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The Whole Album Is In Need Of A Rock N'Roll Doctor - 42%

CHAIRTHROWER, January 23rd, 2016
Written based on this version: 1991, Cassette, Elbo

Years ago, when I first discovered Black Sabbath while playing Rock N' Roll Racing on Super Nintendo, I started to avidly seek out all their releases, excited like a kid at Christmas with each new purchase. I soon realized only the 70's material featured Ozzy Osbourne on vocals, so I focused mainly on their first eight albums. Was I ever in for an unpleasant shock (#[email protected]%!) when I popped the turnip which is Technical Ecstasy into the tape deck.

The opener "Backstreet Kids" immediately caught me off guard. With its pedantic, out-of-place ghetto references and Ozzy's overly nasal twine, it didn't take long for it to get on my nerves. The line at the end of the verses : " Nobody I know is gonna take my rock 'n roll away from me" is especially horrid. I remember feeling uneasy and cheated while sensing a foreboding apprehension of what was about to transpire.
It turned out my fears were well founded.

Many of the tracks seem like they were composed off the cuff; either the boys from Birmingham had one too many and strayed away from the beaten path or they were recovering from a serious hangover while writing them. As well, they sound hastily put together, as if the band was hemmed in by cloying record executives while trying to meet a deadline. Take "All Moving Parts", for example. The less said, the better. It's basically an uninspiring and boring song as flat as a glass of 7-Up left on the counter overnight. Another would be "Rock N' Roll Doctor", although I admit the cowbell and piano strokes are a nice touch. Other than that, one could say the entire song is a cry for help. ("Gotta See My Rock N' Roll Doctor" repeated a gazillion times!). I find it particularly unfortunate that Ozzy's vocal range bleakly hangs somewhere between the eerie and mesmerizing overtones of their earlier albums and the rock orchestra splendor of his solo days (i.e. Blizzard Of Oz). Somehow, he seems to lack his usual one-of-a-kind charisma and overall magnetism this time around.

A decent song which could have nicely complimented some other powerhouse of an album is "Gypsy", which has a cool David Bowie (RIP) /Rush vibe to it, yet here it is hopelessly lumped in with "It's Alright", and "She's Gone", two absolutely unnecessary pieces of saccharine whimsy. Hence, the problem: half of Technical Ex is comprised of fluff (of course, no disrespect to their instrumental of the same name) while most of it is devoid of any truly satisfying or memorable moments. This is not "metal" at all, nor is it acceptable in my book!

Also, I could have done without the melodramatic synthesizers that pop up intermittently throughout the album. They definitely didn't manage to re-produce the psychedelic and welcome effect found on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. As far as the rhythm section goes, the band seems to be asleep at the wheel most of the time. Geezer Butler's past synergy and drive from albums such as Paranoid and Master Of Reality are missing; his bass lines come off as cheap and generic. Bill Ward's drumming also lacks his earlier years' relaxed and trailblazing break beat style. Here, they are not impressive at all and thump meekly.

All is not lost however. The final track, "Dirty Women", saves the album from total disgrace (otherwise I would have rated it closer to zero). Although the main guitar riff sounds sort of derived from "Cocaine" by Cream, it still fully rocks, grabbing the listener by surprise with its octane driven power and Tony Iommi's flurry of much needed trademark barn burning guitar solos. Despite his shortcomings, Ozzy Osbourne does manage to redeem himself here. If all the songs had the same punch as this one, Technical Ecstasy could have been referred to in the same breath as Sabotage or maybe even Volume 4. Alas, it's stand-out quality is somewhat diminished by its misogynistic title and crass lyrics (I see a man, he's got take away women for sale, yes for sale./ Guess that's the answer, 'cause take away women don't fail"). I'm not trying to preach here; I can see the appeal in writing a song about a man's relationship with a prostitute. However, this can be achieved in a classier and more tasteful way. (A good example would be "20 Buck Spin" by Pentagram). Needless to say, they sure didn't have their female audience in mind when they wrote this one.

As for the cover, well I guess it's a love it or leave it affair. Hypgnosis had already come up with some pretty rad cover art (such as Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon and Led Zeppelin's Houses Of The Holy) but to me this looks like something inspired by a glue-sniffing session or a nicotine patch induced nightmare. Geezer Butler should have seriously refrained from designing it (let alone submitting it!), and rather focused his undivided attention on the actual music. Granted, he may have been cleverly attempting to portray the looming threat of mall culture consumerism (robotic shoppers riding escalators) or perhaps technology's unavoidable encroachment on the masses. Instead it comes off as a ghastly eye-sore. A blank canvas would have been preferable to this.

In a nutshell, this album was a huge disappointment and is best left forgotten in order to not tarnish the awesome nostalgia derived from their first six albums. Even though he was and still is a huge inspiration for me, Tony Iommi hardly shines at all on this release, with the exception of "Dirty Woman". Thank goodness for that! At least it didn't turn out to be a permanent thing, as his fretwork on Heaven And Hell clearly proves. The end result though is that Technical Ecstasy is substantially less appealing than the band's past achievements. They really should have taken a couple years break after Sabotage in order to sort themselves out from their heavy drug use and come back to the table with a rested and more focused outlook. Heck, even the last Ozzy fronted Never Say Die ('78) surpasses it. In order to review this properly, I had to painfully re-listen to it one final time. I hope my sacrifice was worth it.