the feeling that if it weren’t for the mediocre singing, this would be an all-time classic. Imagine Ozzy singing this. Or even Tony Martin (I would say Ronnie Dio, but I really can’t picture him singing this song). And what the hell is “there was no tequila, there was no tequila”? Well I’m bashing this song a lot, but I actually like it. I give it 6/10, it would be higher with a more competent singer.
Next off is “Stonehenge” which doesn’t count, and then “Disturbing the Priest”. The laughing. The laughing! What is with the laughing!? No but seriously, the laughing sucks. Otherwise, this is one of the album’s better songs. Some interesting melodic stuff going on, although Gillan again wrecks it. His voice seems old and tired compared to his earlier Deep Purple stuff, but even the old Ian Gillan would suck with Sabbath. It just wasn’t meant to be, I guess. Everything else about the song is actually quite good, including a powerful chorus, and an interesting part without guitar. But all in all, I can’t really recommend this song for all audiences, because the singing sucks so bad. 5/10
“The Dark” is another one that doesn’t count, and then comes “Zero the Hero”. The Cannibal Corpse cover of this song is better than the original. Number One way to know if you suck: Cannibal Corpse improved your song by covering it. The intro is cool though, with those ominous bells or whatever they are. In my opinion though, this song is Gillan’s most tolerable performance of the album. The chorus is surprisingly sing-a-long-able, and the overall sound of the song is a vast improvement from most of this album. The main driving riff is ultra-metallic sludge, very unlike anything Iommi and Butler had written before. The opening riff, which is repeated later in the song, is probably the best riff on the album, and it definitely has me headbanging. The guitar solo is decent, but too long with not enough ideas. It’s funny because the lyrics are about being mediocre, and sucking at life. Get it? Because the band sucks? It’s too bad this song is actually alright, because the joke doesn’t work as well. Ah well. 7/10
“Digital Bitch” has a sick main riff that is nearly ruined by the shoddy production. And by the shitty singing (are we noticing a trend here?). The chorus is fairly catchy, but gawd what awful lyrics. And Gillan needs to stop trying to do that power metal scream, because he can’t do it. This tries to be a hard rocker of a song, but the band doesn’t quite pull it off. Really, I feel bad for Iommi, Butler and Ward, because most of the song’s (and album’s) problems are not their fault. Meh. 4/10
“Born Again” is… *ugh*… a power ballad. Black Sabbath did just fine their whole career without doing power ballads, so I do not know why they decided to start. Those two chords (i and VII, how original) really start to get annoying after awhile, and the melody just meanders. It feels like Ian Gillan is just making up this stuff as he goes along, words and tune. Did he just say “the gray and plastic retards”? Frankly I wouldn’t be surprised. Another boooring-ass solo from Iommi, and I’m yawning so wide I think my jaw might unhinge. It is 3:19 AM, but I have a feeling I’d still get tired listening to this during the day. I’ll give it one point for the first few seconds of the chorus, which actually sound decent. 1/10
“Hot Line” tries to be a rocker like “Voodoo” or “Lady Evil” or something, but of course… you guessed it! They can’t pull it off! Some more run-of-the-mill instrumentalism, blah blah blah. It gets one point because someone could conceivably do a decent version of this song. Someone else, I mean. 1/10
“Keep It Warm” opens with a decent riff actually. And Gillan sounds decent too! For a few seconds he sings Deep Purple style, but then soon relapses into his wannabe power-metal nonsense. So never mind. This song sucks. I guess I’ll give it a point for the first few seconds of the song, when you think it might be okay. Before you are sorely disappointed. 1/10
The first 3 songs on Born Again are actually pretty decent. The band wrote a few good songs, and the strength of those is enough to distract me from the bad singing and production. Actually, I’ve talked enough about the singing, and not enough about the production. The production BLOWS. The bass is muddy at best, and inaudible at worst. The drums sound very processed and unnatural, so much that it may as well be a drum machine. And overall, the whole sound is very distant – you feel like you’re listening to it from far away. So throw in a few more downright shitty songs, with the same problems that plagued the ones that actually had potential. You do the math. (Note: Math already done. See heading.)
"Born Again" marks the last of the great "doom"-era Sabbath records. Building still on the Ward-Iommi-Butler line-up that was still producing the familiar "Sab-crunch" before the band decided to drift into a more "modern" sound. The only new element here is a big one, being Deep Purple screamer Ian Gillan! While the mix may have seemed odd, Gillan pushed the band back into their 1970's prime in terms of writing and provided a multi-octave vocal assault to many of the classic tracks they produced together. Sadly, the production is anyhow as disjointed as a 1970's release but this matters little. The grooves, riffs and lyrics all work together to form a couldron of occult weirdness that Sabbath had been lacking since "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath". For me, this is the last of the great and truly "Sabbath" era recordings before the band went wandering into an enjoyable, but entirely different style of music.
The feature tracks on this include the epic "Born Again", the howling "Disturbing the Priest" and the doom-lurge of "Zero the Hero". The lyrics were more relevant to the world (in classic Sab form) than they had been with Dio and the mood reflects real discontent with life, women and religion that brought the band BACK to what they did best. (That being the observation and frustration with the world around them.) Black Sabbath delivered the goods on ALL of the songs and brougth metal to a point of street-cred that the Dio era had lost them. While not perfect in promotion and production...the songs on this record were the best suited to Sabbath since the "Sabotage" record. (Ozzy could have easily taken part in this record as the lyrics/music stood out as being in that era.)
This would be the last time in a long time that Sabbath held true to their original vision. From then on out they would expiriment with more "gothic" styles of metal and they would do so well. Sadly though, the name Sabbath would lose it's original meaning and this record stands (until the reunion) as the last time Sabbath was seen as they were born and meant to be seen.
It's a classic indeed...
"Born Again" has some of the best metal EVER released lying in it's wax grooves (or plastic if you're digging it on CD). Despite the disorganized production it should be said that NOBODY can deny the howling fury locked in these songs. Ian Gillan could only have done it once...but he did it well.
BUY OR DIE!
Born Again is often mentioned as one of the worst, if not the worst, of all of Black Sabbath's recording. This is a very unfair and misguided judgement since there is a LOT of prejudice against it for various reasons. First, Ozzy Osbourne is not the singer, that in itself is enough for many fans to disregard any album that doesn't contain the "classic" lineup, this I find absurd. Second, it follows two fantastic studio albums, Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules, both of which raised the bar for Black Sabbath musically. Third, the absolutely horrid, almost cartoony album cover, that tries to look "evil" but ends up looking corny. Fourth, Ian Gillan's vocals which sound almost black metal in nature in some parts as he really shrieks and howls, much different from Ronnie James Dio's classic metal style. And last, but definetly not least, the main reason this albums is considered crap: the sound mix. Rumor has it that bassist Geezer Butler tampered with the mix for some reason, some say to bring up his bass parts, this is unconfirmed. Also the drum sound is very faint and lacking in power.
But aside from all that, lets focus on the music at hand. This is NOT a bad album. Certainly it's no Sabbath Bloody Sabbath but there is a lot of great stuff here. There is a lot of variety, from the fast paced Thrashed to the doomy epic song Disturbing the Priest (the album's best track IMO). Also of note is the slow paced, atmospheric Born Again which Ian Gillan sings with much passion. Zero The Hero has a great hypnotic riff with an almost industrial feel. All of Sabbath's trademarks are here crushingly heavy riffs of Tony Iommi, the occult-tinged lyrics and the overall doomy feel. This would be the only album with Ian Gillan (he left to rejoin Deep Purple) and from here onward there would be other singers. Born Again remains as a very unique work in the Sabbath discography since it resembles nothing the band ever did before or after.
After six great outings with Ozzy, and two more with Ronnie Dio, Sabbath seemed nearly invincible. Some people might have been sceptical, but hey if one Ritchie singer worked why shouldn’t another? Well, Joe Lynn Turner definitely wouldn’t have fit, but that’s beside the point. So enter Ian Gillan, preternaturally gifted Deep Purple screamer.
Imagine, a combination of the first two metal bands ever! Well, imagine no longer, because here’s is Born Again to rock your world! Err, maybe not. Problem is, Born Again is terrible. We’re talking worst Sabbath album yet, with maybe “Technical Ecstasy” challenging it. And that artwork…dear lord. Some of the worst in rock history.
And why is it so terrible? A number of reasons. For a start, the mixing. Gillan has sworn up and down that the original mixes were great, before Geezer got his paws on them and cranked up the bass. Whatever the reason, the result is a noxious ball of toxic sludge that swallows any memorable songs here and belches them out as plain crap.
Gillan is obviously not really feeling it here, as if he just can’t get in touch with the traditional Sabbath doom and gloom. Tony sounds bored out of his skull, and the whole thing is just bleh. Oh, and the songs themselves? What can I say, just read the titles. “Digital Bitch”, “Keep it Warm”, “Zero the Hero”…come on folks. There are a few nearly good songs here (“Trashed”, “Disturbing the Priest”) but this attempt at extremity is no “Painkiller” (song, not beleaguered album). No surprise that “Stonehenge” and its accompanying live centerpiece is the basis for one of Spinal Taps greatest moments.
It’s like they decided to try to out-heavy everyone else, and as a result they sunk to the absolute bottom. This is a synthetic version of heavy, no Saint Vitus pure and unadulterated doom, just knock-off’s of the Dio era played way too low, Kyuss without the inspiration.
Really, it’s no wonder after extreme metal failed Tony went with AOR. And you know who sung on Seventh Star? Glenn Hughes, another Ritchie Blackmore singer (a member of Purple mk.III record).
The 3 "big" Sabbath albums to many people are Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Master of Reality and Paranoid. Personally, I think if you're gonna own 3 Black Sabbath albums only, get this, Volume 4 and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. These three are absolute essentials, and this album is a fucking monster.
People who don't like Ozzy-era Sabbath should seriously still check this out, Ian Gillan is an awesome singer, the music is very good chunky heavy metal, great lead work too. The album has it's doomier moments like Disturbing the Priest and Zero The Hero which have really huge guitar riffs and a "big" sound, then there's catchy heavy metal with a bouncy tempo like Digital Bitch and Hot Line. One of my fave Sabbath ballads, Born Again, is on here too, and it's excellent.
The lead work is actually quite similar to Ritchie Blackmore's in places. Tony seems to throw in his whammy bar and a few licks Blackmore could have used. As well as Ian's yelling in places, there's a distinct Deep Purple vibe. But the rest of the music is just great heavy metal done the Sabbath way. Awesome guitar riffs.
So yeah, anyone who gave up on Sabbath after Ozzy or anyone who thinks all Black Sabbath albums sound like the ones with Ozzy need to give this a listen, because it's a fantastic album. The album cover is a little, well, shit but the music is absolutely amazing.
Another great Sabbath album - this time with Ian Gillan on vocals. Maybe it didn't work out personality-wise, but his vocals are absolutely PERFECT for the band (find some bootlegs from '83 tour and hear him nail Ozzy and Dio classics as well - only Halford has done a better job all-around singing all eras of Sabbath!)
"Trashed" is pretty nice speed metal to start the album. A few hideous shrieks, before the whole song moves along very quickly, the vocals strung together over the riffs, complementing each other perfectly, before the slightly slower middle break comes in, and then the solo. Nice song, the best on here.
"Stonehenge" is a bit of an introduction that leads into "Disturbing the Priest". Now this song is fucking insanely evil. Gillan sounds like a man possessed by three or four above-average demons at the same time. Very heavy riffs as well, this is yet another classic. THIS is the sound Sabbath were trying to go for with Ozzy on vocals - they got it on Sabotage, and they came back with a vengeance here.
"Zero the Hero" is the next full song (after another little interlude) - the lyrics aren't quite as evil this time around, but the song still crushes all in its path, spurred on by yet another demented Iommi creation.
"Digital Bitch" is the most controversial song here. It's "Heavy Metal Hamsters" - the lyrics are utter crap, but the music is totally great. This is pretty much power-metal for the most part, very nice with a cool solo too. Then, the title track. More fucking depraved insanity from the depths of Hell. Satan gives this two pitchforks up. Way up. Midpaced and brooding, without becoming bumbling and going nowhere.
"Hot Line" is again generally quicker, and very nicely done. Not a complicated thing, but throw in a nice solo and all is well. Then, "Keep it Warm" is the ballad, and sounds more like something Deep Purple would've done at some point in their careers. Nice way to close the album.
There really are no bad songs on here - a few aren't quite as great as some others, but nothing demands immediate skipping. Quite an underrated release.