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Shades of the end... - 75%

Shred1921, March 20th, 2003

Well, this was the last decent Sabbath record before everything went to hell. The next two weren't up to standards, and we all know the ongoing battle the boys were having with their beloved drugs. Thankfully we have some definite keepers on this album, some of the early Sabs best work.

First off is 'Hole In The Sky.' Very straight-up rocking song that doesn't relent, the riff is sweet, very thick and punishing. The song starts and ends very abruptly, but it is solid and a great opening track.

Next up is 'Don't Start (Too Late).' This is just another "weird noise" track, and you can barely hear whatever it is. Just a bunch of guitar noises. Lay off the coke, guys.

Track 3 is really where this album blows up. 'Symptom Of The Universe' is one of my fave Sabbath songs. Sludgy-as-hell guitars and Ozzy is way up on the register with the vocals. Bill rips up the kit between verses, and hammers on the crash pretty much all the way. After a couple verses we're treated to a cool section with nice contributions from all three instrumentalists. More verses, then another instrumental bit and then an open fast part and solo. Then, I don't know what the hell happens, this turns into a totally different song and it's some weird jazzy kind of riff, it sounds good enough, but it's TOTALLY out of place on this song, again with the drugs! This goes on for a couple minutes and fades out. Cool song, but weeeeeird ending.

Track 4 is another masterpiece, 'Megalomania.' Freaky repeat effects on the vocals throughout. Ozzy sounds like Satan for the most part, the vocals are very dreary and haunting. The first 3 minutes of the song have verses and a riff that remains the same, slow and heavy, very atmospheric. Then for some weird reason, there's a piano bit (WTF?) then some cowbell... but a riff is building, and building, and building. Then... mmm, metal. One of my fave Sabbath riffs ever, so heavy. This one goes on with more verses, then a cool solo bit which sounds like two solos overdubbed together (nothing like drugs!) Then Ozzy screams and they bust out that insane riff for another 3 minutes or so, this one almost hits the 10 minute mark, but it's all so good. Highlight of the album, which ends with something that sounds like someone sniffing coke (probably what it was).

Next up is 'Thrill Of It All.' This one starts off being all over the place, with some cool licks from Tony. Then we're dropped into a fairly lighthearted riff with some verses, and the middle section has some keyboards in it. Nothing terribly spectacular here, Tony plays alot of lead stuff throughout.

Next is 'Supertzar.' This is an instrumental bit with some chanting thrown in for good measure. I don't know what in the hell this was supposed to be, the instruments are turned way down so that you can barely hear it, it sounds cool enough, but I have no idea what they were going for with that (did I mention drugs?)

Next, 'Am I Going Insane [Yes, yes you are] (Radio).' Weird vocal effect here with not so much of a riff, just bass driven and alot more weird-ass noises throughout. Some of this song sounds like it was played underwater, they must have found some of the effects when they dropped the coke bag behind the soundboard. Some weird laughter ends this one...

Finally we have 'The Writ.' I read that this was written to take a shot at the management that was dicking around with contracts and such during this time. Ozzy screams lots on this one, and it sorta... sorta sounds like a song until we fade into some more weird noises. You can really tell the guys were huge stoners with so much of the material on this record. At least on Vol. 4 it sounded coherent! Not that this sounds bad, but it is very strange. I guess this is a song? It has lyrics, but everything else is just a fuddled mess underneath.

Anyway, upon taking a very close listen to this album, it was very drug fueled (at least in a non-helpful way). I mean, the rest of the early albums had structure and coherence to them, and if any band has made great music while heavily doing every drug they can get their hands on, it's Black Sabbath. Alot of the material found here was brought down by the drugs, while some of it stands out and shines, 'Symptom...,' 'Megalomania' and 'Hole In The Sky.'

The rest has some cool bits here and there but most of it is just really weird. Still a decent album, and worth a listen, if not for the weirdness, but for the bits of crushing metal that are here. I bet this is really good to listen to when you're on drugs.