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Best Ozzy-era Sabbath album - 96%

Agonymph, February 14th, 2009

Once I had gotten into Metal, surprisingly, it took me a long time to get into Black Sabbath with Ozzy on vocals. I was a big fan of de Dio-era and 'Heaven And Hell' is, to this day, one of my favorite all time Metal albums. 'Mob Rules' and 'Dehumanizer' aren't too shabby either. I guess as a great vocals fetishist, Dio has always had more of an impact on me than Ozzy. However, it was with this album that started really getting into the Ozzy-era. 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath' is - simply put - Black Sabbath's best album with Ozzy on vocals and one of the best Metal albums of all time altogether.

What makes this one so much better than 'Paranoid' for me then? Well, first of all, the sound - and especially the guitar sound - has vastly improved over the last few albums. Tony Iommi started improving his guitar sound on 'Master Of Reality' already, but this is really where he got his shit together. This is just about as good as it gets for 1973. Only Ritchie Blackmore equaled this at the time. Who also improved is Ozzy. While still not quite one of the world's greatest singers, he has a lot more power than before here. Not to mention that he sings in key much more often than on the band's previous efforts.

But most important is the song material. 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath' is arguably one of the most experimental Black Sabbath-efforts. Of course, 'Vol 4' takes the cake there, but while the band didn't know where to stop experimenting on that album (resulting in utterly horrible tracks such as 'Changes' and 'FX' to drag the average of 'Snowblind', 'Supernaut' and 'Cornucopia' down), only the over-synthesized 'Who Are You' is a true miss on this album, that one really gets on my nerves. Every other experiment here is a successful one. Rick Wakeman's keyboards on the amazing 'Sabbra Cadabra' really add to the Rock 'n' Roll-vibe of the song, the acoustic 'Fluff' is the first truly good instrumental interlude the band has done, there is even a little Folk in 'Looking For Today' and the overall slightly psychedelic edge of this album creates an atmosphere that is irresistable.

Don't let the experimentalism drive you away from this album. The most important ingredient is still Tony Iommi's mighty guitar riffs. The album starts with the crushing main riff of the title track - if the album cover is the visualization of a nightmare, the title track is the "audiozation" of it - and almost every song starts with a classic riff. Just like we're used to from Black Sabbath. Of course, Geezer Butler's brilliance is all over the place as well. I just think there's a lot more power on this album, as well as better compositions than ever before.

Favorites include the amazing title track, 'Sabbra Cadabra' and the incredible 'A National Acrobat'. The latter pummels on in a relatively low tempo, but builds up towards new climaxes so brilliantly, that it keeps on getting better and better. Ozzy's vocal lines are also remarkably good on this track. 'Spiral Architect' is a mighty closer with brilliant use of keyboards (a string section is mentioned, but I'm almost positive that it's a mellotron) and 'Killing Yourself To Live' has a brilliant tension that is almost completely new to this band.

All together, I think that Black Sabbath hasn't ever sounded as inspired as on this album (and its brilliant follow-up 'Sabotage') with Ozzy on vocals. 'Vol 4' was a nice prelude to what was to come, but I don't think anyone at the time could have expected this. Not even the band members themselves, as I understood they were heavily uninspired until they moved into a "haunted" castle for the recordings of this one. If that is the case, I'm glad they got there. This is a monumental Metal release. If you call yourself a Metal fan and don't own this, I won't take you seriously. And in deed, that means I wasn't supposed to be taken seriously until I was about 16 as well. That's when I found out the Dio albums weren't the only great Sabbath-albums.