Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

A More Stripped Down, Still Progressive Sabbath - 88%

Superchard, November 10th, 2018

Something of a spiritual successor to Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath, Sabotage continues a lighter blend of progressive rock, one without all of the fancy bells and whistles from the previous album which employed Tony Iommi playing the guitar and everything else under the sun from piano to flute. Sabotage is not as ambitious of an endeavor, but is by no means just a stereotypical heavy metal/hard rock album of its time period. The lengthy, labyrinthine twists and turns of songs like "The Writ" and especially "Megalomania" instead are sure sign of a band that still desires to write complicated pieces of music and if there's any phrase I think could sum up Sabotage really well is that it's "ahead of its time", even more so than the albums which proceeded it. Pardon the cliche, but what better way to describe an album that provided the blue print for thrash metal bands to pick up a full decade later on "Symptom of the Universe"? The open note, power chord chugging may well be Black Sabbath's heaviest moment ever, and they still had the brilliance to finish the track off in a transition to a light gypsy jazz. That is to say that Sabotage is by no means in the shadow of its predecessor by any stretch of the imagination, with the band still riding on some of their best efforts throughout most of the album.

That being said, I can't say that it feels totally complete, either. Tony Iommi's knack for throwing in some short acoustic instrumentals on the old Black Sabbath records is still present in the form of "Don't Start (Too Late)", the title of which being a tongue-in-cheek jab at their producer who was never ready for the band to start, and they'd always end up playing the tracks before he was ready. It's a nice little ditty, but undeveloped when compared to Sabbath Bloody Sabbath's "Fluff", it doesn't serve much of a purpose to serve as an introduction to "Symptom of the Universe" either, but given the fact that it's not even a minute long, I can overlook it and not feel one way or another towards it other than confusion as to why they felt it should've been included. But hey, the band themselves were probably confused at literally everything they were doing between all of the hard drugs everyone was doing during the making of the album. That's not really relevant to anything, but Sabotage definitely brings back that stoner rock vibe that Volume 4 had with such songs as "Megalomania" and the colossally heavy "Hole in the Sky".

"Supertzar" is another instrumental that I think is decent, a little on the repetitive side, but it serves well to give Sabotage a dash of early power metal of all things, with an English chamber choir directed by Will Malone. It has an epic, mystical feel to it and would've fit better on Rainbow's Rising of the following year. It sticks out like a sore thumb here, and I'm ambivalent towards its inclusion. Something I'm not ambivalent towards though is the ludicrously boring "Am I Going Insane?". Even Ozzy sounds bored out of his skull singing over this synth-pop dud. Apparently Black Sabbath hadn't learned their lesson not to use these from the previous album on "Who Are You?".

It's also a pretty pissed off album for Black Sabbath standards. They were going through a lawsuit with their previous manager during the making of the album and on tour they'd wonder whether it was worth it to sell shows just to pay off their legal fees. Thusly, "The Writ" was dedicated to their former manager, one of the only songs that Ozzy Osbourne has ever written himself, relieving bass player/lyricist Geezer Butler of the duty for at least a single song on the album. Believe it or not, he does a great job of writing something that cuts deep and reveal his character while still being evocative in nature.

The shock troopers laying down on the floor
I wish they’d fallen into my private war with you
Are you metal, are you man?
You've changed a lot since you began
Ladies digging gold from you
Will they still dig now you're through?

Ozzy brings the punk rock, and the word "sabotage" is a good quantifier to what the album as a whole brings to the table despite the fact they've slowly but surely been lightening up ever since Volume 4. To reflect this new attitude, Ozzy's vocal delivery has gotten more abrasive, even implementing some infrequent cookie monster style shouts on "Megalomania". We've really never heard Osbourne like this ever before or since Sabotage. The only caveat being I wish they'd have capitalized off this emotion-fueled songwriting a little bit more than they did. "The Writ" is great and all, but what's up with the light twinkly fairy ballad interlude towards the end? The end of the song is humorous though, with the band mockingly playing a succinct performance that's been dubbed "blow on a jug". I only recently learned the backstory of this, as I've always found it quirky, but never actually looked into it, but it stems from a live performance in which Black Sabbath got outplayed by some street musicians that were blowing on jugs, which must've been an irritatingly humbling experience for them.

So this album really encapsulates a lot of things for Black Sabbath, it's not as intricate or as well crafted as Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath in my own personal opinion, but it's a solid attempt with a more stripped down approach. Most of the songs here seem as though they perhaps flowed naturally and wrote themselves the same way that "Paranoid" did. I can't confirm that one way or another, but I think the album does a good job of displaying where the band was coming from at the time, which makes it special and unique in that I don't believe you couldn't got Black Sabbath to write a record like this at any other point in their career. It seems to use their hardships to propel them into writing some of the most influential material they've ever written the same way that Paranoid did as well, but this time they have the luxury of having already established themselves in the heavy metal world while riding on the progressive rock momentum of their previous outing.

Superchard gets super hard for:
Thrill of it All
Symptom of the Universe
The Writ
Hole in the Sky