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Black Sabbath > Black Sabbath Vol. 4 > Reviews
Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath Vol. 4

If 5 Rifftastic Heavy Metal Cuts Were Not Enough - 97%

Mercyful Trouble, April 13th, 2022
Written based on this version: 1988, CD, Warner Bros. Records

I'll maintain two key points throughout this review (for an album I did not think would be my first coverage of the band who invented the genre this site is dedicated to). First, each of the heavy songs on Black Sabbath Vol. 4 are expansions upon the style heard in the five heavy songs on Master of Reality, where Iommi focused more than ever before on the emphatic, driving riffing that would set the metal genre apart from other rock that uses guitar distortion, for lack of a more eloquent description. It's a simple style albeit more involved and concentrated than the bluesier approach of the first two Sabbath albums, so it makes sense that it doesn't end with classics (as in greatest songs ever written) like "Sweet Leaf" and "Lord of this World", and before a new metal listener checks out Pentagram or Saint Vitus, Vol. 4 is what they need next to get perfectly acquainted with this genuinely heavy playing style - a crunchier, more bashing style that is not as commonly heard in traditional heavy metal post-1983. Gallops, yes, melodic leads, yes, but not a lot of low-end "DUN, DUN DUN, DA, DA-DUN..." I want to emphasize that observation because it brings me to my next point - the seven heavy songs on this album are just skull-splittingly heavy for their time and still rely more on distortion and crunch than most extreme metal. Dying Fetus is heavier than Black Sabbath, I think we can all agree on that, but what really NEEDS distortion more? What emphasizes the growling tone originally produced by overdriving your amp settings until it fucked with your pickups more? John Gallagher's hyper-speed chugs broken up by tapping down a dissonant scale, or fucking "Wheels of Confusion" 20-some seconds in? Yeah, "DUN, DUN DUN, DA, DA-DUN..." all the way!

And this is why Vol. 4 is the perfect sequel to a relatively consice classic like Master, especially before releasing brilliant masterworks of early progressive metal in '73 and '75. This would be Sabbath's last "doom" album for a while, I guess, and it's a damn fine note for Iommi to leave off with for a while, before eventually returning to his signature chunkiness (in my opinion, he did that on Mob Rules which I think sounds bigger than the first Dio-fronted album). This 1972 effort has been called inconsistent due to tracks like "FX" and "Laguna Sunrise", but honestly, sequencing matters very little by today's standards - Sabbath have so many classic metal songs so just throw ANY of the seven heavy metal songs here in a playlist with all your favorites from albums before and after this one, and you're set - there is actually a larger portion of metal to be heard here than on Master, and I'll say that despite that one being my preferred Sabbath outing. Even if you're reviewing this from a vinyl standpoint, there's still 11 minutes worth of the signature Sabbathian heaviness before a piano ballad (not as good as "Planet Caravan" and "Solitude" I'll admit) and a filler track enter the fold. Plus, the groovy-as-hell "Supernaut" closes out the A-Side, so there's no point complaining. "Tomorrow's Dream" is a classic shorter song as well that balances nicely between the chunkier heaviness mentioned from the previous track and a truly unforgettable momentum, with a cool pull-off riff in between the verses that emphasizes the lower C standard tuning. You can do a lot with that sort of power-chord progression and Bill Ward's drumming makes it extremely catchy in this case, as well as brighter sounding than it should be due to his use of cymbals. Ozzy also displays a little more range here and you get a sense of the charisma he's known for as a frontman.

On the low-end side of things though, I will say this is not an album that comes to mind for the Geezer-sucker in me. He's there alright, and of course his tracks are very necessary for sounding this heavy in '72, but that's kind of just it. Less of his jammy basswork circa 1970 and more just following Iommi, but it sounds superb all the same. "Snowblind" isn't overrated at all either, Iommi hadn't played heavy riffs accented by the chord strumming heard there very much up to this point, and eventually bands did catch on, like The Gates of Slumber with "Suffer No Guilt" (random example that came to mind, there's better ones). At those chord strumming moments (the sound of which did not initially appeal to the Indian kid with no background in western music, feeling drawn specifically to heavy metal who was me), the fine bassist that Geezer really is does in fact come through, then it picks up in much the same way "Under the Sun" is remembered for after its DOOMED intro. In Snowblind though, the final groove is more approachable in a hard-rocking sense, whereas in Under the Sun it's kind of hypnotic what Iommi is playing. That closing track on this album also makes for a break that is very similar to that of "Into the Void" from the previous album, but firstly, Ward plays something noticeably different this time, and self-plagiarism does not apply when you're this ahead of your time and creating a new, really daring style of music.

If it seems like I'm reviewing this music from simply a "well how about that guitar distortion!" standpoint by saying things like "the heavy songs" and "crunchy", that's because I absolutely am - like I said, this style emphasizes why the genre was actually dubbed "heavy metal" to begin with. The use of distortion (and a better tone than most of what today comprises metal anyhow) is consistent to the point where the songs that do not feature it are noticeable deviations from the essential sound, the guitar sound which is now obligatory and taken for granted in metal - hence why it's so nice returning to the roots, roots that do it better than any other band heavily abusing drugs could today. Well, Iommi wasn't to such an outrageous extent, and you know he's the mastermind.

Inconsistent in the best way … (mostly) - 88%

Luvers, November 8th, 2021
Written based on this version: 1990, 12" vinyl, Vertigo Records

After 3 albums in a span of 17 months, the third being the thinnest at progression, Sabbath would have been forgiven if they rested on what worked thus far and treated their creative output as a conveyor belt. Pumping out the same album with slight variations into perpetuity, but in only fourteen months they started the second phase of their first era. Never again would a Sabbath album be as heavy as they were on Master Of Reality but, fortunately, they would also never be that simplistic either. Four of the next five albums - beginning with this very release - all share one congruity and that is eclecticism.

As you might have guessed from the review title, not all of this inconsistent output is for the best. To review I will break the ten songs on this album down into three distinct sections. The first are the songs on this affair that are a streamlined style: Supernaut, St. Vitus Dance, Tomorrow’s Dream. All maintain the same tempo, never straying too far from a base rhythm, with the exception of an interlude each. The songs all have great energy but are still the most basic of the songs presented here. These blatant attempts at hit singles (albeit with Iommi’s signature doom-laden guitar tones) are all fun and uptempo that still possess songwriting grace. This is not a condemnation but I doubt many would find Tomorrow’s Dream or St. Vitus Dance as stand outs were it not for Iommi’s guitar tone.

The second section are two songs that do fit into the streamline style above but lack the one component and that is, ironically, heavy metal. Of these two songs? The second of the two is a continuation of an idea introduced on the previous album(Orchid). That was a classical flamenco piece, but Laguna Sunrise here takes the evolutionary step by adding garish keyboards and magnificent choir backdrop to the thick layering of gentle guitar lines from a classical acoustic. A beautiful interlude. Its other function is to break any potential monotony, allowing a chance to breathe before the next avalanche of doom graces the listener.

The first of these two songs however is Changes, and it is so unlike anything in Sabbath’s catalogue that most metal heads distance themselves from it. Some see it as a step backwards since it is retreading previous ground(Solitude), however I cannot reach this conclusion, at all. Changes is definitely an evolution of Solitude. It is more polished for sure but the music put forth is incredibly doom-laden and sorrowful. Changes is not like the embarrassing She’s Gone from Technical Ecstasy, the atmosphere here is so morose that it achieves the intended effect of pure melancholy. I freely confess to not being much of an Ozzy fan, but for all of my dismissal, Changes is one song I believe Ozzy performs better than any singer who has tried it, both in Sabbath or as a cover. It sounds like it was written with his overly emotional drawl firmly in mind and he reaches some incredibly poignant moments. I would go even further and say Changes is the greatest ballad ever sung in Ozzy’s career, be it in or out of Sabbath, and is the best the band has done in any era of their existence as well.

The third set of songs, where the album really shines, are the most diverse: Snowblind, Cornucopia, Under the Sun & Wheels Of Confusion. Why these four? What makes them different? ... These four songs comprise a total of twenty-three minutes and three of them are buried deep within the grooves. Nothing speaks to an albums quality than when great tracks can be found in the back half. Most bands put their strongest songs at the front of the release, Sabbath bucked that trend by making their most progressive songs of the album hidden deep. Each of the four are vastly different from each other but also different from themselves as well. How is that possible?

If you read the title to Under the Sun it has an added subtitle of Everyday Comes and Goes, which has a purpose. It is a literal 75 second interlude placed directly in the middle of a song that was never as fast, kinetic or drum heavy as this interlude was. It also has a clear beginning, middle and end, so why was it here? It literally comes from nowhere, a first time listener is sure to be surprised by how quickly this interlude passes by. Moments like that are what was missing on the previous record. Cornucopia is another where there is literally five distinct sections in the composition, and, again, each one drastically different. The opening riff is not only heavier than every second of the Master Of Reality album, it is also the most evil sounding riff to ever grace an Ozzy era record.

Since these four songs have the most energy I want to shout out this albums greatest contributor, Bill Ward. It should come as no surprise that Ward has his fingerprints all over these compositions. Not only is he shown respect in the overall mix, his Jazz/Swing flavored percussion is what makes these songs incredibly groovy. The drums throughout Supernaut sees Ward flawlessly alternate between brushes then traditional sticks. It might or might not be obvious upon first listen but is quickly realized how much of the fastest songs on this platter places Ward to a degree more important than Geezer Butlers bass. This is not to say Butler slouches as lyricist or demigod of the low-end, but not a great deal of the proceedings stand out because of any slick bass runs by Geezer. This is perhaps his most subdued album of the Ozzy era.

It might seem ironic to call an album’s best performer the drummer when three of the ten tracks do not feature any, and two of the tracks that do are a bit standard, but he drives these songs with his perfect blend of heavy hitting and finesse. The two previous albums were streamlined (Paranoid) or simplistic (Master Of Reality) and I feel the compositions restrained Ward's ability to add his signature color. Amy Jazz percussionist will know that rule number one is "you are always one hesitation away from solving all your problems." ... You see, keeping time is not at the forefront of most Jazz, it emphasizes taking the lead with artistic color and low end voicing instead of being reduced to just providing a backing metronome. This comes through on each of the four songs I put in the final section. Just like with the debut, Volume 4 really excels at showing the importance of Bill Ward to what made Sabbath so unique. Ward was a drummers drummer, a very expressive and fluid performer, who knew how to make even his repetitions stay engaging. For no matter how heavy and metallic Iommi and Geezer were making a song here, there is Ward playing in a way that is impossible not to groove with. Songs like St. Vitus Dance and Supernaut can be literally danced to on a ballroom floor, both of them are really only "metal" because of the use of distortion on the stringed instruments. The former even lends itself dangerously close to being useful as a Cabaret.

Even though Master Of Reality is considered a classic, I think the band hit a songwriting low on it, and it can be argued that was because of the workload. Two albums and 14 original songs, along with 187 shows in just 12 months in bound to burnout any creative team. After the weak previous effort the band recovered by using some time off and observing the trends of the time to inspire them. While there were lots of bands only hard rock to Sabbath's heavy rock within their vicinity, the Sabbath members grew up with (and thus most inspired by) artists stylistically as far from the music they would eventually create as one gets. Considering this is only two years into their pro recording career, not much else existed in the world of heavy rock, so it should not be surprising to hear the outside influences filtering into the songwriting. Iommi might be the person who invented heavy metal but he grew up idolizing Frank Sinatra, and no one would confuse him with anything metal. Strip away the gain on those amplifiers and then one has to ask how much different is it really? Each member of Sabbath at this point were not just musicians on the job, they were full fledged songwriters, and write what you know describes a writer. These men wrote what influenced them, and outside of the 1972 era rock and roll world was a rising trend of Funk artists. Music that emphasized upbeat tempos, slick percussive-heavy songs that energized audiences; streamlined but full of energy and fun. Whereas Sabbath had been cold and somber in their previous two artistic creations, this album hearkens back to the debut not just by reestablishing Bill Ward but by being mostly warm and fun. Seldom choosing to beat you over the head with doom, instead baiting you into grooving out with crafty truly dance-laden patterns. Listen to the long interlude of Wheels Of Confusion or its spellbinding two and a half minute coda, titled The Straightener, for proof how groovy the album lends itself.

Highlights: Supernaut, Under the Sun, Cornucopia
Shadows: Wheels Of Confusion, FX

They Were Going Through Changes Alright - 92%

Sweetie, October 14th, 2021

The fourth outing by Black Sabbath simply titled Vol. 4 is one of those albums with unfortunate placing. Coming in between their doom metal masterpiece Master Of Reality and the weird but strong step forward Sabbath Bloody Sabbath makes it the overlooked middle child by many a person my age. Obviously plenty still love this one, but it gets a little less light because of that. I guess opening on an 8-minute song was a ballsy move, but it’s a pretty perfect song.

When people think of this record, it’s more than likely they’re thinking about the piano ballad “Changes” or the live staple “Snowblind”. Both are rightfully memorable, the former being yet another step into different territory for the band, the latter continuing the doom metal formula they had cemented into the universe. Then of course there’s “Supernaught,” the gallop-drenched banger that acts as the flipside, completing the circle of singles that probably hold the catchiest choruses as well as taking the most credit.

But Vol. 4 has loads of treasure in the deeper cuts. The aforementioned opener “Wheels Of Confusion” hearkens back to the phase-oriented songs that the debut struck so hard, swapping between the calmer and faster parts, before ending on a trippy dance-worthy note. If anything, this foreshadows their upcoming blend of evil and pretty colors that show serious fruition on the next two records. Of course “St. Vitus Dance” fits the latter description so well from front to back, where “Under The Sun” goes the total opposite way and burns everything to a hot crisp. That’s probably the most sinister song on the entire album.

Admittedly, this outing lacks clear direction, but while it doesn’t weave this into a consistency factor like the debut did, I do find the writing to be superior. Not only are the riffs themselves catchy all around, but the variety is executed wonderfully enough to overlook that tiny complaint. Well, that and the fact that “FX” is one of the most worthless things to appear on any album. You get the point, though. This is a bit of a transitional album that hinted at the weirdness of the next two while still holding the traditional doom candle that came before it.

Speaking Volumes About Sabbath's Direction - 50%

TheHumanChair, February 20th, 2020

For their first three releases, Black Sabbath released albums that I always considered to be good enough to get enjoyment out of, and for the many individuals that like the Ozzy era more than I do, it's definitely clear why they would. This album is the first of the album's that I find to be pretty inexcusable. It's certainly not abysmal...but it's far from good. This one is a clear and massive step down from all three that came before it. Everyone is in a haze on this album. First, the production is terrible. I'm not sure how you downgrade your production despite two years passing, but they managed it. Not only that, but the songs seem to have different production values on a track by track basis. Certain tracks bury instruments in the mix, but on other tracks, the same instrument that was buried is suddenly vastly in the forefront.

"Cornucopia" and "Tomorrow's Dream" are two examples of this. On "Cornucopia," Ward's snare sounds hollow and muffled. Sometimes it barely feels present. Iommi is also masked quite a bit by Geezer and Ozzy. Ozzy's vocals in particular are much cleaner and clearer than the other three. Now, putting on "Tomorrow's Dream," suddenly Iommi is right there in your ear, Ward's snare is nice and snappy, but now Ozzy sounds like he's distant. Things like this happen all over the album. As songs, both of these songs are pretty standard, yet not noteworthy Sabbath tracks. "Cornucopia" has an incredible and doomy intro riff, but the verse riffs are pretty weak. Ozzy's verse melodies are actually pretty decent and versatile here. The halfway point in the song gives way to an insanely weak segment on all accounts. Ozzy's shouting isn't really fitting, and Iommi's riff here is very dull. "Tomorrow's Dream" is a track that isn't offensive by any means, but goes absolutely nowhere. Not one member of the band does anything interesting, and after its short three minute run time, I just shrug and move on. This is a track that I imagine is for the Ozzy era buffs only.

"St. Vitus Dance" is an absolutely awful track. Iommi's intro riff sounds like it belongs in a country song, and while the following riff is a little stronger of a riff that's worthy of Iommi, the song just loops back and forth between them. This song is like "After Forever's" child, and all of my complaints about that track remain, and only get worse here. It's a disjointed mess of a track, and even a short run time can't make it passable. Then we have "Changes." Apparently, Ozzy felt he was Elton John when this track was made. His voice isn't good enough to fit most heavier songs, let alone an attempt at a ballad where he's the star. I know it might seem to be easy or cheap to pick on the ballad, but as a power metal fan that enjoys a good deal of cheesy ballads, I can say with the utmost certainty that this song was just a mistake. Iommi's piano work is solid enough, but Ozzy's lack of any kind of range or depth to his singing voice make an attempt at an emotional song feel like a joke.

All is not lost on the album, though! "Snowblind" is probably in my top three to five songs from the entire Ozzy era. The track is almost good enough to make the rest of the forgettable album worth it. Everyone is coming together to make Sabbath magic for this track. Iommi's riff is just fantastic, and gives a perfect groove. To back it up, Bill Ward, who I usually don't love, gives his verse beats some very tasty snare ghost notes that really improve the rhythm and feel of the song in a subtle way. Ozzy's vocal style is also very fitting for this track. He actually shows that he very sparingly can have a pretty decent range with the right tune behind him. The quicker tempo part towards the middle-end of the song showcases another of Tony Iommi's mastercraft riffs, and the quick transition gives the song a lot of variety and depth. When the song returns, the small keyboard work keeps that variety pulsing forward. "Snowblind" is just a truly well done, well written track on all fronts.

The only other track 'hard' track that I enjoy from this album is "Wheels of Confusion." The intro is just a bit of a jam, and while the verse riff and melody isn't super special, the transition riffs are a lot of fun. The later uptempo part of the song is the most fun for me. Geezer has a great bouncing bass groove keeping the flow up for Iommi to solo over. The track also ends on a fun solo that adds a bit more keys and also a bit of an acoustic guitar to back it. Although both during this ending and on the entirety of "Supernaut," Ward is going way too crazy on his crashes. The constant crashing really ruins any groove or flow from both. "Laguna Sunrise" is another of Iommi's beautifully made tracks. Musically, he crafted a song perfectly fitting the name he gave to it. His lovely acoustic parts along with the equally wonderful orchestration behind it give a perfect image of waking up on a warm morning to a bright sunrise. This song has the beauty that "Changes" WISHES it had. No vocals required.

Sabbath's fourth release just doesn't have what it takes to cut it. While it remains decent enough to stay afloat, treading water is about the best it can possibly hope to do. This album is not a downright dreadful one, but there's a lot of mediocrity to it, and there's barely anything about this album that Sabbath hadn't already done better on their previous three. I'll take "Snowblind" and "Laguna Sunrise," and leave the rest. Fortunately, though, the best of the Ozzy era was cresting the horizon of that sunrise.

Essential album. - 92%

Face_your_fear_79, April 4th, 2018

Before I get to the rest of the album, let me state up front that Changes is a fucking abomination, an aural train wreck with absolutely no business being anywhere near a Black Sabbath album. I don't anybody mistaking me for a person that thinks this song has a redeeming feature, or is acceptable for human consumption in any way. FX is almost as bad. Skip these two "songs" all together.

The A side of Volume 4 is as powerful as the one in Paranoid. In some ways, and that is high praise. it's real drugged-out debauchery awesomeness. The washed-out opening blues that introduce the album sounds like waking up in the middle of a siren-scored night in your own coke-ridden excess, and that's the vibe of the album. But in a cinematic sort of way. It's visceral. Tony Iommi's guitar is mixed way up, which means that you get to hear him at his fiercest. It also means you can barely hear Geezer Butler. Frankly, I'll take that sacrifice, because Iommi is just unbelievable here. Wheels of Confusion and especially Supernaut are the essence of head-banging metal. His solo in Snowblind is not his best on the record but its as good as most of the solos on here. My opinion for best guitar solo on here belongs to Supernaut. The driving riff in Under the Sun sounds like galloping down a dark forest trail to the battlefield, and Iommi throws some fun licks into St. Vitus Dance to turn the song into a relatively accessible party shaker. Its a decent song but not much else really and its too short.

I'm not actually sure why Ozzy gets to be on the cover though but it really is a moot point. The riffs on here gets a little much by side two; come to think of it, but not in a bad way and that is the brilliance of Iommi's riffs. The band used this formula on Master of Reality too, and that's a great album. The thing was, the riffs were even better! Snowblind, competent as it is, is sort of a bad sign and by Cornucopia, the songwriting non-finesse is starting to just sound plainly a little worn-out, and not even Ozzy's 'ariiiight!'s get much energy up. And the Spanish guitar instrumental Laguna Sunrise, pleasant though it is, sounds too distant from the album, like it was recorded by different people in a different decade in a different part of the world. It's more bizarre than interesting, at least in the context of this album.

But overall you need this album. That is only if you haven't heard it yet but how can that be possible over forty years later. This album needs to be heard and enjoyed. Long live metal.

This signal comes through crystal clear! - 90%

TrooperEd, February 28th, 2018
Written based on this version: 1988, CD, Warner Bros. Records

Many folks seem to think that heavy music, particularly heavy metal music, can only be successfully recorded under conditions of poverty, sorrow and misery to capture the "authentic" vibe of "real music." Volume 4 is Exhibit A to an opposing viewpoint academic journal that simply reads "Holy crap you are wrong you fucking idiot." Volume 4 was recorded under the conditions of: giant mansions, 8 track stereos, a color TV in every room, all the hoes you can tap in a day and cocaine; mountains, glaciers, icebergs and Blashrykh-esque crystal fortresses of cocaine.

Granted, it's not the most consistent of Black Sabbath's early works, and that is saying something considering this is the band who thought Fluff, Solitude, and that super long guitar jam on Warning were good ideas to record for posterity. The song that is practically universally despised is Changes, completely eschewing guitar for a piano approach to all things. My take: it's not my favorite Sabbath tune or even my favorite Sabbath interlude song from this album (that would be Laguna Sunrise), but it's really not that much of a betrayal of Black Sabbath's dismal spirit. It's certainly not Piano Man (not that there's anything wrong with Piano Man, or Billy Joel for that matter), and is a much more effective "my wife left me/died" track than the previous album's attempt, Solitude. Then there's FX, which is just goddamn awful. The record executives who were concerned the album's working title was a reference to cocaine should have been more concerned that there was a two minute waste of time consisting of lousy guitar effects as the fourth track of the album.

Nonetheless, people come to Black Sabbath for the heavy, and the riffs; and sweet creamy Jesus raping both Satan and Prophet Muhammed does this album have both of those in spades! Some of these tracks are some of the greatest creations that Black Sabbath came up with. Do not just listen to Snowblind when you get this album. Don't get me wrong, Snowblind fucking owns, but I'm not entirely sure why that was the only live staple to come from this album. Supernaut was hailed by Frank Zappa of all people as the greatest rock riff of all time. It's up there that's for damn sure, one of Tony Iommi's finest fretted feats. Bill Ward is also praised for his drum soloing on this song, but I honestly don't hear it. I do hear a damn fine, even funky beat around 2:37, but no soloing.

But the real highlights of Volume 4 are the first and last tracks. These are doom metal epics of the highest, pure uncut Colombian caliber. For all the praise that Into The Void [deservedly] gets for setting new standards of heaviness, Under The Sun/Every Day Comes & Goes manages to be even heavier. I'm not really sure how this one got forgotten in the mists of time, but seminars could and should be run on this song alone. Wheels of Confusion starts off with a brief swinging blues shuffle before descending into a concrete brick factory at 20 seconds in. Specifically a factory that drops concrete bricks on the heads of those who believe in false metal. You can practically see Ozzy Osbourne, adorned in white frills, raising both his arms in peace signs in time to the artillery fire rhythm, demanding the venue audience do the same, and will likely tell them to clap their hands not two seconds later. You better clap those hands dammit, it's good arm training to help you lift, brah.

The first sixth Black Sabbath albums are quintessential. As the title suggests, this is the fourth. Do the math.

Stepping stone to maturity - 79%

gasmask_colostomy, January 31st, 2016

From the first note of 'Wheels of Confusion', one instantly knows that the groaning blast of 'Master of Reality' had been replaced by something very different, infinitely more sprawling and relaxed and optimistic, though distant and booming nonetheless. The rest of that song (at 8 minutes, it's a challenging choice for an opener) does nothing to point back to the grim trudge that the band had already pioneered and, concrete-heavy guitar aside, sticks closer to the stereotypical spirit of the 70s than Sabbath ever would again. Although it's clear to see that all of Black Sabbath's early works shifted around from style to style and experiment to experiment, 'Vol. 4' is the album that drifts most lazily between genres and ideas, sometimes incorporating strange ideas because of their strangeness, not because of their musical merit.

Pleased with cocaine and dazzled by the sights and sounds of sunny America, the four Brits would seem to have lost some of the gritty determination captured from Birmingham's steel factories and replaced it with other ideas about being groovy, or soulful, or just blissing out in an instrumental haze. There are a ton of ideas here, not least the fuzzy bounce of 'Tomorrow's Dream' and 'Supernaut', the folkily atmospheric 'St Vitus Dance' and blissed out 'Laguna Sunrise', or the jam freedom of the long opener. Then there are those other (questionable) ideas, like 'Changes' and 'FX', as well as the rather more familiar drudgery of 'Cornucopia' and 'Under the Sun', which would have fitted onto either of the two previous albums. However well or poorly this range of styles accords with one's idea of Black Sabbath, it does cause the slight issue that 'Vol. 4' is the very definition of inconsistent, both in tone and quality, easily yielding to the band's every songwriting whim without ever becoming progressive or totally indulgent.

The objective success and subjective legacy of these songs are rather difficult things to measure, though come down to the musicians responsible for their creation, and the balance (or imbalance) between them. In the first place, Tony Iommi really drives this album with his guitar playing, throwing down the mood and content of most of these songs before his bandmates have their say. 'Wheels of Confusion' and the insanely catchy 'Supernaut' are led by his ideas, the fizz and zip of the latter sounding exactly like what is happening while he plays - burning a hole through the musical world. Of course, Bill Ward also has his drum solo on 'Supernaut', though it's the exception that proves the rule, since the song breathes while the percussion rattles about, before Iommi picks up the riff again and the song lurches forward once more. Ward has the slight burden of soft bass drums to contend with, though for 1972 one shouldn't expect too much aggression to come from the kit: at this primitive stage of hard rock and metal, the drummer himself was the main source of energy, yet Ward is a little restrained on many of these songs, perhaps lending them their subtler edge compared to previous Sabbath efforts. Geezer Butler gets his bass into the stomach chamber on many of the songs, really coming into his own on the slower, rumbling songs, but also complementing Iommi's double-tracked guitar on the more spacious 'Snowblind' and 'Wheels of Confusion'. Ozzy Osbourne isn't nearly as revelatory as 'Paranoid' saw him, actually behaving far more conventionally than one would expect or desire: considering that his ability is far outweighed by his charisma, it's disappointing that he doesn't have much chance to sound like he's forecasting the end of the world, while he struggles to match the more free-spirited direction that his bandmates had set out on.

What all this results in is a Black Sabbath less well-defined that they were prior to this album, which ultimately pointed the way forward for the rest of the decade. Dipping into the warm textures of 'Laguna Beach' would have been unthinkable a year earlier - even naming a song 'Laguna Beach' would have been unthinkable - but 'Vol. 4' really does embrace the musical spirit of the time and incorporates as many elements as the band wish, opening the door for the more fully integrated experimentation and progressive tendencies of the widely lauded 'Sabotage' and 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath'. In my view certainly not the best release from the band, this album seems more like a stepping stone from Sabbath's initial template of heavy metal to a different, if hardly less important, phase of their career - a necessary step towards growing up.

Further experimenting - 94%

Doominance, January 11th, 2015

Black Sabbath's fourth album 'Vol. 4' proved that Black Sabbath were far from done with experimenting with difference methods of manipulating the art of music. Heavy fucking music in this case. On 'Vol. 4' Tony Iommi decided to down-tune his guitar even further from what he did for 'Master of Reality'. Iommi's now very heavy guitar mixed with the fact that the band was recording this album in Los Angeles (first time recording an album outside the UK, if I remember correctly), and were pretty much high on cocaine throughout the whole process, gave this album an atmosphere that was different from the one experienced on any of the three previous albums.

'Vol. 4' starts off pretty fucking fantastically with "Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener"; an almost 8-minute epic that gives us an idea where Black Sabbath is heading. The song progresses from a very emotional intro to a bad ass and memorable main-riff. Ozzy's voice is also getting stronger and is becoming a vital ingredient to the Sabbath sound. The song then breaks into a faster section where Iommi is shredding a bit before returning to the main-riff again, and finally the second half of the song ("The Straightener") kicks in. A long, awesome instrumental piece that showcases the amazing dexterity of Iommi's guitar-skills. This is the catchiest and most memorable bit of the whole album and definitely one of the stand-out moments in this great band's career, in my opinion. So awesome!

Following the excellent album opener is the shorter, but almost as memorable rocker "Tomorrow's Dream". It's got a similar feel to the first half of "Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener" with a memorable riff and a very decent vocal performance by Ozzy. The song also features a guitar solo that sounds so familiar. Probably because most metal bands in the world have borrowed it at some point (take for instance Church of Misery's "Shotgun Boogie". It sounds just like the solo bit in "Tomorrow's Dream").

The rest of 'Vol. 4' shows further experimenting from Black Sabbath. "Changes" is the album's token ballad featuring Ozzy's voice, a piano and some background strings. It's a beautiful song, but is unfortunately the weaker of the band's ballads at that point (Planet Caravan and Solitude are definitely stronger). "Supernaut", "Cornucopia" and "St. Vitus Dance" are fairly straight-forward, heavy rockers, but with a unique feel to each one of them to differentiate from one another. "Snowblind" is an emotional, metaphoric song about the snow (cocaine), "Laguna Sunrise" is a beautiful, acoustic instrumental; very pleasant to have among all the darker songs and album closer "Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes" is one of the heaviest and doomiest Sabbath songs ever.

"FX" is the only odd one. It's an instrumental that serves no real purpose other than freaking out a high person who's listening to this album. It's a typical psychedelic drone of some sort, but to make it a track on its own was probably not necessary. Minor, minor complaint only, though.

'Vol. 4' is definitely a time where Black Sabbath went on to experiment even more unexplored areas of the heavy music scene. This album is a tad less consistent compared to 'Paranoid' and 'Master of Reality' (on par with 'Black Sabbath'), but has its great moments. The overall feel is gloomier than usual; perhaps and most likely an indicator of where the band was heading; though there would be a massive and awesome skipping stone of fantastic albums before the Ozzy-era's demise. The unknown area and the large amounts of drugs took a toll on the band, but they were still eager to continue their streak of great, heavy records and weren't afraid to experiment to achieve this.

40th Anniversary - 100%

FullMetalAttorney, September 9th, 2013

The first four Black Sabbath albums are considered by most metalheads to be some of the best records ever recorded. Few groups have ever had a run of quality releases that are even arguably comparable—Metallica’s first four and Death’s last four; Judas Priest and Iron Maiden have both had such runs. Within metal fandom, either Paranoid or Master of Reality is the most beloved of Sabbath's, but for many critics (myself included) Black Sabbath Vol. 4 is the pinnacle of the original metal band’s career. The 40th anniversary of its release is tomorrow, Sepember 1 [2012].

Iommi’s riffs are the main reason for its excellence. The riff from the fantastic “Supernaut” is widely considered his best. Contrasting with the slow-rolling doom riffs he’s better known for, “Supernaut” is exciting, and that is perhaps the reason the song looms so large in their discography. But he still writes some of his best doom as well: opener “Wheels of Confusion” is typically excellent, “Cornucopia” has an intensely heavy opener, while “Under the Sun” is the heaviest Sabbath song of all. “Snowblind,” as well, is one of the most iconic (and heaviest) songs of the band’s career.

The rest of the band is also as brilliant as ever. The aforementioned heaviness is due in large part to Geezer Butler’s bass. Drummer Bill Ward has never been in finer form, and the drum solo on “Supernaut” is absolutely entertaining and fits the song perfectly. Finally, Ozzy is at his best (pre-solo career). His default mode of suffering/fear/paranoia has never been on better display than on “Snowblind.” Piano/synth ballad “Changes” may be maligned by most metalheads and many others, but it reveals a side of Ozzy that had never before been seen. His energy elevates “Supernaut” from “great” to “classic” and makes “Tomorrow’s Dream” the underrated burner that it is.

So why is Vol. 4 held in lower regard among metalheads? Paranoid and Master of Reality are flawless records. They each have one curveball, but it’s an acceptable curveball that doesn’t do much to distract from the overall experience. Vol. 4, on the other hand, has weird experimental track “FX,” relatively long acoustic instrumental “Laguna Sunrise,” and the aforementioned “Changes.” As I’ve maintained before, “it's those imperfect, quirky albums that seem to be remembered a decade later. They grow on you.” Vol. 4 is one of those imperfect, quirky albums. It reveals a band with a command of what they’ve already proven they can do while confidently exploring new terrain, for good or ill.

When reviewing a new album, we critics (pro and amateur alike) tend to focus in on an album’s imperfections and penalize it for them. It’s only in retrospect that we can appreciate them for what they add to the experience. Black Sabbath Vol. 4 is the band’s greatest record in part because of its phenomenal successes, but also because of its sometimes-failed experiments.

originally written for

A Slight Bump in the Road - 90%

TheZombieXecutioner, January 1st, 2013

Heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath were well on the road to glory after releasing their previous album, Master of Reality, but it seems they have lost their footing a bit on there next release, Black Sabbath Vol. 4. Somewhat carrying the heavy guitars from the previous album and making them flatter and louder, while drowning out the bass that made Sabbath so great in the first place. This is not at all a bad album, but can take some getting used to and could turn off fans of the first 3 albums due to its production.

First things first, the guitars. Iommi has somehow taken his monstrous tone from the previous album and made it thinner and louder, a lot louder. This new direction for the guitar tone can take some getting used to, but I'll admit it does have a great middle and high section and even a great low on the intros to "Cornucopia" and "Under the Sun". The riffs on this record can seem kind of unmotivated at times but can be overlooked with great riffs like that on, "Supernaut", "Tomorrow's Dream" and "Under the Sun". Iommi also shows his acoustic skill on the track "Laguna Sunrise" which is a decent track and definitely the weakest of his acoustic work. Some great solos are on this record including one of Iommi's best, "Wheels of Confusion". The biggest complaint about the guitars is they are too damn loud, but the riffs are good so its kind of a double edged sword.

Along with the guitars, the vocals on this record are loud. Ozzy's voice seems slightly too loud as if he is competing with the guitar for decibels. Ozzy's voice is rather good though, its full of energy and ready to play. "Supernaut" has some great energy from Ozzy and keeps the track moving at a great pace. "Snowblind" also has some nice vocals patterns and lines that make Ozzy really stand out. The lyrics on this album are pretty good too. Speaking about drugs, depression, and religion in the typical Black Sabbath style. "Under the Sun" has come great lyrics talking about not wanting to be preached at and told what to do. "Cornucopia" has come great lyrics as well, talking about government corruption and brainwashing. The legendary "Changes", which is a piano ballad piece, that is rather sappy with the lyrics but is a great tune in the end.

Bill Wards drumming on this record is pretty solid. Giving some decent structure to the songs but seems to be unmotivated and just came along for the ride. Ward's cymbals are also way too loud. Covering up everything that there is to be heard at times like on "Supernaut" and "Snowblind". Other than that Ward's drumming is just okay at best and definitely his weakest contribute to the bands discography.

Geezer Butler's bass is nowhere to be heard on this album which is definitely a huge problem. The bass being turned all the way down really takes the great rhythm section Black Sabbath is known for away from this album. Instead he lets the guitar stand up front, which is okay i guess, Iommi does a great job on guitar and but without the bass it does half the greatness it could have.

Overall this album is good but has a few fatal flaws that can turn away fans. Iommi's guitar and Ozzy's vocals are too loud, Ward's drumming seems uninspired and lacking with incredible loud cymbals and Geezer is nowhere to be heard. Yet Iommi provides some amazing riffs, Ozzy displays some fantastic vocal lines and lyrics, and Ward gives decent structure to the song. This can be a tough album to get into but it should be checked about by any metal fan.

A few notches down from their previous two... - 90%

SirMetalGinger, December 28th, 2012

Vol. 4 is a good album. No, a GREAT album. Sabbath really sounds like they're trying to do something new and it works most of the time. MOST of the time.

You may notice that this is probably the most "upbeat" album of Sabbath's Golden Age (70-75). It has its darker moments, but the tracks are more up-tempo and the lyrical themes aren't quite as focused on the occult. There's even a "breakup" song (Changes). I do admire this for the most part; the experimenting here is dangerous and consistently successful. There are two instrumentals that serve as simple filler (FX and Laguna Sunrise) and while this wouldn't be the first time Black Sabbath filled track space with minuscule tracks like this, they really don't serve much of a purpose. On Master of Reality, each "ditty" set the tone for a particularly epic track. On Vol. 4 they seem pointlessly shoehorned.

Tony Iommi can still riff as always. His highlights include opener Wheels of Confusion, the epic Snowblind, and the ridiculously fun Supernaut. His playing is a little bit faster than normal, but he doesn't lose the sludgy feel that he perfected on the other albums. One thing that HAS consistently changed are his solos, and they are absolutely STUNNING on Vol. 4.

Bill Ward and Geezer Butler make for a fantastic rhythm section as always. Sadly, they aren't given as many chances to shine, and sometimes they just feel "along for the ride", which is a shame, because they have the potential to carry a song. I wish they had gotten rid of FX and Laguna Sunrise and given Geezer a bass solo (like on the first album) or perhaps a song where Ward could show off a bit, like on Children of the Grave or Symptom of the Universe.

Even if a few of the riskier experiments don't quite work, Vol. 4 is packed with great, essential tracks. Snowblind absolutely rocks balls, and I can't imagine how incredible it would be to hear live. Supernaut is a great song to jam out to, and Wheels of Confusion packs the free-jamming and soloing that made the first album and Master of Reality so great. I recommend it to you if you consider yourself a Sabbath fan.

One step back, two steps forward. - 70%

ConorFynes, May 31st, 2012

Each album that Black Sabbath released up to the point of "Volume Four" had showcased some sort of development. After all, most great bands are rarely satisfied with staying in the same place for so long, and it would be natural for these Birmingham gents to want to explore their 'heavy metal' invention in different ways. Although the diversified approach of "Master of Reality" surprised me when compared to what came before it, "Volume Four" is an even greater leap forward for the band, at least stylistically speaking. Here, the progenitors of heavy metal are embracing the progressive rock movement that was reaching its peak around 1972; if not accepting it with open arms, then at least acknowledging it with a nod and a wave. For all of the new possibilities that Sabbath open for themselves here however, I cannot help but miss the heaviness of their earlier work.

Although I do not hide my love for progressive rock, much of the reason that albums like Black Sabbath's debut and their masterpiece "Paranoid" appealed to me so much was due to Tony Iommi's mastery of the almighty riff. Not only that, but his guitar tone was heavy and thick, even by today's standards. While "Volume Four" has not entirely lost these traits, it's clear from the uncharacteristically mellowed intro to "Wheels of Confusion" that Black Sabbath are trying to do something different with their music, for better and worse. While "Volume Four" may not be as heavy as what came before, the incorporation of prog rock and American psychedelia is an exciting change of pace. The eight minute rocker "Wheels of Confusion" and beautiful mellotron-laden "Changes" are major tips of the hat to prog, which was reaching its artistic peak that year with albums like Yes' "Close To The Edge" and Genesis' "Foxtrot". Among the other unconventional pieces on the album is a listless sound experiment in "FX", and "Laguna Sunrise", an acoustic piece accompanied by full-blown string orchestration that could easily score the happy ending to a Spaghetti Western film.

"Supernaut" has Tony Iommi evoke the spirit of Jimi Hendrix with a playful central riff that ranks among the band's best. "Snowblind" is a rocking fan favourite involving the band's love of the Businessman's drug. Although the instrumentation generally feels less defined and powerful than it did on earlier albums, Ozzy Osbourne gives one of the best vocal performances of his career here, his distinctive voice complimented with a trembling vibrato and greater range than previously expressed. The result is an album that often feels more like hard rock than metal in the traditional sense. The songwriting is layered with keyboards, and tricks that the band innovated on "Master of Reality" have been developed further here. Although this is the most musically sophisticated album the band had made yet, it lacks the same atmospheric intensity I felt so profoundly with their early work. Although they have sacrificed an aspect of their sound on "Volume Four", Black Sabbath's newfound progressive outlook on their music would open a world of new possibilities for them.

Sabbath conquers the mainstream - 80%

Warthur, August 18th, 2011

Just as their first two albums defined the parameters of doom metal and Tony Iommi's downtuned guitar sound on Master of Reality yielded the seeds of sludge metal, Black Sabbath's fourth album sees them redefining heavy rock yet again. This time, though the sludge sound is still present here and there (as on Tomorrow's Dream) and there's the occasional slow, doomy section (as on Snowblind), the sound of the album is a bit more commercial. It'd be easy to mistake this as Sabbath selling out and moving to the mainstream, except at this point in time heavy metal didn't have a mainstream.

Instead, with up-tempo, feel-good songs like Tomorrow's Dream and Supernaut, Sabbath define a new accessible style of metal which would become a touchstone of middle-of-the-road bands for years afterwards, but in 1972 this came like a bolt from the blue and still stands up to its imitators even today. It's far from perfect. In particular, the first half of the album is marred by Changes and FX. Changes is a sappy piano ballad where the band apply amateurish mellotron in an apparent attempt to justify their presence on the Vertigo label (which was supposedly a progressive rock label rather than being a home of hard rock). Even if you set aside the horrible Kelly Osbourne rendition from a few years back, the fact is that the song stinks - the musical backing is simplistic and repetitive, the lyrics are laughable, and in general it simply isn't the sort of music you want to hear when you're listening to a Black Sabbath album. FX is even worse, a laughable stab at musique concrete clearly and thrown in as filler - needlessly, since if FX and Changes had been taken off the album would have been around 37 minutes long, which at the time was a perfectly acceptable length.

It's marred by two really lousy songs, and it isn't quite as interesting or groundbreaking as the three albums that preceded it, but on balance Volume Four is another great Black Sabbath album that deserves to be in your collection if you loved what came before it, but I'd still recommend any of the previous three over this one.

Sabbath Goes Snowblind - 90%

rocknrolldoctor, September 23rd, 2010

Black Sabbath's Vol. 4 was a major milestone in their creative thinking and their production. This was the first time the band had really tasted success, and the proof is in the pudding. (Even though their second album, Paranoid, was their biggest hit even to this day, they didn't get much money from it; it wasn't until after their third album, Master Of Reality, that they really got to cash in on their success.) Sabbath had been opened to a world of drugs, women, mansions, and cars that was beyond what they could've imagined. They could buy all the cocaine they could snort, and they took advantage of that, and it is evident in the content on the album.

However, Black Sabbath had a way of turning quite negative things into large assets that essentially brought about their success. In this case, they took the abundance of drugs that they were taking to create some truly powerful music. Bassist Geezer Butler used his excellent lyric-writing abilities to piece together some words worthy of rivaling Pink Floyd, with the rest of the band laying down some excellent instrumental and vocal work.

The songs on Vol. 4 are significantly crisper and cleaner sounding than their previous album. Tony Iommi's guitar has really satisfying crunch, and Bill Ward's drums sound really polished and professional. This is also the height of Ozzy Osbourne's vocal ability; his voice was in top-shape from large tours, he had finally mastered the art of harnessing his sheer power, and the effects of drug use and the long-term effects of performing hadn't killed the lower end of his voice. All in all, Black Sabbath was force to reckoned with during the writing and recording of this album.

Songs like Snowblind, Supernaut, and the eight-minute epic Wheels of Confusion were stylistically the classic Black Sabbath everyone knew from the previous three albums, but the production value of the songs is through the roof, but still have the raw power that inspired the shock-rock genre.

The album also has some more innovative material, such as St. Vitus Dance and Tomorrow's Dreams. They weren't necessarily as pure and disctinctive as some of their other works, but they were driving, rhythmic pieces that would dictate much of Sabbath's later styles.

Sabbath also took a lighter approach with songs like Laguna Sunrise, a double acoustic piece with some great melodies, and the piano ballad titled Changes, which could rival Elton John and Billy Joel with surprising credilbilty.

Furthermore, songs Cornucopia and Under The Sun were aeolian-mode scale based songs that gave hint to some of Sabbath's more signature songs yet to come, and even their definitive doom metal feel.

Along with experimental piece "FX", merely a two-minute mosaic of sound effects seemingly taken from the page of Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath's fourth album is complete. Vol. 4 represent's Black Sabbath's new-found love of excess, something that although it ultimately brought about their demise, allowed them to create some fantastic music. Definitely not an album to be taken lightly.

Simply metal - 100%

SleepingFinger, May 8th, 2010

This album is easily worthy of a perfect rating. But I'm sure that some will say that "Paranoid" or "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" is better. Compared to the three albums prior to this one and the one that would come after, this record is a bit ignored. But this album hits just as hard, and sometimes harder than all of the other early 70's Black Sabbath albums. It's full of the gloom and doom that we all love.

The music doesn't really differ that much from the typical early 70's Black Sabbath albums. Ozzy's vocals are the same. Tony's guitar is still heavy and down tuned. Geezer and Bill are still a powerful rhythm section.

Now let's get to the songs. There is some slow, heavy and bluesy stuff on here, most notably "Wheels Of Confusion/The Straightener", and the unmelodic dark song "Under The Sun/Every Day Comes And Goes". There are some more upbeat songs too. Such as "Tomorrow's Dream", my personal favorite "Supernaut", and "St. Vitus' Dance". A cool doom metal band from Los Angeles got their name {Saint Vitus} from the previously mentioned song. "Cornucopia" is a mid paced song and seems political. Another very catchy song in the slower range is "Snowblind", and it is indeed about cocaine. There are also a few misfit songs on here as well. The melodic instrumental known as "Laguna Sunrise" is Tony Iommi showcasing his guitar skills with a harp in the back round. "Changes" is just a piano ballad {I hate that word!} with some sappy violins in the back round, not that bad but is miles behind the ominous heavy stuff. And last but not least there is "FX", which every Black Sabbath fan except me hates. It is really just a bunch of beeps and noises, I actually like it a lot. The name "FX" really says it all for this one.

This album is essential to every collection of metal albums. As are the other early Black Sabbath albums. You can easily find this album online. So put down that Slayer, Venom, Bathory, or whatever evil metal you're listening too, and check out the band that started it all. You will not be disappointed.

"I'm Going Through Changes" - 98%

Gothus, November 15th, 2008

Every once in awhile, you’ll find an album that just blows your mind away. Whether it’ll be the crushing riffs or the extreme vocals or whatever, you’ll have your reasons. Now, Black Sabbath has a knack for this, writing masterpieces within a year or a little more between each other. By law, the first 6 Black Sabbath albums are necessary additions to any metalhead’s collection. My third favorite, behind the pot-ridden Master of Reality and the progressive Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, is Black Sabbath Volume 4. The album art is iconic, featuring a colorized picture of Ozzy Osbourne at a concert, and has been copied by many other bands. Like a little bipolar kid on cocaine, the mood on this album fluctuates from sad and depressing to happy and jovial.

Black Sabbath Vol. 4 is Black Sabbath’s last album that features a mainly doomy feel, at least with their classic, and best, line-up. Volume 4 has a more polished sound and feel than its three predecessors, and it features some of their best songwriting. When you pop in the disc, and you hear the emotionally depressing beginning of Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener, you know that you’re in for a great, moody, and HEAVY experience. As the longest song on the album, it’s one of the most varied songs, with great riffs and, as other reviewers said before me, three apparent parts. The second part starts at around 1:28, and The Straightener at around 5:17. Each of these parts has a heavy sound and wonder riffs (The Straightener highlights Iommi’s soloing skills), but…will it hold its greatness? Indeed- the quality remains excellent, with a few shifts both good and bad.

Let’s just get the bad out of the way- FX is useless. It’s just a bunch of sounds with little meaning. A waste of two minutes, it’s probably best to skip this boring, “experimental” interlude.

However, everything else on this album features quality songwriting, even the somewhat cheesy Changes, which understandably some people detest. It’s a great and depressing soft little ballad for all you cheese lovers (like me). Ozzy’s vocals sound very emotional, and the piano is just excellent. Laguna Sunrise is another beautiful soft song on this album, with some nice acoustic work. Of course, if you’re all for crushing songs and none of this soft crap, you wouldn’t like these either.

The best track on this album is a fan favorite that focuses on cocaine. Yes, it’s Snowblind, a midpaced song that distinguishes itself from the rest of the album. It is a very depressing classic with great melody. It opens in a very melodic tone, sending chills down your spine. The main riff is just godly, and Ozzy’s vocals are just plain outstanding here. It even features an orchestra, hinting at what will follow in Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. When the track begins to fade, it leaves you wanting more.

The rest the songs are as heavy as they can come. Supernaut is a great jamming piece and showcases the happy and carefree side of Black Sabbath. The beginning riff is just plain wacky and so damn good. The drumwork on this song is maybe the most memorable on the album, especially at arount 1:38, where there is a crazy drum solo by Ward. Tomorrow’s Dream is another great song featuring some more jamming awesomeness. It also has one of the best melodic parts Black Sabbath has ever made at 1:28, where Ozzy’s vocals will just take you away. Both of these songs are so damn catchy, and you’ll have a very hard time getting it out of your head (but why would you want to do that, in the first place?).

The beginning of Cornucopia is one of the heaviest moments on this album and is somewhat reminiscent of the beginning of Electric Funeral, on Paranoid. You’d have to lock your head in a vice to prevent yourself from headbanging to it. And St. Vitus Dance begins with an almost country-like riff. It’s not a bad tune, but it is somewhat forgettable, with no huge highlights.

The album ends with Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes. The opening riff of Under the Sun is so heavy and crushing that it can kill anyone with a heart condition. Bulter’s basslines is most evident and distinct here. It’s the slowest, ugliest, most melancholy song on this album. The riffs are just great here, sometimes doomy, sometimes technical. In the middle of the song, it switches from Under the Sun to Every Day Comes and Goes, then back to Under the Sun. The last part is an excellent ending to this album, filled with what can only be called doom. The main riff is repeated and it gradually slows until it ends in a subtle note.

In conclusion, Black Sabbath Volume 4 deserves as much lauding as its three predecessors, and features some of Black Sabbath’s best songs. If you find it anywhere, buy it. Do not download it, do not borrow it- buy it. This is a must-have for any fans of metal.

Highlights- Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener, Supernaut, Snowblind, Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes.

A Turning Point in the band's career - 75%

Nhorf, July 30th, 2008

Yes, “Vol.4” absolutely represents a turning point of Black Sabbath's career: before the release of this record, the band was getting heavier and heavier and reaching the pinnacle that “Master of Reality” was, they had to search for another directions and styles. The result is a very very heavy album (at least as heavy as its predecessor, that's for sure), but featuring clear and innovative progressive elements, since the songs are all very varied, following distinct structures. If you look to the song lenghts you may conclude that the songs CAN'T be that complex, but the truth is that they are short but pretty complex, you see? The band adopted an even more progressive sound later with “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” and then with the absolute proto-prog metal opus “Sabotage”.

As I've already said, the heaviness is still an important characteristic of “Vol.4”, with all the tunes also being quite slow. This is a reason why so many people claim this album to be one of the doomier Sabbath efforts, and I can't help but agree with that. Not only all the tracks are, as I've already said, pretty slow, but also the atmosphere that surrounds you when listening this record is absolutely EVIL. Indeed, Sabbath always produced very obscure music and this opus follows the same path. Only “St. Vitus Dance” is an exception, being a quite “happy”-sounding track, with that catchy main riff and vocals. “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes” is like the other side of the coin, carrying a very dark vibe, thanks to those awesome riffs, courtesy of the always inspired Tony Iommi.

As “Paranoid” or “Master of Reality”, “Vol.4” is another extremely guitar-driven album, the riffs playin a very important role indeed. It's not easy to produce midpaced/slow music, you got to really have good riffs, solos and songwriting to entertain the listener, and Black Sabbath absolutely nail that. The drumming is very proeminent, much more proeminent on this album than on its predecessor, and that's a good thing at the end of the day, because Bill Ward sounds awesome here, with his aggressive beats and fills (example: “Every Day Comes and Goes”). Geezer's bass is unfortunately a bit low in the mix and Ozzy's performance is pretty competent, all in all.

“Vol. 4” also has a notorious melodic edge, mainly with the presence of the ballad “Changes”. It's a very different and distinctive ballad, if you compare it to the first two ones Sabbath ever composed: “Solitude”, on “Master of Reality”, and “Planet Caravan”, on “Paranoid”. While the first one is very focused on the gentle vocals and on the mellow guitar work and the second on its dreamy vibe, “Changes” differs, with the piano assuming the main role. Unfortunately, and despite carrying a otherwise strong chorus, the track is very repetitive (when I say repetitive, I really mean repetitive... think “St. Anger”), with the vocal and piano lines being far too similar to work. The sublime “Snowblind” is another example of the melodic elements “Vol. 4” contains, the song slowly building up in the middle section, leading us to a fantastic and heartfelt solo, one of the best Tony Iommi ever played. One of the highlights of the album, no doubts about it.

On other hand, the melody is also present on some of the other heavier tracks of the album: the last segment of “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes” is an example, and so is the beginning and ending of the opener “Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener”. The two songs are also two of the most complex tracks of the album, and you can easily recognize that, since both are divided in separate movements. “Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener” is the longest track of the album, and it sounds like the mixture of three separate and distinct tracks. All the movements are very different, but the transitions are excellent, mind you. It begins with a very bluesy and emotional solo, then going through varied heavy sections, and ending with a marvelous outro, filled with excellent guitar solos, all of them extremely melodic. “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes” is also pretty exquisite and uncommon on a songwriting level, the song being pretty heavy all the way through, but containing at least three different segments, each one highlighted with a different riff. The best part of it is, again, the last part, with that beautiful riff, God, Tony Iommi is amazing at creating riffs.

“Supernaut” is another example of why Tony Iommi is so good, its main riff being one of my favourites ever (my all-time favourite is the first one on “A National Acrobat”, which is THE perfect riff, but this one is damn close). Its middle section is pretty good too, with those strange guitar, piano (?) lines and drum lines. “Tomorrow's Dream” is a catchy tune, with some more amazing riffs, even though it is actually weaker than the ones I've already mentioned. “Cornucopia” is a bit on the forgettable side though, and so is “Laguna Sunrise”, the obligatory acoustic number that, unfortunately, doesn't go anywhere, even though it contains some really beautiful lines. At least it's shorter than the boring “Fluff”, of the “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” album, so that's something. Finally, “FX” is the weakest tune, by far, being another POINTLESS interlude filled with strange sounds. Absolutely worthless indeed.

So, another Sabbath classic, even though it's a tad weaker than its three predecessors. Despite its doomy vibe, mainly represented by the heaviness and slowness of the songs, this album also shows the Sabs exploring and using constantly more and more progressive elements which would lead the band, later, to release, like I've already said, the extremely complex and ambitious “Sabotage”. There are some killer songs here, but, unfortunately, tracks like “Changes” of the infamous “FX” harm the whole listening experience. Worth listening at the end of the day, though, especially if you like the three predecessors of “Vol.4” and also, why not, its two sucessors.

Best Moments of the CD:
-the beginning of “Wheels of Confusion”.
-the melodic last segment on “Every Day Comes and Goes”.
-the first time the main riff of “Supernaut” is played.

Sabbath’s train runs low on steam. - 87%

erickg13, May 31st, 2007

In September 1972 Black Sabbath released their fourth album fittingly titled “Vol. 4”. “Vol. 4” is in many ways more of the same from Sabbath, then again it is completely different. This album is much more of a hard rock album, with many influences of psychedelia, which may explain the experimental nature of this album.

“Vol. 4” is the first album to show signs of decline within Sabbath, but put that statement into perspective. This is Sabbath taking 5 steps back after making 100 steps forward.

Another sign of decline is the lack of utterly memorable riffs. “Vol. 4” still has its share of good riffs however this is not the riffing monsters “Paranoid” or “Master of Reality” were. Also, after it seemed that Sabbath had abolished those annoying aimless jams to a minimum on “Master of Reality”, they fall back and provide us with the electronic exploration that is “FX”.

While on other albums it seemed that the band became more proficient as instrumentalists from the last album, that’s not case on “Vol. 4”, they tuned down, and slowed down. Ozzy Osbourne’s vocals are beginning to become whiney and electronic, however it is not ad nauseam as it is on later releases. Tony Iommi has seemed to have run out of those amazing riffs he conjured on previous efforts, but his performance hasn’t suffered at all. Bassist Geezer Butler again provides the steady performance which he has always given, and while nothing special, is another rock solid effort under his belt. Bill Ward, reverts to his jam style once again, which on this album, works to a fairly good effect.

The lyrical themes and mood of “Vol. 4” pertains mostly overtly drug influenced chaos of the mind. While other albums pertained to depression, society, and some sci-fi, “Vol. 4” goes very little into that area, and it seems to be obsessed with itself and its drugs.

And yes while this album has some weaker material compared to its predecessors, it has a handful of very worthwhile tunes from the opener “Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener” to the (utterly doomy) closer “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes”. But it also has its duds too, namely “FX” and the ballad “Changes”. Also, an unexpected bright spot is the instrumental “Laguna Sunrise” however, the key tracks to this album are the middle two tracks of “Supernaut” and “Snowblind”.

So, all in all, Black Sabbath’s “Vol. 4” is yet another quality release from the Sab Four, even if it doesn’t live up to its predecessors. So while maybe time was catching up with Sabbath this manages to still be very worthy of its namesake.

Heavy metal's origin, draft 4. - 84%

hells_unicorn, October 29th, 2006

We have now come to the fourth studio effort of the Black Sabbath journey and things pretty much are going as they have gone. In many ways this album is more comparable to “Master of Reality” than to the two previous releases, as Tony has his guitar down-tuned even further, resulting in a still heavier sound. Ozzy’s voice is getting better, although when it’s exposed enough it can still grate on the ears. However, the experimental aspect of the band is still going full steam ahead as we have some new ground broken in a few of the tracks.

Amongst the longer and more structurally inventive works on here are “Wheels of Confusion” and “Under the Sun”, the song that opens the album and the one that closes it. The former has a mostly pleasant melodic vibe that is comparable “After Forever” off the last album, but at the end it kicks into a more complex figure that sounds a bit like the later work that Sabbath would do with Ronnie Dio, and we have a rather excellent guitar solo to close things out. The latter, by contrast, is one of the heaviest tracks that Sabbath has ever put out, using a set of notes that sound almost as eerie as the ones that compose the main riff of “Black Sabbath”.

We also have a rather exceptional collection of straight-forward rockers on here that have the same heaviness to them. “Supernaut” is probably the heaviest out of the shorter tracks, although it is also where the drums get a chance to shine during the long middle section. “Tomorrow’s Dream” is probably the most memorable track on here, highlighting 2 very distinctive riffs and a rather simplistic yet riveting solo. “Cornucopia” is another very heavy track with some rather cryptic lyrics, I’m guessing it’s some sort of a song about either the horrors of drug addiction or the power of government. “St. Vitus Dance” is a shorter quasi-doom track that features some rather negative lyrics about love, the only thing I wish is that the put some sort of guitar solo into this or some musical change, this song seems a bit underdeveloped. “Snowblind” has a highly distinctive main riff to it, but the real treats are the primary solo section and the trill happy outro solo that’s loaded with pentatonic shredding. The subject matter of the lyrics deal primarily with cocaine addiction, which was probably the only major drug that they have yet to cover in their songs.

The lone ballad “Changes” is the obvious weak link on the album. I’m a metal fan who tends to show a lot of tolerance and even approval towards ballads, but in this particular case we have some serious problems. The first is obvious, Ozzy still can’t get his voice to sound good when it’s overly exposed. “Planet Caravan” worked so well because of the effects on his voice and the atmosphere of the overall song, but on this song we have only a piano to accompany Ozzy, and a piano doesn’t cover up anything. The other problem is that the song is far too repetitive and also lacks any solos or contrasting sections. Ultimately you have 2 different piano lines, both of which are extremely simple, and you have the occasional entry of some background strings.

The two instrumentals on here are essentially night and day. “Laguna Sunrise” is a fun and enjoyable instrumental with some charming acoustic guitar work and some accompanying orchestral sounds. “FX” is a collection of digital delay steeped sounds made on a guitar that are devoid of anything musical. The obvious function of such a song is to freak out someone who is listening to the album while high, and as I’m not into destroying my own mind, I have little use for such incoherent noise.

To sum it all up, we have 8 rather excellent songs and 2 that are pretty much throwaways. I’m going to cut the band some slack because it’s obvious that they tried a bit too hard to keep things original with these 2 particular songs, but also keep in mind that there is such a thing is creating something that is both original and horrible. Although this album comes highly recommended, I think the audience for people who would have an interest in this particular album for historical value would be limited to the heavier genres of doom and thrash, as this album is built more upon riffs than melody.

Snowblind in the Sun - 70%

Frankingsteins, September 2nd, 2006

After recording heavy metal’s definitive unholy trinity, Black Sabbath under the helm of guitarist Tony Iommi entered an experimental era that would soon see the band’s popularity and credibility plummet over the course of the decade. The un-cryptically titled ‘Vol. 4,’ the band’s self-explanatory fourth album, represents a thoroughly impressive and inspired cliff edge from which the band would later throw themselves like a kindle of coked-up Brummie lemmings.

Originally to be titled ‘Snowblind’ after the album’s happy cocaine anthem, but soon changed for pretty obvious reasons, ‘Vol. 4’ is one of Sabbath’s very best albums, paling only in comparison to its immediate predecessor, the gritty ‘Master of Reality.’ Rather than replicate their established and massively influential sound, Sabbath instead focused on a more hard rock direction incorporating progressive elements, and for the most part it’s a success. The band continued to pioneer heavy metal as an original genre, and this lack of established guidelines granted them enormous freedom to experiment: as such, ‘Vol. 4’ is more varied and adventurous than most metal albums that would follow, it’s nearly all excellent, and often pleasantly poetic.

‘Vol. 4’ is primarily let down by a generally thin production sound, and a lack of imagination as the album draws to a close. Whether the latter was due primarily to fatigue brought about by rapid album releases, disagreements between band members or the increasingly worrying amount of drugs the band was taking, I can’t be sure. Nevertheless, when this album is good, it really rocks. The unimpressive production is especially disappointing after the spectacular sludge of the ‘Master of Reality’ album, and gives the guitars and drums a more traditional hard rock sound akin to Led Zeppelin. The predecessor’s tightly edited thirty-five-minute playing time is also lost this time around, as the blues influence returns somewhat and causes most songs to over-run with unnecessary jams.

The lyrics predominantly display fear of an approaching insanity, similar to but less eloquent than Roger Waters’ preoccupation in Pink Floyd, and at a stretch this could be considered an unintentional concept album. ‘Wheels of Confusion’ and ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ both describe a blur between fantasy and reality, while ‘Changes’ is a more simplistic cry for help after bereavement, perhaps indicating the need to escape, and this is picked up on in ‘Cornucopia’ and ‘St. Vitus’ Dance.’ ‘Under the Sun / Every Day Comes & Goes’ offers the final solution, advocating the escape from “their world of make-believe,” and only in the controversial ‘Snowblind’ are the speaker’s eyes opened thanks to the power of drugs. It may not have been intentional but it works pretty well, and likely provides an insight into the band’s collective psyche at this early and successful point in their career. Life is one big overdose.

1. Wheels of Confusion / The Straightener
2. Tomorrow’s Dream
3. Changes
4. FX
5. Supernaut
6. Snowblind
7. Cornucopia
8. Laguna Sunrise
9. St. Vitus’ Dance
10. Under the Sun / Every Day Comes & Goes

Longer Black Sabbath songs have been divided into ‘movements’ right from the debut album, but this is taken a step further when bluesy, hard rocking opener ‘Wheels of Confusion’ morphs seamlessly into a piano-led guitar jam from Iommi. The first note is abruptly loud and clear, but sadly acts as a perfect demonstration of the weak production sound. Ozzy sings Geezer Butler’s customarily pointless fantasy lyrics in a noticeably more irritating whine than the lower pitch of the previous albums, but his trademark cringe-inducing singing style wouldn’t properly develop until the next record. Taking this into account, the second (instrumental) half of this song is far more impressive, as Iommi’s seemingly relentless solo plays perfectly over the simplistic repeated bars of the piano. Depending on my mood, this song could be much, much, much longer.

‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ is the most commercially viable song on the album, and was rightly selected as the single. Taking cues from the earlier ‘After Forever’ and predicting all the big numbers on the next few Sabbath albums, this is a relaxed song that veers on ballad territory but is a bit too heavy on distortion to allow it. Ozzy sings inoffensively for a change, and there’s a nice jazz-influenced break towards the end of the song allowing Iommi to show off some groovy guitar and keyboard tricks, in something of a failed attempt to emulate psychedelia in metal. The next song takes the balladic leap, and it’s not a pretty sight.

I’ve heard that Ozzy and his daughter re-recorded ‘Changes’ a couple of years ago and it somehow got to number one. I haven’t heard it, but I’m very sure it’s godawful. Sabbath’s original is lacking in depth for all the wrong reasons; Ozzy’s echo-enhanced voice is more irritating than it’s ever been before or since, especially when required to fill a vast chasm occupied only by Iommi’s feeble piano ditty that sounds like something a seven-year-old could have come up with. (Then again, much of Basil Poledouris’ soundtrack for ‘Conan the Barbarian’ was based on melodies his seven-year-old daughter improvised. I’m not sure what point I’m making here, but it’s a funny fact). This is one of my all-time least favourite Black Sabbath songs, including their pitiful output from the eighties and nineties – and that’s saying something.

Concluding this undemanding sophomore section of the album, ‘FX’ is nothing but an entirely pointless interlude. The band’s probably trying to sound spacey or surreal, and indeed it might have been pretty cool for the acid-drenched hippies, but two minutes of nothing but random amplifier feedback makes even the most obtuse Tangerine Dream composition sound palatable. I tend to lump it along with ‘Changes’ as the part of the album that it’s always necessary to skip. Things can only get better, and the off-road swinging ‘Supernaut’ doesn’t disappoint. Led entirely by a selection of Iommi’s brilliantly simple riffs, a technique we’ve seen does not translate to piano, this is a relatively roundabout and circular four minutes of rolling guitars and sparse vocals with a fantastic steel drum refrain. One of the high points of the album and a genuine Sabbath classic, perhaps because it really doesn’t go anywhere.

The album takes a more epic turn with ‘Snowblind,’ the band’s not-so-secret song about cocaine that even features a very loud whisper of “cocaine!” after the first verse. Considering the pressure put on the band to remove most of the more oblique references, this really stands out as an effective mockery of Warner records. Laugh in their hypocritical snow-covered corporate faces. The music is slow and dingy, although not to the extent of past classics like ‘Lord of this World’ and ‘Black Sabbath,’ but the tempo and style shift excellently between verses, choruses and instrumental sections. This is the most technically accomplished song on the album and one of the very best, although after the simple fun of ‘Supernaut’ it may take some time to really grow on the listener. Ozzy’s voice defies expectation by sounding really good in the sing-song verses (akin to ‘Into the Void’), and Iommi seems to have finally grasped the potential of keyboards in providing effective background ambience.

‘Cornucopia’ desperately yearns for the production sound of ‘Master of Reality’ or ‘Paranoid,’ and would sound a whole lot more impressive if this had been granted. The trademark sluggish guitars don’t sound anywhere near as powerful in the opening section, and the song doesn’t really pick up until the pace is increased and Iommi adds a couple of solos. Everything about this song sounds like a last-minute re-hash of previous material, but thankfully it doesn’t last too long to become tedious. This is followed by the pleasant but overlong ‘Laguna Sunrise,’ the only acoustic instrumental on this album following the previous release’s ‘Orchid’ and ‘Embryo’ and unfortunately lasts for longer than the combined length of both. At just under three minutes, there shouldn’t be much difference between this repetitive ditty and ‘The Straightener’ so long before, but this one is a whole lot duller. Iommi plays a single repeated riff on a Spanish-sounding guitar that I’m not technical enough to provide any more information about.

Following the instrumental is another below-average-length song, but this time Ozzy contributes some vocals. ‘St. Vitus’ Dance’ has a bluesy feel to it, and acts as a weaker companion to ‘Supernaut’ in its focus on repeated riffs. It’s a nice song, especially for its length, but this time the lack of progress acts as a hindrance rather than an advantage as it was earlier. These things work very strangely. The final song is something of a caged beast, again restricted by weak production from being the Sabbath classic it perhaps deserves to be. Ozzy’s vocals over the guitars remind me a lot of several points on ‘Master of Reality,’ but this song doesn’t work quite as well, sounding repetitive for the most part but saved by some creative guitar by Iommi and a speedy departure into ‘Every Day Comes & Goes,’ which is effectively a different song in-between two halves of ‘Under the Sun.’ Butler’s bass can be heard clearly for the first time under Iommi’s solos. The album ends in excellent fashion, with overlapping melodic guitars soloing their way into the fade in a way Iommi would unfortunately never be able to play live, having only two hands. The final crushing note ends as abruptly as the wail that opened the first track forty-four minutes earlier.

Black Sabbath’s first three albums already contained progressive elements, especially in the Medieval-style ballads that remind most strongly of patriotic English prog bands such as King Crimson and Genesis. With ‘Vol. 4,’ keyboards are introduced and it becomes a lot easier to incorporate established prog traits, most notably the mellotron lurking in the background of ‘Changes,’ a fond staple of progressive music to this day. Only with ‘Snowblind’ does the synthetic sound genuinely add to the song, and the piano / guitar outro to ‘The Straightener’ is a real highlight, if a little self-indulgent at such an early point in the album. The loose and jazzy structures also detract from some of the songs, leaving only ‘Supernaut’ and ‘Snowblind,’ and perhaps ‘Wheels of Confusion / The Straightener’ sounding like true classics, the first of which could quite conceivably be traced as the direct origin of the ‘groove metal’ scene that dominated much of nineties metal, led by bands like Pantera and Machine Head.

A few too many liberties are taken with unnecessary jams in the weirdest places, and for every cool musical innovation (especially in Bill Ward’s percussion) there follows a blatant rip-off of earlier material. The band would proceed to incorporate synthesisers more strongly in their following albums, especially 1973’s ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ which manages to feature both an accomplished cameo by keyboard virtuoso Rick Wakeman and an absolutely abysmal composition by Ozzy Osbourne that’s up there with ‘Changes.’ Not down here in Hell where all of Black Sabbath’s best songs really belong.

Mixed Sabbathry - 84%

westknife, July 29th, 2004

The fourth volume of Black Sabbath songs doesn’t disappoint. The production is obviously a bit more expensive than before, which is a trend the band would continue to follow into next few years. The music itself is top notch Sabbathry, starting with the monumental “Wheels of Confusion.” The opening bit of this song has a brand new, psychedelic quality that launches me into a different universe (in which I remain for the rest of the album). When Ozzy says “…in the land of fairy tales and stories,” that is the moment when you know for sure that you are in for a ride. Nothing has really changed about the way Black Sabbath plays, but it still sounds so fucking good. It is also commendable that they start the album off with an epic 8-minute masterpiece, which is definitely not radio-friendly. I think that’s a bold move, because it’s going to turn off anyone who doesn’t like metal. Sucks for those losers. But regardless, this song is a brilliantly constructed metal symphony that continues where the band left off with Master of Reality, still pushing those boundaries of heavy metal. This song is most representative of the creative advancement in this album, I think.

“Tomorrow’s Dream” shows very well that the band can still play shorter length, more pop-oriented metal songs in the vein of Paranoid. And while this song is maybe not quite as good as Paranoid, it comes damn close. Starting out with a bold, mid-paced, stooooned riff, the song simply rides along, fueled by the immense talent of the band members. Best part: “…and let tomorrow’s dream / become reality to MEEEEEEE…” Oh man, this shit is so good.

“Changes” is the inevitable attempt at a pop hit, and I’m going to assume it was a failure, because it sucks. It is a piano-based ballad with mellotron and bass, but no guitar or drums. I don’t really MIND it that much, except that it is intensely boring. The lyrics are nothing but clichés, and there are long passages where the background instruments just play without vocals, resulting in a pretty tedious listen if you ask me. The album loses points for this one. It’s too bad, because there’s some strong stuff on the rest of the record; it’s a shame throwing a stinker like this in to slow it down.

“FX” is pointless filler. It’s probably supposed to mess with you when you’re high, but I can tell you it doesn’t even really do that very well. Guitar effects have advanced so much in the last 30 years that DELAY isn’t making my jaw drop. I’m glad it’s short.

Well it’s about time they picked things up around here after tracks 3 and 4, and they do that quite nicely with “Supernaut,” a fast rocker that is based on a strong, almost sing-songy main riff. The verse riff is very creative, using a seventh chord and a lot of sliding around on that sixth string (which is dropped to D flat). The middle section is mostly percussion, along with some acoustic guitar, and it just ROCKS the hell out of you. And then when the main riff comes crashing back in, it’s like, “Damn!” It sounds like it’s about tripping. Why am I not surprised?

“Snowblind” is a bona fide metal classic, and one of my favorite Sabbath songs. Slowing things down a bit from “Supernaut,” the band is in their full glory here. Bill Ward stands out on this track actually, with his light strokes and rolls that carry the song along in a very stable groove. Also notable is the oddly syncopated fast part in the middle, with a rhythm that would be directly imitated by many future metal bands. “Cocaine…”

“Cornucopia” is a shorter song, and this is where the album starts to feel a little same-y and dare I say it, formulaic. Don’t get me wrong: the song rocks like a mofo, but it doesn’t really bring anything new to the album, it simply uses elements from the rest of the songs. Everything about it is good, however, and it does well as a hard rocking album track.

“Laguna Sunrise” is a sequel of sorts to Master of Reality’s “Embryo” and “Orchid.” It is a guitar-based instrumental that works really well, compared to the mundane instrumentals on the previous album. It is a tad repetitive, but that is a small complaint – this really is a good song, and a surprising one too. The string section manages to NOT be cheesy, which is amazing after hearing “Changes.”

“St. Vitus Dance” is a throwaway filler song, but it is still pretty good. It is notable for having a significant part in a major key, which is unheard of in Black Sabbath country. As a whole, the song is not the best in the world, but it still works as a near-the-end-of-the-album song.

“Under the Sun” is another deathly slow number, which I like a lot. However, it suffers from the same difficulty as the rest of the songs on the second side of this album: it just sounds the same. Taken on its own though, it is a very good song, in the same vein as much of their previous work. The ending is spectacular, where they repeat a riff a bunch of times, slowing down dramatically each time, until the song finally ends with a *thunk*. This song is a good note to end the album on, and the “Every Day Comes and Goes” part in the middle is pretty sick, too.

The album could have used some work, some of the songs toward the end sound uninspired or under-rehearsed, but at least half the album is pure classic Sabbath material. This is some of the best heavy metal ever made, so sacrifice a goat to this album! You can skip “Changes” if necessary.

a poor signal-to-noise ratio - 67%

UltraBoris, June 5th, 2004

As essential as this album is in the history of things, I cannot wholeheartedly endorse it, because some of the songs on here are complete crap. It's hard to say exactly why this happened... this was not the primitive origin of the debut album, where half the songs were blues because the rest of the world was entirely blues. This just seems to be a concerted effort to not make any sense. When this album is on, it is dead on - unfortunately when it is off, it is pretty much unlistenable.

This stands in stark contrast to an album like Sabotage, which is brilliant all around, including in the interludes... or Master of Reality, which only has a little bit of off kilter stuff. Here, the off-kilter stuff comes in when you least want it, and just ruins the continuity of the album.

The opener, Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener, is completely brilliant... it starts with a little melodic acid-rock riff before suddenly and abruptly switching gears into that godawfully triumphant metal stuff that only Iommi could execute so perfectly. This is probably the first of the later-Ozzy era epic style numbers (see: Megalomania, for the quintessential example), in that it's more complicated than an earlier number like Hand of Doom or Black Sabbath. Both of those songs go through their mood changes as well, but Wheels of Confusion completely takes this to a new level - starting slow, then speeding up (Iron Man, Black Sabbath, etc) and then slowing down again (Hand of Doom, Into the Fucking Void), and then throwing in the outro piece, which is far more complex than anything that came before it... I'm pretty sure The Straightener comes in when you'd expect it (it's one track, so I'm not sure exactly where the break is, but I have a good idea), when you get another really cute acid-rock Ten Years After style riff, and then a lot of midpaced soloing and heavy riffage over it. Imagine the closer of "Layla" (Eric Clapton) gone horribly, horribly wrong. There's quite a bit of instrumentation going on here, with the line between 'riff' and 'solo' getting quite badly blurred - and it all works brilliantly well. Along with Black Sabbath and Into the Fucking Void, this song is the highlight of Sabbath's career up to this point.

The rest? Well, nothing will top the brilliance of that one song, but there are certainly a few others here that are quite good. Pretty much, all the heavy songs, which feature Tony's masterful riff work, are all very good. When they want to be Black Fucking Sabbath, they are that, and they are good at that. The highlight for me is probably the closer, Under the Sun, which also brings in a few acid-rock sounding moments, but makes them so much more unbearably heavy than a band like Cream ever could've imagined sounding. When the verses kick in, it's a typical Iommi riff, and then the song gets faster and faster, with Ozzy's vocals more and more desperate. This album is about an average Ozzy performance, meaning that it isn't as brilliant as Sabotage, but it is listenable, unlike some of the later efforts. There's a riff in here that reminds me of the fast riff in Paranoid, before the whole thing turns back into a midpaced assault, and then the outro solo is a bit War-Pigs-like, but sufficiently twisted inside out (see that break riff out of nowhere around 5:25) as to be completely interesting.

The other heavy songs... Tomorrow's Dream, Cornucopia - both good Sabbath songs in their own right; easily recognisable for what they are. There's no one else that writes riffs like this. Snowblind's intro riff is actually the same note sequence as the intro riff in Heaven and Hell, except the notes are different lengths. Another great song, and the use of the subliminal "cocaine!!" vocal line is there just in case someone's retarded and thinks the song is about skiing or something. Hah.

Then Supernaut is also a morbidly heavy song, though there's a bit of an interlude that seems somewhat overlong. Still, probably the fastest song on here, and very well done, with a nice gallop riff that screams Judas Priest before Judas Priest ever screamed. Though the song is a bit simplistic, with the only real change coming in the way of a drum interlude. Wheels of Confusion, this is not.

Saint Vitus Dance is the last of the heavy songs... a cute little song that spawned a great doom band. Sort of an average little song, though, that has an atmosphere of late 60s hippie rock. Not even acid rock, but general happy-go-lucky stuff they play on the oldies station. Then throw on the lyrics. Hah! The song alternates between one heavy riff and one happy one, and in general it's not bad, but the worst of the actual songs on here.

The rest? These are pretty much completely worthless. Changes, F/X, and Laguna Sunrise. Laguna Sunrise actually seems like it was designed with some effort in mind, but it just does nothing for me. It's an acoustic number, that doesn't work nearly as well as the acoustic stuff bookending Symptom of the Universe (Don't Start/Too Late, and the end of that track itself). Then F/X is just a terrible string of noises whose purpose eludes me, and Changes is a completely worthless ballad, that makes their other completely worthless ballads actually seem not completely worthless. Puke.

So there are SEVEN heavy songs on here, which is more than there are on some of the other albums, and all of them range from 'pretty good' to 'completely brilliant', but the fact remains, that I can't listen to the entire album from beginning to end. Putting the godawful Changes after the excellent Tomorrow's Dream? Sorry, but that doesn't work at all. Then preceding the riff monster Supernaut with the stupid F/X? Welcome to planet Not Making Sense. Population: Black Sabbath, circa 1972. Then Laguna Sunrise is probably the most sensible of the poor songs, and it doesn't sound all THAT out of place, but it just sucks, and I would have no problem with Cornucopia leading into Saint Vitus Dance.

Worth getting? I suppose, but don't start with this one. If you're new to Sabbath, you've probably heard most of Paranoid (who hasn't?), so start with that, Sabotage or Master of Reality.

Transition to a different style - 91%

radiohater, January 16th, 2004

Black Sabbath had released a trilogy of classic metal albums, and had been on numerous tours since. The band temporarily relocated to Los Angeles for the recording of the album, and got promptly caught up in the rock-and-roll lifestyle. Somewhere amongst the chaos, Vol 4 was concieved and release to the public in September 1972.

This album seemed a little unfocused, probably due to the partying and drugs the band did during the recording of this album. Some of the band's most brutal cuts are here, but there are some songs that plod along without much direction. The instrumental performances are all well done, but are detracted from by meandering song structures. However, these songs are well-performed, and act as a sort of precursor to their next effort, with more keyboards and acoustic guitars being used throughout the album.

The Cast

John "Ozzy" Osbourne (vocals) - Ozzy is in top form on this release as usual. His improving voice is evident throughout the album. Top points include a slightly more aggressive feel on Supernaut, and the melancholy performance on Snowblind.

Frank "Tony" Iommi (guitars, keyboards) - Tony picks up keyboards on this release to add a little extra to some of the songs, such as the strings on Snowblind and Laguna Sunrise, the latter being another acoustic track that improves on past performances by Iommi. More classic riffs are found here, such as Supernaut, Snowblind and Under The Sun. The only downside
is that Iommi's patented 'twin guitar' solos are far less prevalent here, as his lead playing takes a more conventional feel.

Terence "Geezer" Butler (bass) - Geezer still continues in his signature style on this album, punctuating songs with his basswork when necessary. Best examples include Wheels Of Confusion, Snowblind and Under The Sun.

Bill Ward (drums) - Bill still continues in his style, but is becoming a steadier timekeeper in the process. He adds some deft snare fills to Snowblind, and adds an impressive percussion section to Supernaut, driving it along with a vengeance. Another noteworthy performance can be seen on Under The Sun, in the fast section where he adds quick fills when everyone drops out.

Production was handled by Patrick Meehan in conjunction with Black Sabbath, and the difference is instantly apparent. Geezer's bass isn't as dominating, and Tony's guitar sound has become fuller, heavier and more aggressive. The drums are mixed nicely, with just a little more hihat presence than before. Ozzy's voice is also slightly lower in the mix as well.

Choice Cuts

Wheels Of Confusion - This track feels like 3 different tracks pieced together as one. It starts out with a really bluesy section built upon an arpeggiated riff, before going into a powerchord riff. The vocal melody here has a slight
middle-eastern tinge here. About 2 and a half minutes in it gives way to a stomping uptempo section featuring some nice chord-melody work, eventually giving way to an aggressive chord riff, which is then laden with lead melodies. It then returns to the powerchord riffing established earlier in the song. This eventually gives way to another crushing power chord riff
which is used as a base for some nice harmonised lead work. This song fades out with a patented Iommi 'twin guitar' solo ... or so we think until it fades in with a melody line based on the previous chord progression drenched in reverb.

Supernaut - Quite simply one of the most aggressive tracks they'd done up until this point. That verse riff is crushingly heavy, and is accented by Geezer's bass and Bill's drumming. This contains one of Ozzy's catchiest vocal melodies. An extended lead from Iommi comes in later, which is soon followed by a percussion-only section from Bill Ward. An excellent track that is a huge fan favourite even today.

Snowblind - Apparently this song was intended to be the title track of the album, but the record company refused to release the album until the album title was changed. Continuing in the tradition of bleak cuts such as Electric Funeral, this song is quite possibly the most desolate cut on the album. It begins with an arpeggiated riff before going to a power-chord riff in the verse. About 1:40 into the song there begins a rather melancholy arpeggiated riff underpinned by Geezer's active playing and some nice snare and kick work from Ward. This is used for a solo by Iommi a little later. About 3:27 into the song it speeds up slightly featuring an atypical drum pattern with a hyperactive kick pedal. Totally bleak track that has deservingly become a fan favourite.

Under The Sun - This thunderous track in places brings to mind Children Of The Grave from the previous album. It begins with a slow heavy chord progression before locking into a thick chugging riff that could be seen as one of Iommi's finest. At 1:56 the song speeds up a little (a section reputedly called Every Day Comes And Goes), dropping out every now and then for a
quick fill from Ward, before going into a guitar solo. The end is a slowish section built on nice guitar line, featuring a patented 'twin guitar' solo from Iommi reminiscent of the one in N.I.B. and some kickdrum abuse from Ward. Excellent way to cap off the album.

Off Cuts

Changes - This one doesn't really fit in with the rest of the album, being entirely piano-driven, in stark contrast to the guitar-driven nature of the rest of the album. This is not to say that this isn't a good song, as it captures a feeling of despair quite well, but it drags on a bit and doesn't fit well with the rest of the songs.

St Vitus Dance - This one doesn't seem as memorable as the other tracks on the album, as the riffs don't seem to stack up to others found elsewhere on the album.

Raw Sewage

FX - Unfortunately the first blemish in Black Sabbath's illustrious career, it consists of nothing but 1:43 of random effects (as the title implies). Totally pointless and worthless track.

Closing Comments

Although not as good as the two that preceeded it, due to it's inconsistency, it is still an album that holds its own against the rest of the Ozzy-era output, and marks the transition toward the sound on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Do not hesitate to buy this.

Sabbath's Finest Indeed - 97%

SufferingOverdue, April 24th, 2003

Most people tend to overlook this album, which to me is quite a shame. Whilst the first 3 albums are indeed heavy metal classics, the material on this album is just total lightyears ahead of anything else Sabbath has done. It has it all, the doom, the heavy, the slow, the weird, the folk, the's just everything Black Sabbath has ever been associated piled into 43 minutes of complete sonic bliss.

From the bluesy and lethargic intro of "Wheels of Confusion" to the down right doom of "Cornucopia", this album is absolutely perfect, aside from one glitch. I understand it's probably something of a drug induced experiment, "FX" just isn't necessary to the album. Had the album progressed from the tear jerking "Changes" straight into the raucous "Supernaut", I think the contrast between the two songs would have made a much welcome change as opposed to having to skip "FX" in between. But all that garbage aside, what we have here is Iommi has his absolute prime, Bill Ward as his most technical and Geezer Butler with some of the best bass work you'll ever hear. And not to forget Ozzy's vocal performance, I don't think this album would have worked had Dio done vocals on it, in the same way Ozzy just wouldn't sound right on the Dehumanizer album.

To me this album is the definitive album in the "classic Sabbath" era with Ozzy, it covers all they done together, from their doomy and gloomy beginnings, to their more progressive and technical sound on their later albums together. If the classic line up ever does another album together, one can only hope it's half as good as Volume 4, which to me stands as an absolute giant in the heavy metal genre.