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Teetering on the edge - 65%

Warthur, October 10th, 2011

An awkward, transitional album from Sabbath with the prog-metal tendencies of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath competing with two conflicting visions of the band's future. Songs such as the pounding, energetic opener Hole In the Sky or the upbeat, almost funky The Thrill of It All showcase Sabbath as an accessible, down to earth heavy rock band. Conversely, compositions like Megalomania and the closing couplet of Am I Going Insane (Radio) and The Writ find the band becoming increasingly submerged in experimentalism and studio wizardry.

In particular, Am I Going Insane lacks lead guitar entirely and substitutes in keyboard riffs, an experiment unheard-of for Sabbath at the time, whilst The Writ alternates pounding, heavier sections with synthesizer-laden acoustic segments. All the ingredients which would come together in the critically-derided Technical Ecstasy are laid out here for all to see - the increasing abandonment of the doomy sound the band built its reputation on, the growing love affair with studio gimmicks, and internal discord within the band as to exactly what a Black Sabbath album should sound like.

It's a good, listenable album, but it isn't much better than "good". And when you have five Sabbath albums leading up to this one which each consistently knock the ball out of the park, just "good" isn't enough. Sabbath fans will doubtless sooner or later find this one in their collections, but I suspect most will find it gets much less rotation than the band's first five classic albums - or their celebrated early 1980s material with Dio.