Sabbath’s works in the late 70’s had already begun to show great deterioration, and it was while getting ready to record the follow-up to 1976’s Technical Ecstasy, problems truly started to arise within the band itself. Days before a new album was about to be recorded, Ozzy Osbourne announced his withdrawal from the band:
"The last Sabbath albums were just very depressing for me. I was doing it for the sake of what we could get out of the record company, just to get fat on beer and put a record out. " ~ Ozzy Osbourne
Osbourne was replaced by Dave Walker, formerly of Fleetwood Mac, but this wouldn’t last for long. In the meantime, Osbourne had been making plans for a solo career, but only a few months later, just as the new Black Sabbath was about to try starting anew, he changed his mind. Rejoining in early ’78, the return of the vocalist made the original formation complete again, but the problems that had ever plagued the band since Vol. 4 were about to take their final toll. It had been only a matter of time before drugs would drive the group and their creativity apart, and mar the recording of the band’s eighth album:
"It took quite a long time. We were getting really drugged out, doing a lot of dope. We'd go down to the sessions, and have to pack up because we were too stoned, we'd have to stop. Nobody could get anything right, we were all over the place, everybody's playing a different thing. We'd go back and sleep it off, and try again the next day." ~ Tony Iommi
Eventually though, the new effort Never Say Die! was completed. It release and subsequent world tour did not fare well. Black Sabbath were now being described as ‘tired and uninspired’, a stark contrast from the band’s glory days earlier in the decade. And indeed, when listening to their eighth album, one could not do other than fell the very same judgement. Never Say Die! sounds like it’s being played by a tired, worn out group who have completely lost inspiration, and it is equally tiring to listen to it. Gone are Iommi’s monstrous riffs of doom. Gone are Butler’s prominent, outstanding bass skills. Gone is the tolerability of Osbourne. Gone are Ward’s always satisfying drum fills. It is this record that showed that, inevitably, Black Sabbath was as dead as a doornail. Less than ten years earlier with the releases of Black Sabbath, Paranoid and Master of Reality, Black Sabbath were the first march of heavy metal. At the end of the 70’s, they had turned into an average rock ‘n’ roll band recording tiring material. The opener title track is already a laughable attempt to create a powerful start, and it doesn’t get any better from there. Junior’s Eyes, for example, tries to be epic, but falls flat on its face, and by the time we’ve come to the brass arrangements on Breakout, which are far from interesting, we’ve completely given up. On this record, Black Sabbath officially stopped being Black Sabbath. Apart from Osbourne recognizable (and very annoying) performance, you wouldn’t even guess this is a Sabbath record. Such talent wasted. It is a shame.
Things weren’t about to get better. Sabbath spent nearly a year trying to convey a new record, and with Osbourne’s behaviour growing out of bounds, Iommi made the decision he could have made after Sabotage. He fired Ozzy Osbourne.
"At that time, Ozzy had come to an end. We were all doing a lot of drugs, a lot of coke, a lot of everything, and Ozzy was getting drunk so much at the time. We were supposed to be rehearsing and nothing was happening. It was like 'Rehearse today? No, we'll do it tomorrow.' It really got so bad that we didn't do anything. It just fizzled out." ~ Tony Iommi
As such, a problem-ridden band broke down, and no one knew what the future could possible hold…
Never Say Die!’s Black Sabbath was:
- Frank Anthony ‘Tony’ Iommi ~ Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
- John Michael ‘Ozzy’ Osbourne ~ Lead Vocals
- Terrence Michael Joseph ‘Geezer’ Butler ~ Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
- William Thomas ‘Bill’ Ward ~ Drums, Lead Vocals on Swinging the Chain, Backing Vocals
- Donald Airey ~ Keyboards
- John Elstar ~ Harmonica
- Will Malone ~ Brass Arrangements
You dislike the title track? I'd almost consider it a Sabbath classic, mind you probably the only one to come from the last two Ozzy albums. Though I am fully aware the group was at the end of a rope I disagree slightly with the claim that this sounds tired, it probably can't be described in terms of being energetic as such but I wouldn't say it's particularly lethargic either.
I like this probably a little bit more than Technical Ecstasy, truth be told. Both albums have an appeal to me I discovered long after first listening to them and being disappointed, I do agree that neither touch their previous heights (or those to come) though. ;)
2 stars a bit harsh. Yes, Ozzy's last 2 Sabbath albums didn't have that classic metal sound they'd created but there is still a lot to enjoy here. On Never Say Die, Breakout is the only track I dislike. The lighter sonic/synth sound still works for me. It's a catchy album. Iommi's Swinging The Chain has a Hendrix vibe to it. 6 awesome albums and 2 solid ones is a rare achievement in the music business. The shift in sound is nothing like Metallica's Justice to Black album metamorphosis. The Ozzy Sab era also reveals how many riffs/melodies Metallica (among others) had stored in their subconscious when writing songs. The 'Fade To Black' intro is from Pink Floyd's 'Goodbye Blue Sky' (The Wall) and the break out riff is from B. Sab's 'A National Acrobat' (Sabbath Bloody Sabbath). Delving into the past can reveal a lot.
As always, great review. But I'm really late to the Sabbath party, all I've heard is their debut, Dehumanizer and Heaven & Hell (which I'm curious to hear what you'll say in your review besides the verdict obviously). If you plan on doing another discography review after Sabbath, I'd be curious to see one for Iron Maiden personally (I'm not a huge fan personally, but I'd enjoy hearing your thoughts and reasoning).
I need to get some more Sabbath sometime instead of my lame Greatest Hits album. All great reviews so far man, I take it I should start with Paranoid but in what order would you recommend listening to Sabbath? Chronologically like your reviews?
I'd recommend you do something a bit more different next time, in order to prevent your reviews from becoming too stagnant (they're still very good, but being 100% honest, they do tend to get overly similar because you always review stuff that is so alike). The Clash was a good break imo, I'd recommend you do another discography that isn't about a heavy metal or 80's hard rock band. Just my two cents man
I'm really aware of that myself, my writing slipped into some sort of comfort zone and it doesn't easily get out. It's just where my main interest lies, although I purposely chose the RHCP discog, also because it's definitely different from what I usually do. I've kept the thought in the back of my head for some time now, and I was going to do something different before I continue with the Dio era anyway.
While well written, you didn't speak enough on the music itself, something you excelled at greatly on the last 7 reviews. I like the sound on this album. Very daring for this band at the time. And I personally feel swinging the chain is the best song on here. The lyrics are clearly about the end of Sabbath.
the band was alomst dead here. no strong riffs, no amazing bass skills, no impressive drums. i think it's the worstmalbum sabbath has ever done (i've heard 'em all, even martin's). 1 star is given because s/t song is pretty good