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Heavy Metal Draft 5, perfection attained! - 100%

hells_unicorn, October 31st, 2006

It had been 4 years since the release of their highly innovative debut record, and they had already put out 3 subsequent releases that all featured a uniquely progressive sound, but the true awakening that this band would bring about had yet to fully manifest itself. “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” is a culmination of all that Sabbath came to embody in their glory days of the 70s, heavy music that would refuse to conform to the mainstream norms of the time. Previous reviewers have already made note of the vast number of new instruments that have been included to complement Sabbath’s established sound, but what I think is often missed is the true consequences of what those instruments, along with the usual sounds that the band creates, actually ended up producing.

This album is often referred to as the first progressive album to grace the metal genre, and for good reason too, as Sabbath has been at the forefront of bringing new technology to rock music. This progression still holds sway with today’s latest metal acts. The violin work found on “Spiral Architect” created a precedent of marrying classical music with metal that would manifest into the fully symphonic style, as spearheaded by bands such as Rhapsody. The heavy amount of synthesizer work on “who are you?” inspired a whole generation of progressive rockers, although credit must also be given to Rush for perfecting the model that is now used by such bands as “Dream Theatre” and “Symphony X”.

What is often missed by reviewers is the highly technical elements involved in this album, not only in terms of structure, but in the sheer display of dexterity by the musicians involved. “Sabbra Cadabra” has an incredibly inventive and difficult riff at the beginning, one that is well known for being the riff that exposed Kirk Hammet’s flaws as a player. Truth be told, I struggled with this riff greatly when I played this song in my own band, it definitely showcases a strong sense of rhythm on the part of Tony Iommi. The rest of the song is loaded with some rather brilliant musical changes, including some fine piano playing, and the usually active bass and drum work.

One criticism that is often lobbed at this release is that the guitar is a bit too muddy, to which I will simply state that this the tone is as heavy as the last two albums but it mixes much better with all the extra instruments much better this way. Songs such as the title track, “Killing Yourself to Live” and “A National Acrobat” are heavy enough and also contain some rather interesting sounds in the lead tracks. The latter of the 3 tracks takes my pick for the best guitar solo on this album, as Tony has truly turned his multi-track leads into 2 dueling guitars that go in completely different directions.

One would wonder why this album would get a perfect score from me when I have passed up such amazing works both before and after this album with Ozzy, but upon listening to this CD, the answer becomes immediately obvious. I don’t know what happened between Vol. 4 and this release but somewhere along the way Ozzy’s voice got a whole lot better. There isn’t a single track on here where I find his voice to be either grating or unpleasant. In fact, in the cases of the title track and “Look for Today” I think his voice is utterly amazing. He has a rather good command of the higher register, and his voice actually manages to transition well between the acoustic and electric sections of both songs.

I also wanted to give special kudos to the band for the long yet highly enjoyable instrumental “fluff”. Unlike previous releases where instrumentals or quiet ballads would either be too repetitive or too musically flat, this one is loaded with amazing moments. The piano and harpsichord work on here is nothing short of spellbinding, to speak nothing of all the great acoustic guitar tracks. If there is a flaw in this song it is that there are so many tracks on here that it would be impossible for 5 people to recreate the dense atmosphere accomplished on this studio recording.

I will now take a moment to single out one particular track on this album, and that is the well known yet often underrated title track. Ever since hearing this song it has remained my favorite of all the songs ever recorded by this band with Ozzy doing the singing (third favorite of this band as a whole). This song’s true impact is not fully realized by many, mostly because it lacks some of the key elements that defined the genre that it helped spawn, particularly the speed that was taken more from Deep Purple, Rainbow and Judas Priest. Yes my friends, I speak of the genre of melodic power metal. This riff is one that would often be used as inspiration for the music of bands such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Gamma Ray, and a host of other bands associated with the current explosion of melodic power metal. It is no accident that when invited to appear on the Sabbath tribute album that Bruce Dickinson chose this song. This also is the song that I play most with my own band, and I take lead vocal duties on this one always, because it is the song that inspired my first set of original compositions. This song is absolutely timeless, and will undoubtedly continue to inspire many great heavy metal acts for decades to come.

In conclusion, although this album is mostly geared towards the Progressive and Melodic side of metal, with a bit less emphasis on the doom, I highly recommend it to all. It presents Sabbath at their most polished and their most powerful. You wouldn’t know by listening to it that the band who recorded it was tiring from 4 straight years of touring and also releasing 4 studio efforts during that period. This band was about as driven as they come, and the music that they have created never ceases to drive young musicians to pick up and instrument and make one hell of a beautiful racket.