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Bloody fantastic. - 100%

ViciousFriendlyFish, January 25th, 2014

This album is considered by some to be Black Sabbath's final classic (though I personally think that label belongs to Sabotage). Tony Iommi was suffering from writer's block, and the rest of the band themselves felt lost without his riffs to inspire them. But finally, one day he came out with the riff for what would become the title track on this album, and then what followed was a heap of amazing songs, which collectively produced the best Black Sabbath album to date. This, funnily enough, was also the first album to receive positive reviews from the critics as well. Although albums like Paranoid and Master of Reality stand as heavy metal classics today, they were in fact, panned upon their initial releases. This one, however, wasn't.

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath adds a touch of sophistication and an extra atmosphere to the band's sound, with a more prominent use of keyboards, synthesizers, strings and other various instruments added on to the traditional rock instruments the band were accustomed to, but without losing any of the heaviness in the riffs or the drums that were present on each Sabbath release, and certainly not taking away from the strengths of the band as a unit. The band's ideas have clearly been more fleshed out here than on previous albums, with all of the songs lasting 4-6 minutes long and each carrying several shifts in tempo, a change of mood, or at least some kind of surprise to keep the listener hooked. There is a lack of short instrumental or experimental tracks in the vein of "Rat Salad" or "FX" that many of the previous albums had, but the album also lacks in 7+ minute epic tracks like "War Pigs" or "Wheels of Confusion", which isn't a bad thing. The songs are kept short enough to keep most listeners interested but are also long enough to cover enough territory to make them special. Nothing about the band's style and sound is necessarily compromised, but just added onto.

The "doom and gloom" type-themes are still here in all their glory. The intriguing album cover alone is a good demonstration of this particular mindset. On the songs themselves, the band covers themes such as birth, death and religion, with the latter particularly being looked at through a cynical perspective, with lyrics such as "Living just for dying, dying just for you" and "You think all the people who worship you are blind" demonstrating this. The band even goes as far as to acknowledge their own bad habits in one particular song, "Killing Yourself to Live", which contains references to their heavy drinking and drug use. Some regard this album to be the beginning of the end of the original line-up, as relationships between members were slowly beginning to disintegrate, which would eventually affect the songwriting chemistry, more obviously reflected in "Technical Ecstasy" and "Never Say Die!". With that said, the hard feelings generated from the tensions perhaps inspired "Killing Yourself to Live".

However, some of the lyrical themes are more positive, and they contrast with the dark, heavy music, most notably in "Sabbra Cadabra", which is Sabbath's stab at a love song, and certainly not a bad one at all, though unconventional; it creates a moody atmosphere with the help of bluesy drums and pianos despite Osbourne singing about his love for a woman. There are also quieter songs with less instrumentation, such as the acoustic instrumental "Fluff" and the slow, synthesizer-driven "Who Are You" which Osbourne supposedly played a large part in composing, but the songs blend in well with one another all the way through, and there is never a truly dull moment.

Overall, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath feels less like a typical Black Sabbath album than their previous releases, because of the differences in song structure, and the general atmosphere, but, at the same time, retains many of the signature elements that made people fall in love with the band in the first place. The riffs are still just as inspiring as ever, the drumming is still just as varied and jazz-fuelled, and Ozzy Osbourne hits some of the highest notes he's sung in his career. The band's lasting influence becomes clearer with each listen. (In fact, I honestly believe that the second half of the title track may have played a big part in the emergence of death metal.) You will need to listen to it for yourself to understand the band's true importance to rock and metal as we know them. I recommend it to fans of pretty much any genre of music; it's that gripping.