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Heavy Beautiful Heavy - 92%

ReleaseTheBears, January 15th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1998, CD, Warner Bros. Records

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was the first Black Sabbath album that I ever bought on CD. My Dad recommended it to me based on the fact that it was his favourite of the three Sabs albums that he owned on vinyl (along with Paranoid and Never Say Die). And boy did it turn out to be the perfect introduction to Sabbath for me! On a slight side note, I think the album cover is perfectly evil, if a bit dated looking.

As with other Black Sabbath albums, the main strength here is the riffs; most of the album contains epic heavy riffs. For instance, the title track is absolutely epic dungeon metal; that opening riff just sounds like it’s tearing the dungeon manacles right out of the stone walls. Oddly enough that first riff is followed up by a section that sounds rather like Jethro Tull (not a bad thing!) before returning to the heavy stuff. The outro riff used to scare me in my youth, but now I appreciate just how evil sounding it is! With the exception of the acoustic song Fluff, every song contains wonderful Iommi riffs, especially the title track, A National Acrobat, Sabbra Cadabra, and Killing Yourself To Live.

Lyrically this album comes across to me as one of their more interesting/strong albums. A National Acrobat has awesomely odd lyrics (“when little worlds collide, I’m trapped inside my embryonic cell”) and one of Ozzy’s best ever laughs right at the end of the extended middle groove. Killing Yourself To Live is a wise cautionary tale, and Spiral Architect is a gem of a tale. Ozzy does a great job on all the tracks!

Black Sabbath also show maturity and well placed variety on this album, things only hinted at on their previous albums. Fluff is probably Sabbath’s most beautiful acoustic song. It’s certainly a lot more melodic, smooth, and beautiful than Laguna Sunrise, which always sounds a bit choppy to me. And Sabbra Cadabra might be early Sabbath’s most upbeat and polished song. My Dad once described it as “candy Sabbath” and I think that’s a good description, what with all the Rick Wakeman keyboards and the romantic lyrics. But unlike the awful Changes, FX, and the questionable Laguna Sunrise on Vol. 4, the variety really works here!

There are a few areas for me where this album loses some marks. The first three tracks on side two drag for me after repeated listenings, and the synthesizer on Who Are You sounds a bit dated and cheesy. Also Geezer is much less noticeable on bass than in the previous four albums. However for the first time Bill Ward goes an entire album without ever sounding like a silly drummer to me. No indeed, on this album Bill Ward fits in perfectly on every song. It’s as though he learned how to be a drummer between Vol. 4 and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.

The last track, Spiral Architect, is one of Black Sabbath’s crowning achievements as musical artists. It’s not my favourite song by them, and it’s probably not their best or most influential track, but there’s something about it that transcends the need for genre identification as a listener. It shouldn’t matter if you’re a metal head, regular symphony goer, or a jazz fanatic. Spiral Architect is such a well written song that it should provide something for everyone. It starts out with beautiful haunting acoustic guitar, before building into something majestic and sweeping, with guitars, drums, great vocals, and tasteful orchestral arrangements. The spiral city architects indeed, Messrs Iommi, Osbourne, Butler, & Ward!