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1978's "Never Say Die!" has the unfortunate connotation (along with 1995's "Forbidden") of being "The worst Black Sabbath album ever". It's easy to see why it gets tagged as such - 1978 was not a great year for Ozzy, Tony, Geezer and Bill, and to say that they were not functional as a band would be a massive understatement. Drugs and booze and apathy had slowly disintegrated them into a flailing morass of a unit, and the musical peaks and artistic integrity they'd achieved with "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" and "Sabotage" seemed like a dream from another life, rather than just a few short years in the rear view mirror. It seemed as if it was a completely different band, and in some regards, that's probably not far removed from the truth. Ozzy had briefly left the band in 1977 and flirted with the idea of fronting a different project, and even when he returned, it was clear his heart wasn't in it anymore. Tony Iommi had all but become supreme deity in the band due to the fact that somebody needed to steer the ship and nobody else had the capacity to manage it.
"Never Say Die!" has an end result of being a Sabbath album that's far more reliant on jazz and moderate rock than on the crushing heaviness and scary imagery that Black Sabbath had been known for previously. But Sabbath excelled as musicians no matter what imagery the album may or may not have had and with that understanding, it's not unpleasant.
What actually elevates it up from the dung heap is that Tony, Geezer and Bill were (and are to this day) fantastic musicians who excel at pretty much anything they do - so much so that, even when it's bad, it's still rather good. Nobody can argue that "Never Say Die!" lacks the intensity of previous efforts, and is musically a huge departure from the norm, but taken for what it is and not what it should be, it's a remarkably solid album full of consistent, easily listenable and enjoyable performances. Of course, one can also argue that Black Sabbath were never a band above experimenting with different musical styles from "Vol. 4" and beyond, and to that end, "Never Say Die!" certainly follows suit in that fashion.
Lyrically, the band offers a lot of different themes here - from looking to the horizon hopefully ("A Hard Road"), cryogenic nightmares ("Shock Wave"), the perspective of an aging dancer ("Air Dance", which features some amazing keyboard work by Don Airey), and a referential song about Ozzy and his at the time recently deceased father ("Junior's Eyes"), there's not a lot of evil themes to be found anywhere. The final tracks, "Breakout" and "Swinging the Chain", are full on jazz themed rockers and a surprising amount of fun to listen to!
Understanding that "Never Say Die!" is an appropriate record depicting where Sabbath's mindset was at that time is the first key to enjoying it. Most of the negativity that surrounds the album is maybe understandable to fans who would have liked more along the lines of a "Master of Reality" theme, but the vitriol that gets heaped on this particular outing infers that the musicianship and songwriting is sub-par, when that's certainly not the case. It's actually a step up from "Technical Ecstasy", even if it does follow the same direction as that album.
It's an interesting anomaly in the Black Sabbath discography, but it's definitely a benchmark album depicting what was to become a very critical time in their history and it's definitely worth the listen, provided you can take your goggles off. It's of course nowhere near what their first six albums were regarding quality, but it's also nowhere near as awful as some other reviews might lead you to think.
Never Say Die? Well to many Sabbath purists, this was the end of the band as Ozzy would sing his last tunes with Sabbath. Truly each musician carried on and Ozzy did his solo band but for decades this was the original Sabbath's swan song. A vast departure from the doom and gloom they had previously conquered.
Everyone who knows anything about metal knows this band and knows what the stood for. They are the metal genre but at the same time they are so much more. Ultra heavy riffs that crush your soul were just part of their arsenal. While Sabbath will always be more popular for that style, they were really a Swiss Army knife when it came to genre hopping and musical styles. Constantly evolving and changing. Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die are often put at the bottom of the pecking order when it comes to top Sabbath albums. It is easy to say that they don't sound like the band, but I see it as a metamorphosis or a change.
Never Say Die is far from a perfect album or even a classic album. It has its moments of brilliance and a great number of shock value when listening to it for the first time. Sabbath play a lot of jazz and they experiment with a lot of different sounds. This was a turbulent time for the band with Ozzy’s troubles and the entire band with their cocaine. It is surprising that they didn't just go into the studio and cut some typical Sabbath that they were known for. Despite all their problems, they fill the album with essentially what a Sabbath fan would never expect.
That is what is to be loved about this album, its surprise factor. You get jazzy instrumentals, like in Breakout which is so out of left field. Bill Ward sings on a blues track Swinging the Chain. The title track is the albums Paranoid which goes at a breakneck speed. There is a little doom and gloom with Shockwave but the song sounds more upbeat and happy. The album when you break it down is really a train wreck of musical styles but somehow it works. Whether they were trying to fit in with the times or just too drugged up to care, Never Say Die proves to be another unique offering from the four men from Birmingham. I don't think it deserves the panning that it has gotten over the years (I mean Ozzy even hates it!) but I would think only a hardcore Sabbath fan would want to own this. If you understand the phrase Black Sabbath were like the Beatles of heavy metal, then this may be for you!
In 1978, Black Sabbath released their final album with Ozzy (for a long time) with 'Never Say Die!'. The band pretty much continued their experimentation with "softer" rock songs, much like on 'Technical Ecstasy', which was released two years prior to 'Never Say Die!'. As we all know, Black Sabbath had always made sure not to release the same album twice, so if you think that 'Sabotage' and 'Technical Ecstasy' were experimental, then think again, because 'Never Say Die!' takes it a step further.
Gone are the doom and gloom that most associate Black Sabbath with, but it's hardly a surprise considering the fact that a number of albums before 'Never Say Die!' were much "merrier" to the listener's ears than the band's creepy and bluesy self-titled debut album, the more traditional heavy metal-orientated 'Paranoid', the fuzzy and stoned groove-fest that was 'Master of Reality', and then of course the more experimental and progressive albums that followed suit.
By the time Black Sabbath released 'Sabotage', which is a brilliant album mind you, the tight-knit chemistry and friendship was beginning to dwindle due to personal issues; mainly caused by a large consumption of alcohol and drugs. 'Technical Ecstasy' can probably be considered a minor bump on the road, when compared to the albums released in prior to it, so how did 'Never Say Die!' fare? Well, pretty much similarly, only tensions within the band climaxed before, during and after the recording and the release of the album.
Critics, and especially fans of the band, weren't pleased with the direction Iommi and co. were heading. That became evident with 'Technical Ecstasy', but it increased with 'Never Say Die!'. And to be honest, Black Sabbath sounded tired.
There is a great deal of experimentation going on here with the band tapping into different genres, and not only within rock and metal, but also jazz. "Air Dance" is the best example of that on 'Never Say Die!'; a song that has a bittersweet sounding guitar and a dreamy piano driving the song. There is a tranquil section in the middle of the song with a spacey atmosphere before it breaks into this jazzy part. It doesn't sound like Black Sabbath at all, if you think of their glory days, but this is certainly not a bad song. In fact, I really like it. It's a very unique song. Furthermore, there is a horn section and a pretty rad saxophone solo on the instrumental track "Breakout", which extends the non-hard rock/metal elements on this record. Take it or leave it.
Like I mentioned earlier, there isn't a whole lot of metal going on on this album. The title-track is a fun rocker with a lot of cheese on it. It's a fun listen for a while, but it quickly becomes somewhat mediocre. Oh, and the main-riff sounds eerily familiar to Thin Lizzy's classic "The Boys Are Back In Town"! This brings me to another point of this record. It seems like riff-lord Iommi has taken a back-seat on 'Never Say Die!'. The music doesn't necessarily revolve around his amazing axe-work. In fact, it seems like Ozzy's voice is the driving-force here with Geezer following-up with some pretty neat basslines. Take for instance the song "Junior's Eyes". It's a great song in my opinion with a psychedelic guitar riff that hovers behind a groovy bassline and Ozzy's vocals. It's got a pretty infectious chorus and a decent guitar-solo from Iommi, but doesn't re-capture what he had done on previous albums. Not even close. Bill Ward isn't left out either. His drumming is always good, and like on 'Technical Ecstasy', he handles the vocals on album closer "Swinging the Chain"; a very bluesy rocker, in which he does pretty well as the vocalist.
There are some more straight-forward rockers present on 'Never Say Die!', too. "Johnny Blade" features a Rainbow-like keyboard/synth and a decent, rocking main-riff, but ultimately it fails to live up to its potential, as the song drags on for a bit too long. The same can be said about "A Hard Road". Totally mediocre. But, "Shock Wave" is better and features perhaps the best guitar-work by Iommi on this album.
To conclude this review, I have to say that 'Never Say Die!' is a decent album. It doesn't deserve the bashing that it gets (much like 'Technical Ecstasy'). It's misunderstood in the sense that it probably wasn't even meant to be a metal album (again, much like 'Technical Ecstasy'), but unfortunately, the relationship between the individuals of the band had hit rock-bottom, so instead of the natural, free-flow type of chemistry, it seems like a lot of the songs, if not all, are somewhat forced. The music didn't come out naturally like before, and it probably felt more like a chore than a fun hobby to record 'Never Say Die!'.
Credit where it's due, though. Black Sabbath wanted to explore further and push boundaries, like they always did, but the combination of faltering friendships, and other bad things caused by drugs and alcohol, the band probably bit more off than they could possibly chew with this record. So, to me, 'Never Say Die!' is basically 'Technical Ecstasy pt. II', only slightly weaker.
By this point in Black Sabbath's career, the album title seems to be a pretty spot-on indication of the band themselves realizing they were losing it. The band's past work "Technical Ecstasy" wasn't necessarily a bad album, but in the context of following six classics of heavy metal, it could only disappoint. Of course, based on what I had heard from others, I was not expecting much different from "Never Say Die!", the last album Black Sabbath would do before being revived by the vocal talents of the late Ronnie James. Although it's relieving to know that Sabbath would yet release some great material with Dio, "Never Say Die!" is a whimper, arguably even less successful than "Technical Ecstasy". Once again, Black Sabbath may not be total goners here, but they might as well be; the band's eighth studio album is one that should be overlooked.
Stylistically, Black Sabbath developed and tweaked their sound quite a bit within a few years, exploring heavy metal, progressive rock, and everything in between. Although it was no surprise to hear Sabbath doing something new in "Technical Ecstasy", their new, more straightforward hard rock style was void of both the heaviness and sophistication that defined each earlier album. "Never Say Die!" continues this lackluster rock sound, although the music is arguably even worse off. It's no secret that Black Sabbath had been going through some problems over the years leading up to this, and it's evident that the constant arguing and drug excess had gone too far. Although Sabbath still manage to cobble together a functional collection of songs, the performance feels muffled, and the songwriting seemingly done out of obligation rather than inspiration.
"Johnny Blade" is a perfect example of how far Sabbath had fallen. Although it still shares Iommi's thick riffing style and Ozzy's nasal vocals in common with an album like "Paranoid", nothing really stands out as being impressive, or even that much enjoyable. Whether the blame may be pointed towards the muffled production or the paint-by-numbers approach to his rock riffs, Tony Iommi feels like a declawed lion here, his usual genius with the guitar clouded by ambivalence and 'x' number of different drugs they were taking at the time. Even Ozzy's vocals- which had blown me away only years earlier with his delivery on "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" and "Sabotage"- are strained and lifeless.
"Never Say Die!" is not without its merits, of course. In particular, the song "Air Dance" is a refreshing break from the boring hard rock formula, taking in some unique jazz structures in a piece which could have fit into the band's 'prog' era easily. "Break Out" is also an interesting song, taking the jazz approach further with a big band arrangement and brilliant saxophone solo. These moments feel very out-of-place in the context of an album that sounds as if the band had given up on trying to progress their music any further. "Heaven & Hell" would hear the band playing with a revived vigour. "Never Say Die!" is fortunately not the end for Sabbath, but it's a dismal way to end the classic line-up for one of the greatest bands in rock history.
If you listen to this album, you can tell the band was essentially done. Yeah, you gotta love the irony of the album title. Never Say Die was recorded under awkward circumstances what with Ozzy returning after he had quit and the rest of the band had already started material with a replacement. Every classic band is entitled to a bad album. Everyone knows how abysmal Technical Ecstasy is. I have not heard it nor have the slightest interest in doing so. I will take everyone's word for it. So they got their bad album out of the way with that one. But what about Never Say Die? I repeat: this band was headed for a divorce. It's one of those albums where you listen to the songs and it's clear the group have gone as far as they can go or should have gone. And Black Sabbath-the original- at this point in time did not go out on top, unfortunately. I won't say Sabbath hit rock bottom as far as quality is concerned (we'll save that for the preceding album and Forbidden) but make no mistake: this is a bad record with some interesting moments in the guise of perhaps(under the circumstances) a couple good songs. You could even say it's one of those "interesting" bad albums. And I'll do you one better: there are times when it even stands out for me as a sort of antithesis to Sabotage.
In my review for that album, I praised Sabb-tastic songs such as Symptom of the Universe and Hole In The Sky among a few others but was critical of it for being top heavy; several overwrought tracks put the band's winning streak of great heavy metal albums to rest. But it's still a damn good album. Conversely, Never Say Die is not. But the two or three better tracks on it are preferable to the lackluster songs on Sabotage. It bears mentioning that Black Sabbath is even more rock-ish on this album than was the case for their 1975 album. Much more. And that isn't a good thing this time around. Johnny Blade, Junior's Eyes and Shock Wave to name a few of the songs clearly are proof.
Never Say Die is the highlight song by a long shot and I guess you could say it was the last classic heavy/doom metal track recorded by the most well known lineup. But even this song is very classic rock sounding with an opening riff bearing more than a passing resemblance to Thin Lizzy. I do like the song though. It's a worthy hit and probably deserves a place on the setlist and Sabbath greatest hits releases. It may still count for that classic Sabbath sound and it's one of those upbeat doom-ish songs the band was also known for. It also must be said that it's alot less heavy than even a song like Changes.
It's after that opening track where things get really strange. You will still know you're listening to Black Sabbath in most of these songs. Tony Iommi's droning riffs and Ozzy's vocals in general make sure of that. Yet..wow, this album sure likes to pull the string and jerk the listener into a jazz/blues rock direction. I guess when the producer said "Hey guys, sober up, put that acid down, it's time to come back to Earth and record today", he didn't mean go back to playing as Earth!
I thought Over To You would be another pure heavy Sabbath track the way it started out-and it does remind me of Spiral City Architect-until..all that jazz! That's what the boys of Black Sabbath get with too much heroin and not enough LSD:that song. Things get progressively worse with Breakout; an improvisational boogie jazz romp that would make even a Deadhead accuse them of being goddamn hippies.
Swinging The Chain has Bill Ward taking vocals. So what does Bill Ward sound like? Surprisingly, not as bad as I imagined. As a matter of fact, it occurred to me upon hearing this that Wino from Saint Vitus really sounds alot closer to Bill Ward on Swinging The Chain than he does to Ozzy Osbourne. By the way, that band Vitus, recorded a song called Thirsty and Miserable which sounds somewhat like Swinging The Chain (but without the boogie rock chorus) which was a very fun song but better yet, lessened the overall blow of the badness of this one.
If you find yourself tempted to buy this album at the record store, buy it cheap. There are two good songs(the title track and Air Dance) but since Never Say Die crashes and burns, I recommend you get this mostly for the sheer tragicomic value.
Well, well. Here we have the last '70's Black Sabbath album, and the last studio offering to feature Ozzy Osbourne on vocals. Unfortunately Never Say Die! wasn't a particuarlly great way to end an era. It has it's moments, but overall, for me, this album is the worst Sabbath studio record.
For a start it's just way too commerical/experimental. Every so often a change in musical direction can work, but for the most part it's not the route to take. 1976's Technical Ecstasy proved that- although I do think that record is still superior to Never Say Die! Sabbath didn't learn from their mistakes here and instead continued the strange commercial direction but took it up another level.
Ozzy's vocals are probably a step up from the majority of his work with Sabbath, but overall they get actually get annoying in places. Tony Iommi's guitar work is pretty decent but at the same time is not what you'd think. If you were hoping for the trademark heavy riffing of songs like 'NIB', 'Symptom Of The Universe', 'Children Of The Grave' etc, think again. While from a technical point of view, Iommi's playing is fairly impressive in places, it's just not what your average Sabbath fan would want to hear.
There are some heavy riffs at times...but overall this really just doesn't sound like his trademark playing style. The actual guitar tone itself sounds a bit thin too. The title track is an up-tempo opener, but it doesn't sound like Sabbath. Plus, Ozzy get's on my nerves in the chorus. The main riff is alright I suppose, but the song structure is a bit too simple even for '70's Sabbath, and it gets annoying. Ah, 'Johnny Blade' is a nice follow-up. It starts off with some weird synths, but soon gets into some HEAVY riffing, great lyrics and vocals and interesting use of synths. This song is the main highlight of Never Say Die! in my opinion.
'Juniors Eyes' is actually pretty cool too. This song is very un-Sabbathy again, but the song writing is really great, with some nice guitars and bass backing from Geezer Butler. 'A Hard Road' is a down point- this song just gets on my nerves and is just too 'happy' and mainstream to work. 'Shock Wave' is a cool number however, the riff is cool and I love the lyrics. Another highlight. 'Air Dance' kicks off with an awesome melodic riff but then goes completely downhill with some stupid pianos (played by Don Airey). In my honest opinion, this is probably the least Sabbath-sounding song ever, and a waste of a great opening riff.
'Over To You' is forgettable and boring with some unispired guitar playing and more annoying pianos. This song sucks, plain and simple, and almost as un-Sabbathy as 'Air Dance'. 'Breakout' is a pointless jazzy (?!) instrumental that goes through one ear and out the other. The final track is 'Swinging The Chain' where drummer Bill Ward has another attempt at singing (he sang on 'It's Alright' from Technical Ecstasy'). This song is actually better than the previous few tracks but it's still nothing special and Bill is not a patch on Ozzy.
Never Say Die!, overall, is an average album. It's great at times, but just awful at other times. Ozzy left after this album and Sabbath got things right again in 1980 with Heaven & Hell, as we all know. Never Say Die! is far from essential Sabbath, and an album only recommended to die hard fans.
I can't believe this album is rated lower than Technical Ecstasy! Surely. I thought, people have more brains than to slough off this album as further evidence of Ozzy's decline and Sabbath's as well. I find this album to not only redeem the grotesque mistep of Technical Ecstasy but offers a view into a Sabbath that almost was. The band all play in top form, in ways they never had before, the album sounds livelier and fuller than its predecessor and it's still relegated to metal history's dustbin of record prejudice.
Sabbath doesn't get a lot of credit for being a progressive band. Indeed, held up against the legions of bands that invoke the famous Sabbath sound (the doom/stoner, downtuned guitar style so ubiquitous today) and without radioplay, Black Sabbath's true masterpieces go largely unnoticed. Songs like Fluff and Laguna Sunrise are the polar opposites of doom-and-gloom works like Into The Void or Electric Funeral and show that they were more than just a metal band or "The Godfathers of Doom". Black Sabbath albums progressed from lengthy blues-inspired jams to the infamous doom-sound until we reach Volume 4 and the creative lid is blown open. Here, they reached their peak sound, sort of like Opeth from MAYH through Blackwater Park. These albums saw more orchestration, an increased presence of keyboards and a very much matured sense of songcraft. The right combinations of life experience and drugs, basically.
After Sabotage, came the aforementioned crapfest known as Technical Ecstasy which coupled with the We Sold Out Souls best of, seemed to signal the downfall of the mighty. Ozzy was in and out of reality and Sabbath a lot these days and as the drama surrounding these times is well known, I think Never Say Die gets a bum rap. At first listen, it's a noticably different Sabbath that eschews its trademark stoner/doom sound for a lot of jazz, a little latin and some late 70s hard rock. There is a common theme of buildup and payoff in these songs with good riffs often giving way to great riffs like the breakdown in Johnny Blade or the money riff in Shock Wave. Never Say Die is a nonstop swinging rock song whilst A Hard Road is a blues paced rollicking sing-a-long.
Sabbath came full circle on this album as Never Say Die sports the most jazz influence since the self titled debut. Junior's Eyes' bass and drum fade in sound culled from some live jam, like something you'd here between songs. An earlier version of this song (performed with Dave Walker of Fleetwood Mac on vocals during on of Ozzy's breaks) goes straight into the heavy riffing and features a much more pronounced blues-rock influence. Air Dance is IMO Sabbath's most progressive song since Who Are You but in even more extremity. The first part of the song has a Santana vibe with the only distortion being Tony's latin-jazz inspired licks. The second half, after a quiet interlude breaks into a solo section you'd expect to hear from a fusion group like Return to Forever or Weather Report. Over To You features lush, cascading pianos, both underlying and accenting key sections. Breakout is bold and with the brass arrangement calls to my mind an extended G.E. Smith & the SNL Band jam during commercials.
The only weak moment on the album is Swinging the Chain. Its a good song, yet unremarkable and coupled with the lack of Ozzy, no small wonder it's the last song. Leaving out on a blues-rock jam we say goodbye to one of the greatest bands in music's history. Had they kept it together, there's no telling what Sabbath could have done, expanding on the template they set up on Never Say Die. Instead, we got Randy Rhoads and the long reign of King Ozzy (79-95), while Sabbath shined briefly with Dio and sank into the mire. I love the s/t and I feel that Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath is their masterpiece but this is probably the album I listen to the most.
"Never Say Die" is Ozzy Osbourne's studio last album with Black Sabbath (not including a couple of studio tracks found on the live album "Reunion"). By the end of the seventies, tensions between band members became so strained that Ozzy would be dismissed from the band after a tour for this album.
The music on "Never Say Die" is a mixed bag, and like underrated predecessor "Technical Ecstacy" finds Sabbath exploring some new musical ground. However unlike "Technical," Sabbath has lost the focus on their classic heavy sound. The album features a couple of ballads and jazz experimentations. This digression from the metal style is evident on several of the tracks. Songs on the lighter side include "Junior's Eyes," "Air Dance," "Over to You," and jazz instrumental "Breakout," which features a horn section.
But just because several of the tracks can't rightly be called heavy metal doesn't mean that the album sucks. All of the aforementioned songs are fine compositions, although "Over to You" may be my least favorite Sabbath song ever. "Beautiful" wouldn't be a word often used to describe Sabbath's music, but "Air Dance" is indeed a beautiful, sad and melancholy track about lost youth and dreams of yesterday.
And there's no lack of heaviness:The opening title track is upbeat and features some great riffing and melodic chordwork from Tony Iommi. "Johnny Blade" is one of the album's heaviest songs, a misanthropic tale of life on the streets, with a menacing keyboard intro from session keyboardist Don Airey (later of Rainbow and Deep Purple). "A Hard Road' is a strong rocker which finishes with a singalong chorus, and the very heavy and doomy "Shockwave" lyrically could be 'Black Sabbath" (the song) part two. The album finishes with "Swinging the Chain," a solid if unspectacular rock song sung by drummer Bill Ward (Ozzy is conspicuous in his absence here).
Sadly, "Never Say Die" has for years been trashed by critics and fans alike. If one approaches the album with an open mind, and enjoys the music rather than focusing on the fact that this is the original lineup's swansong, one will find much variety to enjoy here.
After Ozzy Osbourne briefly left Black Sabbath, it would have been easy to think that Sabbath's original lineup was done. But, alas he reunited with his comrades in the Sab Four, and one more album was made, titled, ironically, "Never Say Die!".
That said, "Never Say Die!" perfectly sums up the band at this point, unfocused, tense, and druggy. Also evident is a complete disinterest of what the band is doing. They seem to no longer be working as a unit, but merely four men waiting to get out of this mess.
But there are a few bright spots. Most notably is the title track, which is catchy, simple and moreover fun, it isn't a signature Sabbath track, but is actually very good. Quite an encouraging start, sadly everything falls from there. Also, "Juniors Eye" is a halfway enjoyable song, besides that there isn't much here.
Why Black Sabbath ever introduced synthesizer's may never be known, but songs like "Johnny Blade" are just kind of boring and are prime examples of where it need not be used.
Also worth noting is "Swinging the Chain", which features drummer Bill Ward on vocals, and it becomes very clear why he became a drummer and not a singer. His singing isn't mediocre, but it's nothing to brag about, and the song just sounds like a Deep Purple b-side.
Overall Black Sabbath's "Never Say Die!" is quite a bland end to the original era of the band. As it would happen Ozzy left the band once again and started his solo career with bang. While the band reformed with vocalist Ronnie James Dio and produced 2 more albums, with the original instrumentalists and some may say their dignity still intact. It must be stressed that this is a bland and generic album, and the only reason to get it is to have all the albums by the original lineup.
Never Say Die is the eighth and final full studio album to be recorded by the original Black Sabbath, a title that it will likely never lose given the members’ ages and current relationship. Ozzy Osbourne had already quit the band at this point; Tony Iommi somehow wrangled him back for a final album and tour, which despite what Sabbath’s Number One Fan will tell you, was most notable as the one where the young whipper-snappers in Van Halen upstaged the crud out of the addled doom legends. The accompanying album fared little better: a spent, burnt out Sabbath farting around with watered down art rock arrangements and senseless experimentation, making the Technical Ecstasy record from two years prior seem positively dazzling by association. To date, it is one of only two Sabbath records I can’t bring myself to purchase, which is quite the feat considering my long-time affection for the band. A new album with Ozzy singing should eventually surface, so let us recall this disasterpiece, and how a new Black Sabbath record probably won't be worse than this one. Although then again, things can always somehow get worse, as this album's tracklist so eloquently demonstrates.
The titular track is both opener and centerpiece, being perhaps the only song off the album to remain in the public consciousness since its release. That main chord progression is awfully reminiscent of a certain super-famous Thin Lizzy rocker, but what the heck, it was good enough for Dave Mustaine, so it’s certainly good enough for me. It’s straightforward and energetic and doesn’t rely on Don Airey’s keyboard contributions like so many of the album’s later tracks. Not very heavy metal at the end of the day, but it’s good fun for sure, first in a long line of born winners that Ozzy Osbourne would somehow always manage to be a part of, regardless of how terrible any given album of his might manage to be. A strong start indeed: it is immediately afterward that the album begins to unravel. Iommi and Butler’s performance starts to lean away from the outright forward heaviness that had carried them more or less successfully through seven albums and start to blend into the background, highlighting vocals and playing off the keyboard melodies. This isn’t necessarily a recipe for disaster, but when it’s two of metal’s best riff-crafters pulling punches, it’s a serious no-no.
From “Johnny Blade” onward, the Sabbath boys seem intent on being like Led Zeppelin: not as far as sonic similarities, but as far as trying to adapt themselves to alien genres. Remember how Zeppelin used to hop around in the back half of their career? Breaking out of their hard rock/blues/folk niche into reggae (“D’yer Mak’er”), calypso (“Fool in the Rain”), synth pop (“All of My Love”), rock and roll (“Candy Store Rock,” er... “Rock and Roll”), symphonic rock (“Kashmir”) etc., diversity was strived for, achieved, and often made interesting. This is Sabbath attempting roughly the same thing in a less extravagant manner, the key difference being that it’s not Led Zeppelin doing it, but Black “in the fields the bodies burning” fucking Sabbath, and is imaginably inferior. Not that they haven’t earned the right to try something different, but that they are (were) Black Sabbath and have no reason to do anything drastic like this, as Technical Ecstasy so eloquently proved to us. Anyway, “Johnny Blade” is the first diversion into alternative styles, in this case synth rock. Not quite Europe “Final Countdown” hook depravity, but in the same ballpark. It kind of works, mostly in the slower, regressive bridge, but it requires serious dissociation in the listener’s mind from the Sabbath of old.
Same goes for the rest, but the job gets harder. “Junior’s Eyes” rides a funk-ish bass line for much of its length and features some rather unpleasant attempts by Iommi at psychedelic lead fills. While not yet degrading himself to Heil Talk Box shenanigans, this makes for a rather annoying verse sequence, though even I’ll admit Ozzy’s vocal hook in the chorus is memorable. “A Hard Road” is more conventional, kind of like the blues rock other bands were playing in ’72 while Sabbath was crushing out “Under the Sun.” Unlike that killer, this piece overstays its welcome. “Shock Wave” is a curious one: it’s a limp-wristed lyrical revival of the evil spirits that haunted past Sabbath classics married to cheery Frampton-esque pop rock. And that “woo woo” bit at the end… what’s that sound? Ah yes, here comes the suck train! Whistle’s blowing, all aboard!
As strange as this journey seems to be already, things get stranger still. “Air Dance” is the first of the Jazz Sabbath mini-odysseys, with Don Airey’s piano taking lead here in such a baffling manner that I can’t decide if it’s bollocks or brilliance. It’s like a sampling of the prog rock band they secretly wished to have been. “Over to You” is the second, playing like a slower, non-transcendental “Spiral Architect.” Again, it’s a pretty bizarre, acquired taste sort of thing that seems to inspire either revelry or revulsion depending on the individual. After this, we finally get the nose dive into an empty pool that this album’s been skirting around from track two. “Breakout” is a non-Sabbath jazz/ska diversion that’s mostly a brass solo, while “Swinging the Chain” is, in a rare moment of good taste, the one track so banal that even Ozzy Osbourne refused to sing on it. Bill Ward does a better job vocally here than on “It’s Bullshit Alright” from the last album, but it’s still redundant blues rock that, along with the penultimate track, lines the bottom of Sabbath’s songwriting barrel. It would be many, many years with mostly different members before Sabbath would sink this low again.
Satan, laughing, spreads his wings. Black Sabbath, sucking, spreads theirs and promptly tears themselves apart. For the Sabbath completionist, this album should be near the end of your list, right around Forbidden and Cash-Grab Greatest Hits Volume 15. Just because it probably could’ve been worse doesn’t mean that it’s not still pretty terrible. It can always be worse, after all. Right Ozzy?
Never Say Die! isn’t the same tripe-filled bore fest that Technical Ecstasy is, but it’s not exactly terrific, either. Instead of saving their one standout song until the end, they hit you with it upfront. So basically, instead of leaving you on a positive note, they have you listen through the whole album wondering “when’s the next good song?” until “Swinging the Chain” just leaves you depressed and having to take a shit. But hell, let’s talk about the title track! It is one mighty good song if you ask me, and certainly one of the highlights of the later Ozzy years of Black Sabbath. Its main driving riff is a LITTLE too close for comfort to Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town,” but I can look the other way, due to the awesome nature of the song. A strong melody, a well-grounded structure, and a killer guitar solo at the end – it’s great even when he goes “never say diiiiiieeeee” at the end! I love this freakin’ song.
“Johnny Blade” is a decent song, although not up to the standard set by the title track. It seems that Sabbath has somewhat regained their ability to ride a nice groove, probably due to the easing up of synths on this album in general. This isn’t the greatest thing in the world, but it’s good to see something good come out of this band before they break up (the following year). The lyrics, while not up to the usual Sabbath standard, are at least interesting (about something you can actually understand and follow).
“Junior’s Eyes” is next, not really offering much variation in terms of the flow of the album, but still an enjoyable song. It sounds pretty much like the song before it, which is a definite negative. Also, the riffs can be a little dry at times, and the performance certainly isn’t as spot-on as earlier Sabbath. However, I do enjoy listening to this song, and I would be proud of it if I had written it. It’s just that I tend to hold Black Sabbath to a higher standard than I hold myself.
“A Hard Road” was one of the intended singles of the album (along with the title track), and ironically it starts to drag the album down a little. It starts out quite nicely, with a bluesy guitar riff and a decent melody. There are a few problems with this song, though: first of all, the lyrics are atrocious. They are pure cliché, nothing but tripe. The other major problem is that it is way too repetitive, and by the end you’re just like, “Shut up already!” And also, I could do without Bill Ward’s backing vocals.
“Shock Wave” is another song, pretty much like the others. I feel like I’m repeating myself, but it has everything the other songs have: bad lyrics, decent but flat riffs, and a definite cheesy overtone. By this time, I’m getting a little tired of listening to the album, and I could still do without Bill Ward’s backing vocals.
“Air Dance” is the song that regains my attention after the first few same-y songs. Opening with a delicious dual guitar riff, it quickly turns into a soft, jazzy ballad with piano. The piano here actually complements the song, rather than bogging it down (like EVERY other time they have used piano in the past). And there is some sick power metal shit in the middle there. I’ve got to admit, I wholeheartedly enjoy this song, down to the final synth-filled fadeout. It shows that the band was still trying to branch out and try new creative things, even at this late, tired stage in their career.
“Over to You” - *yaaawwwn* Yep, this song sucks the big one. I don’t know what killed it – Ozzy’s annoying vocals, the blatantly bad guitar riffs, or the incessant overproduction. Whatever it was, the song turned out to be a stinker.
What the hell is “Breakout”??? If they mean to break out of the mold, I guess they succeeded, but it’s still a pretty awful song. I cannot possibly understand the motive behind creating this song. “Let’s make a song with horns in it!” Well fine, that’s a swell idea, but first you have to WRITE A SONG!!! There is really nothing good I can say about this song, except maybe that they tried to make something different. This really is nails on a chalkboard.
…Well folks, if you thought “Breakout” was bad, wait till you hear “Swinging the Chain”! Bill Ward sings this song, poorly. The riffs aren’t *terrible*, but they definitely have a high cheese factor. And those falsetto screams are atrocious. What was he thinking? This song sounds like Deep Purple on crack. No, not on crack – in the hospital with brain cancer. Actually, I’m sorry I even brought Deep Purple into this. When he sings “We’re so sorry that it happened that way,” I feel like he’s apologizing for how bad the song is. Ugh.
Overall, Never Say Die! is a little better than its predecessor Technical Ecstasy, but not by much. “Air Dance” and the title track are truly worthy of the Black Sabbath title, but the rest of the album ranges from mediocre to unlistenable. I would recommend this album only if you really NEED all the Sabbath albums. Otherwise, just download the two songs worth hearing. I hate to endorse illegal activity, but this album fucking deserves it.
Oh man... so this album starts off almost promising. There's a few times where you grate your teeth and think "holy fuck this is cheesy", but you keep hanging on, because you hope that if it maintains this constant level of quality, it will stay okay... except unfortunately, this is like what happens in the cartoons, where Wile E. Coyote gets dropped off a cliff, and it takes him two songs to figure out that he's fucked, no matter what, and from that point on it's complete anguish all the way down.
Well, there's the title track... sorry, but this song is fucking awesome. I have no idea why I like it so much, because the middle part "don't you... ever say die" features Ozzy at his most pathetic, but somehow it just plain works. Then again, I like the "shout it out, we are together now" part in Ram it Down, so maybe I'm just fucking stupid, and what do I know, honestly. Oh yeah, the very end, the pitch-shifted "never say die..." thing sucks, but hey, that's only one second, so it's all good.
Johnny Blade is actually a cool song... then again, I like Aldo Nova, and this sounds similar, so of course I'm expected to like it. It's got some nifty keyboard parts, and the final solo rules. The vocals are totally phoned-in, and the chorus is kinda forced, especially with the total dynamic abuse of turning up EVERYTHING by 9dB in the chorus (brilliantly backwards sound engineering there), but ya know, for a late-70s keyboard rocker, this is okay. Of course, the cheese factor is maximal. Black Sabbath begat heavy metal on their first 6 albums. On this one, they gave rise to the runt of the litter: Bon Jovi. Oh yeah and the song could have two minutes taken out of the middle of it, and it would be a lot better.
The rest of the album... oh Jeebus creeping monkey-scrotum appendage flagellating me repeatedly!!!
I can't quite pinpoint what's wrong with Junior's Eyes, other than the fact that it relies on one bass riff to carry it for over six minutes, and thus ends up being flat out boring. Also, Ozzy cannot pronounce the word "junior" correctly. Heh, heh, he said "wiener". That's right, Beavis.
Hard Road just fucking sucks. Oh, it's a hard road. Isn't that from Little Orphan Annie or something?? Gimme a break.
Shockwave starts out pretty cool, although if you listen to the bass carefully, you can hear Back Street Kids. Then, when it slows down, disaster happens. It's here that you hear that, by this point in his career, Ozzy is no longer "the dude from Black Sabbath that sang on Sabotage" - it's FECES FECEBOURNE!!!
HEEYYY KIDDSS!!! Who do you love????
How much do you love me????
WITH ALL OUR HEARTS!!!!!
What would I do if I got replaced with Ronnie James Dio????
WE'D KILL OUR... no wait, we would rejoice, motherfucker.
This is the Ozzy that brought down Randy Rhoads's appearances on his first two solo albums... the same Ozzy that flips himself over on a dirtbike in the name of entertainment. This isn't the guy that sang "what is this.... that stands before me??" This is Sharon's manslut.
Yeah, Shockwave sucks, when all is said and done. Hoo hoo. Isn't that that terrible song from Steve Miller that has that "hoo hoo" part in it? Yes, I do believe it is. If you listen carefully, you can pinpoint the exact moment where Tony Iommi decides it absolutely necessary that Dave Walker be brought into the band!
Air Dance takes one really really shitty riff and plays it over and over again for a while, before going into a dumb keyboard-ballad thingey. This is horrendous. This is disastrous. Could it be that it was only 20 minutes ago that I was listening to Johnny Blade and thinking "this could be better if the sound engineer's brain hadn't been replaced with antifreeze"? This is some lounge-music shit, and oh how the mighty have fallen.
WHAT IS THIS? THAT STANDS BEFORE ME???
Over to You... "so keep on rockin' me, baby..." I forget which song that is, or which band, but it's a classic rock staple, and this song sounds EXACTLY like it, except dumber and having the most annoying human being on the planet at the vocals helm. Then - and I am not making this up - it descends into keyboard-based lounge-music. WHAT, AGAIN?? Elections, Quimby! Elections! Quality increase necessary to maintain credibility!
Speaking of credibility (Insufferable Blows Thereto department) Break Out is Black Sabbath's foray into disco music. I wish I were kidding. I wish "Black Sabbath's foray into disco music" were just a Regurgitated Cow Fetus song title, with absolutely no bearing in physical reality, sorta like "being anally violated with an entire warehouse". This is worse, because this is true. But it kinda feels similar.
Swinging the Chain sounds like a fourth-rate Deep Purple ripoff. It's got Bill Ward on vocals, and it sounds really like someone attempted to try doing Warpig, which is an early-70s band that sounded a bit like Deep Purple, except not nearly as good... and doing Warpig not nearly as well as Warpig did Warpig. Entirely forgettable bullshit, and the random squeaky noises in the background don't help. Oh man, this album really takes a fucking dive.
AVOID AVOID AVOID... you know the drill. This is Black Sabbath's Point of Entry, except it's worse than Judas Priest's Point of Entry.