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Not quite as terrifying as the album cover - 89%

TrooperEd, April 4th, 2018
Written based on this version: 1987, CD, Warner Bros. Records

The story goes that Black Sabbath tried the same method to write their follow up to Volume 4: Bel-Air mansion, cocaine galore, only this time nothing happened. Then they travelled back to England and found this spooky castle and even then it took a while for the band (or rather Tony Iommi) to come up with anything. Finally, the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath riff emanated from the strings of Tony's Gibson SG, and the ideas began to flow forth.

Amongst those ideas were Fluff, Who Are You, Looking For Today, and a few other oblong constructions that seem to fit the album's angelic back cover rather than the muse for demon-rape hentai of a front album cover. Given how many seemingly un-Sabbath ideas there are on this album, it's fascinating that people still include this amongst Sabbath's classic period, choosing to ignore the much heavier Sabotage over this. To be fair, I've heard anywhere from "after the first four Sabbath albums" to "after Never Say Die." Now, in no way am I saying this album is bad, or even that all of the more unconventional ideas here are bad, just that it was pretty incredible this album allowed Ozzy to get away with singing "lovely la-ay-ay-ay-day." I chalk it up to the 70s, where everyone was just more open minded and fan bitching was kept in bowels of bars and playgrounds where it was promptly marginalized the second the band came to town for a live show. I'm not really sure any band could get away with this album today, given that one simple blabbermouth comment will immediately dissuade scores of mouth breathing retards. Ignoring the cries of the fans isn't always a bad thing, folks.

Still, I have to call a spade a spade, and Fluff is easily the second worst track from the Ozzy era. I can understand the occasional interlude like Orchid or Laguna Sunrise for the sake of variety, but this? This is just awful. The band America laughed this shit out of the room for being softer than melted ice-cream. Then there's Who Are You, which was written lock stock and barrel by none other than Ozzy Osborune all by himself. Of course this song also falters under scrutiny, because as nicely as that keyboard riff fits the Sabbath sound, we all can't help but wonder why the hell Tony Iommi isn't playing that riff on the guitar? He doesn't even play it as a doubling rhythm track to the keyboard, which I think would have given the song a massive boost. Spiral Architect and Looking For Today is where we start to cross into the realms of great ideas of expanding into the Black Sabbath sound. The former seems to use an acoustic guitar as it's backbone (though a proper electric riff does pop in from time to time), and Looking For Today seems to undergo an R&B diva vibe that Judas Priest would briefly embellish a bit further on the Killing Machine album. It's also worth mentioning that there's a lot of orchestra instruments on this album. Hell, Looking For Today even has a flute underneath the pre-chorus.

For better or worse, there's enough proper heavy Sabbath songs to fill up an album side. A National Acrobat, Killing Yourself To Live, Sabbra Caddabra and the absolutely nightmarish title track are just as much staples of what Black Sabbath do best alongside Children of The Grave, Iron Man, etc. Well, ok, Sabbra Caddabra is also another weird one, sounding like a lost collaboration track between Black Sabbath and Elton John, but again, that riff! One thing you might not be prepared for is Ozzy's Judas-fucking-Priest like performance in the second half of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. I had heard most of the Sabbath classics live before the studio versions so hearing "WHERE CAN YOU RUN TO" erupt out of nowhere, along with everything that followed was such a gut punch. It was the first time Black Sabbath managed to scare the shit out of me. Master of Reality and Volume 4 had gotten listeners accustomed to an Ozzy Osbourne that could at the very least, last a few rounds with Robert Plant and Ian Gillan, but nobody saw this vocal performance coming. I guess the fact that Ozzy wasn't capable of performing this part live after 1974 (if he ever did that is) has preserved it like a horror movie scare that hasn't been copied and parodied in an attempt to soften the blow. Then you combine that with the song's coda, which actually sounds like the remaining ensemble is musically ripping your mind apart and sucking it into a black hole, and you have a tour-de-force that screams "this is heavy metal!" It's surprising Fluff wasn't placed directly after this track to try and bring the listener back to reality.

While the rest of the album doesn't quite match that song's caliber, you best believe Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is worth buying for the title track alone. Even if you already have the song on one of the greatest hits comps or on an MP3, get it anyway. You never know when those other "copies" might scratch/get corrupted from internet viruses.