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After the release of Vol. 4, Black Sabbath seemed to be heading down a road of mediocrity. Thankfully they proved all wrong with the release of their follow-up album, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. The band took a turn into a more progressive band with complex song structures, odd time signatures, and longer songs. Full of amazing guitar work, great bass playing, and tight drums his turn led to one of Sabbath's greatest offerings.
Iommi takes the thin tone of the previous album and amps it up to how it should have sounded while showcasing some of his finest guitar playing. This album is full of complex and heavy riffs like that of the title track, "Sabbra Cadabra" and "Killing Yourself to Live". Tracks like "A National Acrobat" really show Iommi greatness with multi-structured riffs, catchy interludes, and great solos. Iommi shows a great deal of his most interesting solos on "Killing Yourself to Live" and "Looking for Today". "Fluff" is a great piece featuring only acoustic guitar, piano, and synth. This song has a great tone and atmosphere that feels like you are floating high in the clouds making this one of Iommi's best acoustic performances. It seems as if after Vol. 4 Iommi realized his mistakes on Vol. 4 and completely fixed them all. and overall Iommi does a brilliant job on this record providing one of his best performances to date.
The bass on this album is very good. Geezer is actually audible on this album, which is a huge improvement from the last. He has a nice clean tone that can be heard rumbling about on "Sabbra Cadabra" and "Spiral Architect". "Who Are You?" has some great distorted bass playing in the background. This is a great effect to the song and really makes the doomy atmosphere shine. Geezer does a great job of this record keeping the groove and even doing his own in some parts which is nice to hear again.
Bill Ward is back on drums and seems to be more motivated this time around. Supplying some great beats on "A National Acrobat" and "Spiral Architect". It's great to hear Ward actually feel like he is into the music he is playing and work with it. His kit has a great tone with cymbals that are at the perfect volume. Ward does some nice rolls here and there on "Looking For Today" and "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" that bring back the greatness of his work on the earlier albums. In the end Ward does a fantastic job fixing the volume problems of the past album as well as getting more motivated and into the music.
Other than the regular guitar, bass and drums, the band experiments with other instruments like the flute and piano while Rick Wakeman from Yes does keyboards. Surprisingly these additional instruments work extremely well in this new prog oriented music. The flute on "Looking For Today" is rather nice behind the vocals and acoustic guitar giving the song a Peter Gabriel era Genesis feel. The keyboards on "Sabbra Cadabra" fit shockingly well in the song and bringing it to a great descending passage for the rest of the track. "Who Are You?", which i admit i actually hated at first, is a rather odd song. In the vein of the 70's prog of the time, they made a keyboard oriented song that is very doomy. This song could take some time to understand but you'll learn to appreciate Sabbath experimenting.
On vocals are presented from none other than Ozzy Osbourne who does a great performance. Ozzy's voice is higher this time around but work great with the proggy music on this record. Ozzy does a great job expressing emotions of the lyrics like on "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", "A National Acrobat" and "Killing Yourself to Live". Overall Ozzy's voice seems really motivated and into the music like the rest of the band and supplies a great vocal performance. The lyrics on this record are some of my favorite from main lyricist Geezer Butler. "A National Acrobat" has amazing lyrics talking about reincarnation and living multiple lives. While "Sabbra Cadabra" tells a story of loving a woman and thinking your life is going well and then leaving her and soon realizing her importance to you. It's a typical 'you dont know what you got until its gone' story but the band expresses the lyrics very well. "Killing Yourself to Live", which is written about Bill Ward's drinking problem, shows the sadness and confusion of drinking and not being able to get out. Geezer and the band wrote their best lyrical content on this record and make it work perfectly with the music.
Five years into the groups career they are still producing great music and possible their greatest offering. Full of amazing and complex riffs, great rhythm section, and Ozzy's emotion vocals this is an album for any metal fan into Sabbath and looking to see their more experimental side.
With "Volume Four", Black Sabbath developed upon the progressive themes they had planted in their previous record, "Master of Reality". Although their sound was still well-rooted in the heavy metal grit they introduced themselves to the world by, Sabbath exchanged some of their less refined sensibilities for more sophisticated arrangements and a generally more artsier approach than what they had gone for prior. "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" continues this development, albeit to a lesser degree of evolution than witnessed by their last step forward. Although the cover art implies something ripped from the bowels of hell, Black Sabbath had never sounded so refined, their style creeping ever closer to the world of prog rock. "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" may be less of a surprise than "Volume Four", but the band's firmer grasp of their 'new direction' results in a slightly superior realization of the 'prog' Sabbath.
Proggers will be quick to point out that Yes key wizard Rick Wakeman plays keys here. Indeed, he backs up the band with some inventive piano work on "Sabbra Cadabra", but it's nothing that would have been beyond the talents of Tony Iommi. Although the light timbre of the piano would have stuck out like Michael Jackson at a Klan meeting on "Paranoid", Black Sabbath had steadily built up an openness to using this and other 'pretty' sounding instruments in their work. The excellent instrumental "Fluff" is ample demonstration of the band's fully realized 'softer side'. Of course, the majority of this and any Black Sabbath album still resorts around their brand of thick, heavy rock.
This may be the first album of Black Sabbath's career where I cannot identify a true standout track that could be promised a place on a best-of compilation. "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" still triumphs over its predecessor for the fact that it manages to pursue these progressive sounds with consistency. Sabbath have still not entirely regained their doomy heaviness, but it's certainly a harder rocking effort than "Volume Four". "A National Acrobat" is my favourite from the album, a slower track with a beautiful dual harmonized guitar lead that foreshadows the music of another legendary British metal band. "Who Are You" is a gloomy throwback to Black Sabbath's doom roots, glorifying the synthesizer and featuring some of the band's most sophisticated orchestrations to date. "Spiral Architect" (the namesake of an excellent Norwegian prog metal band, by the way) is an upbeat and fitting way to close the album, with acoustic and electric guitars backed up with a Beatles-esque string arrangement. Excellent stuff.
Although I did remark that Ozzy Osbourne's vocals had never sounded so powerful and evocative on "Volume Four", there is the constant feeling here that he is attempting to go past what is comfortable for his vocal range. Although some of his 'high notes' don't sound too bad, there are points where the strain in his voice is well evident, and it leaves him with less room to explore the emotion of his singing. Of course, it's that sort of adventurous spirit that largely defines this stage of Black Sabbath's development. Not everything was prone to work perfectly, but they did it anyway. In the case of "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", it's very clear that they learned some things since "Volume Four". The sound is a little more focused, the compositions more consistent, and the orchestrations more sophisticated. It could have been easily expected given the band's impressive track record, but Black Sabbath's fifth instalment is an excellent album.
From the earth shaking heaviness of ‘Vol.4’, Black Sabbath make changes in riff construction to lay the earliest foundations of power and prog metal. The riffs are less heavy than the previous few albums. On this album Black Sabbath use complex arrangements in songs to achieve something which can be regarded as metal’s first experimentation with progressive music. The sound is still built around Tonny Iommy’s heavy riff work. Some new instruments, alien to metal then, like pianos, flutes, organs are used here. Mostly they work well and sound good with the guitars. The production is great, Sabbath’s best till then.
As usual on a Sabbath album, Iommy is the main star of the show. He reduces the heaviness from ‘Master of Reality’ but adds some pace to his riffs. Some of the fastest ozzy era stuff is found on this album. Geezer is less dominant here than on the earlier Sabbath albums. Ward surpasses his previous best performances as here he puts up a show to remember. The drum work is absolutely fantastic, very complex and very technical. Lastly we have Ozzy Osbourne, though he sang the title track of the debut album superbly, here he sounds totally disgusting. His vocals ruin more than half of the songs and also the album’s consistency. He has no range and his voice has no personality. The type of songs constructed here don't suite his voive properly. He sounds totally weak and lacklusture.
The songs are constructed superbly. Though this is the most proggiest metal album of that time, it is not hard to get into. Among the individual songs, the title track rules. The opening riff is just fantastic. The concept of slowing down for the chorus was established with this song. This is the only song on the album where the vocals don’t suck. The main riff of ‘A National Acrobat’ is superb and the song is great. But this time the vocals aren’t as inspired as the title track. ‘Fluff’ is an acoustic instrumental. It sounds good, not great. It is overlong and does not stay interesting throughout its length. They would achieve better results with ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ on ‘Eternal Idol’. ‘Sabbra Cadabra’ is one more song where the vocals sound good. Piano, played by none other than Rick Wakeman, is used in the song which sounds cool. ‘Killing Yourselves to Live’ is a faster cut which sounds descent but would have sounded much better had the vocals been better. ‘Who Are You?’ starts with an absolutely creepy synth part but then again the vocals kick in to destroy the song. ‘Looking For Today’ is not bad ignoring the vocals of course. In many ways it sounds similar to the title track but lacking all the force the former had. The closer ‘Spiral Architect’ again suffers from the problem of vocals. The orchestral parts blend well with the metal parts and bring out a sad feel. But the vocals are just powerless and don't support the feel of the music.
As a whole this album is very inconsistent especially in the second half. Ignoring the major downer, the vocalist, this album is superb. The songs stick in your head in at most second listen in spite of this being progressive. The construction is splendid, especially considering that this album was a major influence in the creation of power metal. Had this album been recorded with Ronnie James Dio or Tonny Martin on vocals, this would have sounded infinitely better
Once I had gotten into Metal, surprisingly, it took me a long time to get into Black Sabbath with Ozzy on vocals. I was a big fan of de Dio-era and 'Heaven And Hell' is, to this day, one of my favorite all time Metal albums. 'Mob Rules' and 'Dehumanizer' aren't too shabby either. I guess as a great vocals fetishist, Dio has always had more of an impact on me than Ozzy. However, it was with this album that started really getting into the Ozzy-era. 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath' is - simply put - Black Sabbath's best album with Ozzy on vocals and one of the best Metal albums of all time altogether.
What makes this one so much better than 'Paranoid' for me then? Well, first of all, the sound - and especially the guitar sound - has vastly improved over the last few albums. Tony Iommi started improving his guitar sound on 'Master Of Reality' already, but this is really where he got his shit together. This is just about as good as it gets for 1973. Only Ritchie Blackmore equaled this at the time. Who also improved is Ozzy. While still not quite one of the world's greatest singers, he has a lot more power than before here. Not to mention that he sings in key much more often than on the band's previous efforts.
But most important is the song material. 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath' is arguably one of the most experimental Black Sabbath-efforts. Of course, 'Vol 4' takes the cake there, but while the band didn't know where to stop experimenting on that album (resulting in utterly horrible tracks such as 'Changes' and 'FX' to drag the average of 'Snowblind', 'Supernaut' and 'Cornucopia' down), only the over-synthesized 'Who Are You' is a true miss on this album, that one really gets on my nerves. Every other experiment here is a successful one. Rick Wakeman's keyboards on the amazing 'Sabbra Cadabra' really add to the Rock 'n' Roll-vibe of the song, the acoustic 'Fluff' is the first truly good instrumental interlude the band has done, there is even a little Folk in 'Looking For Today' and the overall slightly psychedelic edge of this album creates an atmosphere that is irresistable.
Don't let the experimentalism drive you away from this album. The most important ingredient is still Tony Iommi's mighty guitar riffs. The album starts with the crushing main riff of the title track - if the album cover is the visualization of a nightmare, the title track is the "audiozation" of it - and almost every song starts with a classic riff. Just like we're used to from Black Sabbath. Of course, Geezer Butler's brilliance is all over the place as well. I just think there's a lot more power on this album, as well as better compositions than ever before.
Favorites include the amazing title track, 'Sabbra Cadabra' and the incredible 'A National Acrobat'. The latter pummels on in a relatively low tempo, but builds up towards new climaxes so brilliantly, that it keeps on getting better and better. Ozzy's vocal lines are also remarkably good on this track. 'Spiral Architect' is a mighty closer with brilliant use of keyboards (a string section is mentioned, but I'm almost positive that it's a mellotron) and 'Killing Yourself To Live' has a brilliant tension that is almost completely new to this band.
All together, I think that Black Sabbath hasn't ever sounded as inspired as on this album (and its brilliant follow-up 'Sabotage') with Ozzy on vocals. 'Vol 4' was a nice prelude to what was to come, but I don't think anyone at the time could have expected this. Not even the band members themselves, as I understood they were heavily uninspired until they moved into a "haunted" castle for the recordings of this one. If that is the case, I'm glad they got there. This is a monumental Metal release. If you call yourself a Metal fan and don't own this, I won't take you seriously. And in deed, that means I wasn't supposed to be taken seriously until I was about 16 as well. That's when I found out the Dio albums weren't the only great Sabbath-albums.
After Sabbath's unholy trinity of the early 1970's, in the form of their first three albums, the band stopped producing hits and instead focused more on creative and personal ingeniousness that was inexplicably absent on the first three. Volume 4 began the trend but lacked certain things to make it a great record, the same goes for this album. The only Ozzy era Sabbath album that could truly be called a 'masterpiece' is Sabotage, but that is another review. Pointing out the negatives about this album would be unfair, not to mention it would only be a few words, so lets look at the positives.
The first brilliant thing about the album is it's cover, after the previous three dreadful ones we have this demoniacally illustrated picture of demons torturing a man in a bed depicting the number of the beast. May seem dated to those now but for the first twenty years people seen this they were either amazed or shocked, which is the genius of the band, the cut and dry way the band go about this. Here you will not find simple rehashed attempts at the bands debut, or songs glorifying the genre of 'metal'. Instead we have strong political and religious opinions sung with conviction with heavy masterful riffs. Heart-warming instrumentals, eerie psychedelic songs, classically influenced orchestration, all the great things that were absent on the bands supposedly 'better' albums.
We begin with the title track and from it's opening riff to the clapping on the end of Spiral Architect, we hear Sabbath as both heavy and mighty and soft and finesse. Poetic and straightforward, sleazy and humbled. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath's lyrics deal with the evil of mankind, and how unless a higher powered hand is involved, that evil will never end. Since the suggestion is that evil is never ending and it begins with the first track, while the final track has the word Spiral in it, it is safe to assume the band was trying to formulate a concept here. That highly believable distinction is the albums only shining flaw, as Sabbath was not at that stage yet(see the next album). And while that may seem unfair the blame could only be placed on Ozzy as his vocals are, while improved over early albums, still very one-dimensional and the diversity needed to make a concept album is not there. But with that exception this is a fine album that continued Sabbath's string of highly influential albums that shaped the world of Heavy Metal as we know it.
One of the brilliant things about this album, which began on Volume 4 and culminated on Sabotage, was the fact that the songs were grabbing and strong for different reasons. In the past the songs were in your face because of Tony Iommi's guitar and little else, and while there is nothing wrong with that, the material did seem to be waning. Here the songs are special and great because of the sonic experimentation, with the slight polka intro to Spiral Architect, classically influenced Fluff or the Pink Floyd influenced Who Are You. The experimentation may not be for everybody and some even claim it to dilute the established sound of Sabbath but after listening to the boring Paranoid, Master Of Reality albums, one must wonder if the band would have died had they never experimented.
While there is no reason to go through the songs, as they are all equally great, with the exception Looking For Today, I must praise the best song on the album, Spiral Architect.
Question: Hey can Sabbath do anything different than just Metal and have it not be extreme like a ballad, such as Changes or She's Gone?
Answer: Spiral Architect. This is the one area of the album that no one ever seen coming, Sabbath playing a song unlike them, with extra instruments unlike any that fit inside their genre?
Beginning acoustically with a polka feel Tony plays a jazzy arrangement with synthesizers and violins to fill out the sound. Suddenly forty five seconds in the light and happy guitar comes in, joined by Bill Ward's pulsating hi-hat rides, the comes the crashing power chords. Oh the light and shade is magical. The riff repeats itself before segueing into the first verse where Ozzy sings with extraordinary power and buoyancy. The chorus' is not soft but not heavy either, instead placing the emphasis on Ozzy's harmonized vocals and the eerie violins, then comes that infectious main riff and hi-hat majesticism. The entire formula repeats itself setting you up for the intoxicating middle section that is short on heaviness and long on violins, coming across as dreamy and almost spiritual. Yes people this is heavenly bliss and it's delivered by a supposed Satanic band. The formula returns for a final time and extended chorus where Ozzy practically cries, 'You know that I should' three times and then that ending. The climax is the highlight of the entire album, orgasmic and lush, close your eyes and you can picture a conductor signaling that crescendo to his orchestra which the musicians execute flawlessly. Such a perfect song and the perfect way to end what some call 'Sabbath's experimental album', perhaps it would fitting.
In the end Sabotage is better but if your looking for the best Ozzy era material after that album this is where you look.
Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath," the fifth album from Black Sabbath, is the perfect mix of their metal and melodic sides. The album is almost prog-metal, and even features contributions from Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman. Much musical growth was evident on this album, yet Sabbath retained their heaviness and their penchant for tales of madness and mysticism.
The opening title track is a perfect example of where the direction of this album is going to go. Starting off with one of Tony Iommi's classic metal riffs and Ozzy's anguished cries, the song moves between heavy and melodic sections. "A National Acrobat" is total doom heaven and one of my personal favorite tracks, and displays excellent leadwork from Iommi. Bassist/
lyricist Geezer Butler did a bang-up job of the lyrics to "Acrobat," a tale of death and reincarnation. "Fluff" features some beautiful acoustic guitar from Iommi backed by Wakeman's keyboard melodies in an instrumental number very atypical of Sabbath. "Sabbra Cadabra is a fast-paced love song as only Sabbath can deliver, with more emphasis on rhythm in the second half of the song.
Side two opens with "Killing Yourself to Live" a tale of frustration and confusion featuring a strong vocal performance by Ozzy. "Who are You?" is probably the most overtly progressive number on the album, with it's emphasis on keyboards (written by Osbourne?!), yet is another very dark number lyrically. "Looking for Today" is again on the melodic side, with a flute melody played over the lyrics. The album closes with "Spiral Architect," simply one of Sabbath's greatest and most beautiful songs and a live favorite, clearly demonstrating the musical growth experienced by the band.
The album cover features some of Sabbath's best artwork, a man caught in the nightmare of a black mass. Musically this was the peak of Sabbath's creativity, but also their unity. "Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath" remains one of Sabbath's most influential albums and one of the best of the band's contributions to the metal genre. This stunning release should be experienced by every hard rock/metal fan.
It had been 4 years since the release of their highly innovative debut record, and they had already put out 3 subsequent releases that all featured a uniquely progressive sound, but the true awakening that this band would bring about had yet to fully manifest itself. “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” is a culmination of all that Sabbath came to embody in their glory days of the 70s, heavy music that would refuse to conform to the mainstream norms of the time. Previous reviewers have already made note of the vast number of new instruments that have been included to complement Sabbath’s established sound, but what I think is often missed is the true consequences of what those instruments, along with the usual sounds that the band creates, actually ended up producing.
This album is often referred to as the first progressive album to grace the metal genre, and for good reason too, as Sabbath has been at the forefront of bringing new technology to rock music. This progression still holds sway with today’s latest metal acts. The violin work found on “Spiral Architect” created a precedent of marrying classical music with metal that would manifest into the fully symphonic style, as spearheaded by bands such as Rhapsody. The heavy amount of synthesizer work on “who are you?” inspired a whole generation of progressive rockers, although credit must also be given to Rush for perfecting the model that is now used by such bands as “Dream Theatre” and “Symphony X”.
What is often missed by reviewers is the highly technical elements involved in this album, not only in terms of structure, but in the sheer display of dexterity by the musicians involved. “Sabbra Cadabra” has an incredibly inventive and difficult riff at the beginning, one that is well known for being the riff that exposed Kirk Hammet’s flaws as a player. Truth be told, I struggled with this riff greatly when I played this song in my own band, it definitely showcases a strong sense of rhythm on the part of Tony Iommi. The rest of the song is loaded with some rather brilliant musical changes, including some fine piano playing, and the usually active bass and drum work.
One criticism that is often lobbed at this release is that the guitar is a bit too muddy, to which I will simply state that this the tone is as heavy as the last two albums but it mixes much better with all the extra instruments much better this way. Songs such as the title track, “Killing Yourself to Live” and “A National Acrobat” are heavy enough and also contain some rather interesting sounds in the lead tracks. The latter of the 3 tracks takes my pick for the best guitar solo on this album, as Tony has truly turned his multi-track leads into 2 dueling guitars that go in completely different directions.
One would wonder why this album would get a perfect score from me when I have passed up such amazing works both before and after this album with Ozzy, but upon listening to this CD, the answer becomes immediately obvious. I don’t know what happened between Vol. 4 and this release but somewhere along the way Ozzy’s voice got a whole lot better. There isn’t a single track on here where I find his voice to be either grating or unpleasant. In fact, in the cases of the title track and “Look for Today” I think his voice is utterly amazing. He has a rather good command of the higher register, and his voice actually manages to transition well between the acoustic and electric sections of both songs.
I also wanted to give special kudos to the band for the long yet highly enjoyable instrumental “fluff”. Unlike previous releases where instrumentals or quiet ballads would either be too repetitive or too musically flat, this one is loaded with amazing moments. The piano and harpsichord work on here is nothing short of spellbinding, to speak nothing of all the great acoustic guitar tracks. If there is a flaw in this song it is that there are so many tracks on here that it would be impossible for 5 people to recreate the dense atmosphere accomplished on this studio recording.
I will now take a moment to single out one particular track on this album, and that is the well known yet often underrated title track. Ever since hearing this song it has remained my favorite of all the songs ever recorded by this band with Ozzy doing the singing (third favorite of this band as a whole). This song’s true impact is not fully realized by many, mostly because it lacks some of the key elements that defined the genre that it helped spawn, particularly the speed that was taken more from Deep Purple, Rainbow and Judas Priest. Yes my friends, I speak of the genre of melodic power metal. This riff is one that would often be used as inspiration for the music of bands such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Gamma Ray, and a host of other bands associated with the current explosion of melodic power metal. It is no accident that when invited to appear on the Sabbath tribute album that Bruce Dickinson chose this song. This also is the song that I play most with my own band, and I take lead vocal duties on this one always, because it is the song that inspired my first set of original compositions. This song is absolutely timeless, and will undoubtedly continue to inspire many great heavy metal acts for decades to come.
In conclusion, although this album is mostly geared towards the Progressive and Melodic side of metal, with a bit less emphasis on the doom, I highly recommend it to all. It presents Sabbath at their most polished and their most powerful. You wouldn’t know by listening to it that the band who recorded it was tiring from 4 straight years of touring and also releasing 4 studio efforts during that period. This band was about as driven as they come, and the music that they have created never ceases to drive young musicians to pick up and instrument and make one hell of a beautiful racket.
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was the work of band on a mission to prove itself an act far above the press and media derision that had been liberally cast their way throughout their profitable but notorious past. It features keyboards, tricky arrangements, but above all a nearly perfect balance of progression and weight. Simply put, as evolution-minded as the work here is, it’s also loath to leave the punters behind (of which I am assuredly one of).
Opening with the iconic riff of the title song (one of Tony Iommi’s best ever) the track soon takes on a diabolical feel worthy of the band’s most spectral music. “Fluff” is just that, a frilly piece of instrumental whatever that’s quickly forgotten. “Sabra Cadabra,” however, is a self-conscious riff-mungous monster, and a somewhat forgotten gem in this band’s sea of lost jewels (which gives me pause to observe: it’s odd that a band as popular as Sabbath would boast such a sense of fan ambivalence about the depths of their own catalog). But it’s the latter half of the album that lends itself to the sense of advancement discussed above. True, “Killing Yourself To Live” is another plain old kick-ass Sabbath creation, constructed with perhaps a bit more care for craft than elder work, but still pleasingly brute all the same. It’s with Ozzy’s musical (!) effort “Who Are You” that things get enjoyably odd. Leading with a stilted synthesizer riff (!) it grows into one Sabbath’s unlikeliest keepers ever.
The real treat is saved for last though, as “Spiral Architect” is easily one of the band’s best songs ever, despite it being not particularly heavy. It is lyrically and musically amazing, one of Ozzy’s cosmic observations that make real sense, and the writing is second to none, riveting and memorably dynamic. Another cut that has largely sunk to the bottom ‘o the Sabbath sea, only to be hailed by malcontents like me (hey, I’m a poet!).
A fine job on the production end was provided by Iommi himself, and this stands as perhaps the band’s most mature effort, silencing the quibbles of many a jaded critic who were bound and determined to chastise the band’s work (few of whom ever really bothered to listen to it and not just hear it; there is a universe of difference). But at the end of the day it was another hit for the band, the tour commenced, the fans came out in their barbiturate droves and everybody went home happy.
Ever onward and upward, Sabbath introduces us to a lighter side after the bristling metal fury of Vol. 4, lighter on the crushing Iommi, more of the experimental side of the band. Every reviewer previous has mentioned that here the drugs have begun to take their toll, and to a certain extent it's true. None but those possessed of earth-shattering genius or mountains of drugs could arrive at a creation so boldly experimental, so schizophrenically varied yet aligned in feel; having seen "The Osbournes" I'm forced to conclude that it was probably the latter.
That said, Sabbath was certainly more successful at experimenting than Deep Purple who, more often than not, appeared to be filled with a pathological hatred of metal to the point that they had to make up for their obligatory speed metal jam with a whole heapin' helping of annoying jazz and horrific white soul. Here Sabbath doesn't have much truck with funk or reggae or any of those other ill-advised muses that most seventies bands succumbed to. Instead we get a pinch of the classic Sabbath trudge mixed in with unique instrumentation, more melody, and yet more brave song choices. It's albums like this that shred the claim that Sabbath were nothing but the musical equivalent of apes swinging their clubs and going 'BAM BAM' on record.
Consider for a start the title track, probably the only song from this record that endures in the collective metal consciousness. Sure, the riffing is pretty damn heavy, but consider the strange melodic breaks, the totally off-kilter song-structures. The lyrics represent a return to the Satanic lyricism of the classic "Black Sabbath", but from the feminine perspective of a prospective parent of a "Rosemary's Baby". They express empathy for the protagonist, sadness and rage in equal shots all through these inappropriately sunny Wishbone Ash-y hippie acoustics before dropping back into one of the most bald-faced hammer-riffs in the whole catalogue. You bastards indeed.
This song is a microcosm for the album on the whole in the same way "Angel of Death" represents Reign in Blood or "Black Star" from Rising Force. That's not to say that the song is a formula though, it's just the feel of it. Really, none of the songs are in any way alike one another save for this pulsing lifeline of experimentation and the excitement of discovery running through the whole record and Geezer Butler's brilliant lyrics.
Consider the drenched cyborgian synths of "Who Are You", the white-noise shock of "F/X" applied to a real song. In a catalogue full of depressing plodding, it is perhaps this song that plods the most, treads the deepest. The sheer heaviness (in the psychological sense) of Ozzy's distorted vocals as he lays out the destiny of man can put your whole day in a darker mood.
Consider the full-length acoustic instrumental "Fluff", the first acoustic passage to resemble a true song in full. Consider the lively bounce of "Looking for Today", perhaps the first truly happy Sabbath song. That riff is just so damn bop-able, and the vocal melody is all drooling catchy joy. I love the percussion on this song, crazy Ward completely crazy while the rest of the band accompanies with well-timed claps.
I mentioned bizarre instruments earlier, but I think a list of the instruments used according to the liners might be in order to really sink it into the fleshy pink of your mind.
Synthesiser (played by, of all people, Rick Wakeman!)
Fiddle, a whole orchestra of them
Anvil + Bathtub (yes, really although it's not in the liners)
It's stupefying that all of these are played on the same album that includes two world-class metal anthems in "Killing Yourself to Live" and the godly "A National Acrobat" (granted the second main riff is a little lame, but whatever), plus the stoner boogie-woogie metal of "Sabbra Cadabra" which is possibly the only Metallica cover that they truly fucked up. Their version has none of the infectious fun of the original, although when they drop the riff from "A National Acrobat" into the mix I am in heaven.
All of this builds up to what remains the most artistic song the band would ever do, and perhaps the best combination of symphony and rock I've ever heard. "Spiral Architect" contains perhaps the most poetic and oddly meaningful lyrics Butler ever wrote. The stuff is doggerel, it means nothing, and yet there is something indefinably grand about them, just like the rest of the song. It sounds like what might be played on the path to heaven as one looks back on their life. It sums up the Sabbath experience without being very Sabbathy, it sums up life without being lively. The instrumentation is precise, delicate, and perfect, more reminiscent of flute music than anything generally performed on a guitar.
There is something oddly delicate about the album on the whole, the production slightly weak, the music vaguely sad and on the whole dreary like an English rain. At the same time it's invigorating to hear such unique music. This is progressive like no other music on the planet, and even on the proggy Sabotage its delicate style has never been re-captured. You know, if the Sabs wanted their respect back an album along these lines rather than absurd, desperately out-of-it attempts at modern thud metal would be the best way to do the job.
Stand-Outs: "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", "Spiral Architect", "Looking for Today"
Where shall I start? This is a much different sound than the first two Black Sabbath albums. It has a quicker pace, and the use of guitars is much more evident, as opposed to the first two album, but especially the first album, here guitars weren’t a major part of the sound that the band was trying to portray. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is a great album for those who do not appreciate the more Doom Metal sounding Black Sabbath albums and desire something more melodic.
The opening track, “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,” is an example of the different sound that Black Sabbath tried on this album. Both Black Sabbath sounds offer a fantastic listening experience as they both accomplish the same factor that makes this album a must hear. That thing is atmosphere. It produces and atmosphere that relaxes you, and an atmosphere that makes you want to listen to this album again and again. Most of the Ozzy-Era Sabbath albums create an atmosphere that is an imperative aspect that makes the albums magnificent.
The third track is what irritates me. “Fluff,” is an example of a track that does not have to be included on the album yet is added for no apparent reason, which ultimately hinders the overall satisfaction one gets after listening to the album. Countless albums throughout the Metal discography have this kind of track. Most notably, Manowar suffers from this tragic disorder that has ill-fated many albums and bands. I am still unsure of why bands do this, but I do know that it certainly does not make the album better. Now, this isn’t the worst case this disorder, but it certainly is not a track that gets much play when I listen to this album. I would have enjoyed a “Planet Caravan” sounding song much more.
“Sabbra Cadabra,” is one of the highlights from the album and has an extremely recognizable sound to it. The guitar solos in the beginning are one of the strong features that this song displays. The lyrical theme of this song also presents a different trait to the general Sabbath lyrical theme. The love theme that this song contains is a very distinctive approach, yet proves to be a well worth effort to break away from the generally monotonous dark theme of the previous albums.
The weaker tracks on the album are “Killing Yourself To Live” and “Who Are You?” The do offer some great guitar work; yet do not have the same energy that the other tracks are almost in excess of. “Who Are You” is pretty much the filler on the album, with its repetitive sound and not too memorable lyrics.
The song “Spiral Architect,” like “Sabbra Cadabra,” again, offers a brighter lyrical style. It is a much-appreciated feel to the general atmosphere of the album. Songs such as these are what differ this album from the first and second albums. Along the closing track, “Looking for Today,” which is a more cheerful song, the general mood of the album shifts more to the middle, between dark and light offering a well balanced listen. The closing track is very appropriate as it concludes the more melodic Black Sabbath album with a very melodic Black Sabbath tune.
Sabbath… Bloody… Fucking… Sabbath! This album did so many things for heavy metal. No longer was heavy metal only about power chords, plodding drum beats, and rocking you nonstop. The textures and the subtleties on this album are leagues ahead of their time. The acoustic guitars, flutes, crazy percussion, they all come together to form Black Sabbath’s crowning achievement: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, motherfucker. Bow down and worship this recording, because otherwise you don’t fucking deserve to live. This album humbles the best of us, and enlightens the worst of us.
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, the song, is first on the tracklist here, and damn, son. This is Black Sabbath’s greatest song ever, and if you don’t agree, then you’re just… wrong! There’s nothing else to it. With those opening VI-VII-i chords, and Ozzy’s maniacal voice (which is better than ever before), the band practically invented power metal. Then the acoustic guitars come in, and they change the face of metal again. Oh man, what a song. You thought that was enough? No way, man. You think the song is about to wind down, and in comes a crushing sludge riff that is heavier than the heaviest modern band. So far ahead of its time, it’s amazing. And the song as a whole is just awe-inspiring. Lock any Mormon in a room with this song turned up to volume 10, and I guarantee they’ll come out worshiping Satan. This is some pretty powerful stuff.
A National Acrobat is probably my favorite Sabbath song. It doesn’t have the monumental leap of the title track, but it just kicks so much ass. It opens with one of Sabbath’s sickest grooves, and then in comes one of the universe’s sickest guitar harmonies. The lyrics are top notch, although very abstract. The words Ozzy sings are perfectly fitting to the evil music underneath, and the entire experience of this song is definitely “evil.” This is some bad-ass heavy metal, and a masterpiece of a song. The whole funky middle part is wah-licious, and the whole instrumental part at the end is killer. And I love the ending! Two guitars climbing and climbing in a jumble of notes, reaching that final note to close the song as awesomely as possible.
Fluff is Tony Iommi’s best instrumental. Embryo and Orchid sucked, Laguna Sunrise was good but too repetitive, but Fluff really hits the spot. A good part of its greatness comes from the production, which is lush as hell, with a lot of different instruments, including piano, harpsichord, and acoustic guitar. This song was created entirely for atmosphere, and it works so good. It makes you want to float away on a cloud. Or maybe on a giant piece of fluff.
Probably the heaviest flat-out love song ever written, Sabbra Cadabra is also an optimum dose of the Sabbath experience. Based on a loose blues tempo, the song rocks in a way that a lot of Sabbath songs don’t. It swings, and it swings hard. Well, except for the synthesizer-blast part. But that’s cool in its own way! The outro jam is so loose and funky, it makes me want to get up and dance. And I’m not one to usually dance.
And then just when you think you’ve heard it all, they decide to throw in Killing Yourself to Live, the most technically advanced, multi-sectioned Sabbath composition to date. This song is just another testament to how the band can be both brutally heavy, yet magnificently epic in scope. And of course, it contains a great message for all the kids: “Smoke it! Get high!” accompanied by inhaling noises. Nice.
“Who Are You?” – ok, this song is fucking weird as hell. Nobody could have expected this in 1973. This is synthesizer OVERKILL, but strangely it works. The main part of the song is downright evil, and you don’t even notice the fact that there isn’t any guitar in the whole song. I’ve heard this song covered a few times, and all of them SUCKED majorly. Only Black Sabbath can pull this kind of weird-ass song off, and I really like it.
“Looking for Today” – This song is decidedly “happier” than the rest of the album, although the band continues to experiment with different sounds and instruments. I must admit, the flute does not seem out of place at all, it fits in very nicely. The main drum beat is very cool, I think Bill Ward uses brushes. This song is not very Sabbath-y, but it is a very strong song, and a welcome addition to this great album.
“Spiral Architect” – What a song. What a fucking song. This is one of Black Sabbath’s wildest experiments, and I consider it their greatest. It sounds so entirely epic, but it really isn’t that long, not even 6 minutes. What is it about this song that makes it so powerful? It could be the lush string section, or the spacey guitar chords, or the wailing vocals… but it’s probably a mixture of all those. This is a great close to an even greater album, and that final string part is just mind blowing.
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is my favorite Black Sabbath album, and I also want to call it their greatest, but I just can’t… the glorious Paranoid takes the cake on that one. But even so, this is the album where Sabbath proved that they weren’t just playing heavy metal anymore, they were creating art. The world is a better place for this album, and if you don’t like it, then you have serious issues.
Black Sabbath were enjoying the longest break of their career at that point. At this point the band was burned out from constant touring, and the drugs (mostly cocaine) were also taking their toll. They eventually reconvened and tried to work on their fifth effort, but writer's block prevented any further part of it. They retreated to an English castle later on, and reportedly came up with some of their most classic riffs, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath in particular. That same night, after Ozzy was almost incinerated when his room caught fire, an encounter with a ghost, and plenty of scary stories, they eventually got
so scared that they ended up leaving! Later on the band enlisted the services of Rick Wakeman (Yes, among others) and finished recording their fifth record Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, which was released to the public in December of 1973.
This is regarded as perhaps the finest hour of the original lineup. It features some of the most progressive and inventive work yet, while still retaining a darker, heavier and more oppressive sound than their competition. Many fan favourites eminated from this album, including Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Sabbrea Cadabra, Killing Yourself To Live and Spiral Architect. This album catapulted them to even greater heights, including a reluctant appearance on the California Jam (which the band protested against, but consented to after learning of a possible $100,000 lawsuit if they didn't comply). To this day, it's
a fan favourite to this day (along with their first six recordings) and it's not difficult to see why.
John "Ozzy" Osbourne (vocals, keyboards) - Ozzy's voice comes across as a little more fragile than in previous releases, but the makes up for it with an increased range that he uses to great effect. He also starts overdubbing vocal harmonies, as seen on A National Acrobat and Sabbra Cadabra. This is trademark Ozzy that would be seen more extensively throughout his solo
Frank "Tony" Iommi (guitars, keyboards, flute) - Tony really steps up to the crease for this one. His riffing has become even more intense in certain areas, most notably Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. He also continues with his experiments with acoustic guitar, as seen in Fluff and Spiral Architect. His 'twin-guitar' solos are more frequent on this album, most notably on
Killing Yourself To Live.
Terence "Geezer" Butler (bass) - Geezer has become increasingly less fill-happy, with his licks showing up less on this album. However, he lends a huge backbone to the sound, supporting Iommi with his thick bass. In some areas he experiments with distortion as well. Highlights include the slow section in Sabbra Cadabra, which sees him playing highly active basslines
typical of his style,
Bill Ward (drums, various percussion instruments) - Bill Ward's playing takes on a more funky feel, especially on cuts like Sabbra Cadabra and A National Acrobat. He still plays some inventive patterns, such as the fill-happy chorus of Killing Yourself To Live, and then using the snare to keep time on Looking For Today.
Rick Wakeman (keyboards) - Rick Wakeman only plays on one cut, Sabbra Cadabra, lending a nice funky piano solo that fits in extremely well.
Production was handled by Black Sabbath themselves, and the sound is a little different from previous efforts. The guitar sound is slightly heavier and more prominent, Geezer's bass is slightly more prominent without being overbearing (a problem associated with the low tunings they used). Bill's kit is also mixed evenly, and Ozzy is mixed to the front as always.
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath - Quite possibly the heaviest song of 1973, Sabbath waste no time kicking heads with this punishing cut. The song is driven by one of Iommi's heaviest riffs, and a rather high vocal melody is present here as well. The riff that begins at 3:19 is totally murderous, far heavier than anything else at the time (and quite a lot of material from today as well!). This is intensified by Geezer's distorted bass. Excellent headkicking song and one of Sabbath's most treasured cuts.
Sabbra Cadabra - A driving pulsating cut driven by Geezer's bass, and featuring one of Iommi's catchiest riffs. Ozzy's voice sounds a little different here. It continues along in this fashion until about 1:58, where a couple of synthesisers and an arpeggiated riff signal a transition into a funky Zeppelin-esque section. Ozzy's voice is in top form, showing off some vocal harmonies. This section also features an excellent piano solo from guest musician Rick Wakeman.
Killing Yourself To Live - We're taken back to earth with this aggressive track. This opens up with Iommi's snarling guitar, before going into a cleanish tremolo-pedalled section, before going into perhaps the most aggressive chorus on the album. Iommi chips in with a trademark 'twin guitar' solo on the second chorus, with Bill Ward going off underneath as well. Around 2:47 the song changes into a half-time feel with an arpeggiated riff, which is periodically broken up with Ozzy and Tony's guitar in unison. A quick fill from Ward at 4:07 signals the transition into the final phase of the song, a nice pulsating riff with some of Ozzy's angriest vocals, plus another 'twin guitar' solo from Iommi. An excellent multifaceted cut and perhaps the best song on the disc.
Spiral Architect - Opening up with an acoustic guitar intro, before going into the opening, a little reminiscent of The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again (that acoustic guitar underneath has Pete Townshend written all over it). It goes into a slow section which leads into another section featuring strings and Ozzy harmonising with himself. The section in the middle is totally string led underpinned by a pulsating hihat pattern from Ward and the recurring acoustic guitar figure. The strings are now featured from herein until the end, where the opening is reprised, before heavy-strings bring the track to a close. This track is quite unlike Sabbath, but it works so well.
Who Are You - 4:10 of annoying plodding synths. No guitar or heaviness whatsoever. A complete waste of time which serves no useful purpose.
This album reaffirmed Sabbath's position as the heaviest darkest band of their time. It also showed that they weren't afraid to experiment and add to their sound. This is widely considered to be their finest hour. Any fan of heavy metal owes it to themselves to have at least one copy of this in their collections.
They released this one on, 73? For it's time is quite an extraordinary album. Hell, for any time. Any metalhead should know and hear this album as it stands as one of the genre's most overlooked gems (not as much as Sabotage, but that's another review).
This full-lenght follows the tradition of lethal-as-fuck riffs that Black Sabbath was famous for, not to mention the display of musicianship of every member (Tommy Iommi was mostly recognized as a rhythm guitar player, but people don't acknowledge his soloing very much. Some of his lead guitar work deserve praises). The best song (IMO), "A National Acrobat", combines some crushing riffing giving a shitload of heavyness and finishes with some fast guitar runs that are no less remarkable. Ozzy gives a great performance. The title track is good, not as good as "A National Acrobat", but it pleases, nonetheless, and i like it very much. "Fluff" is a nice and "romantic" acoustic interlude that opens it's way to the rocking "Sabbra Caddabra". A good song, but it doesn't crush your head until the middle part where they include a piano to counterpoint the crushing riff below it (when reviewing a Sabbath album, i'm always gonna refer to the heavy riffs as "crushing", because that's the best description for them. And my english is kinda limited, unfortunately :P). "Spiral Architect" is a nice experiment with an orchestra. It sounds both glorius and emotional, and is a nice variation on all the bludgeoning heavyness of the previous songs. Don't expect any softness here, though, you will find some great riffs here, too. "Killing Yourself to Live" and "Looking for Today" are good also, but not that great, so i'm not gonna write about them. Buy the fucking album and hear these for yourself.
Oh and, BTW, "Who are you?" is awful. A crappy experiment with sinthesizers, plus the songwriting is pretty bad. There, you have been warned.