Review Summary: The last of the famous "First Six", and also the most underrated one. It's as enjoyable as its five predecessors, and a great album, definitely.
This is Sabbath’s sixth release, the last of the called “First Six”. So, it should be a great album, like the other five. People often overlook this record, because it’s not as well-known as the rest. But they mistake, because Sabotage is a magnificent album (in my opinion better than Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, for example). Unluckily, it’s the last decent album in the Ozzy Osbourne era, which might be a reason why people see it like the beginning of Sabbath’s slope. Everyone knows what came after, the uninspired Technical Ecstasy, followed by the even worse Never Say Die!, and then, the end of Osbourne years with the legendary band. But don’t confuse, Sabotage is miles away from those two, it’s still the old Black Sabbath. This is the most underrated Sabbath album, and it’s clearly at the same level with the other five previous records.
With Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, the band had done a very different work, and less “metallic” than its classic raw sound. Songs like “Fluff”, “Spiral Architect” and “Who Are You?” showed a change of direction in Sabbath’s sound, much more progressive and produced. Not that it was bad, in fact, it’s seen as a masterpiece (like most of the Ozzy era albums), but it was different. So the guys decided to return to a more rocker sound. The result was an album that mixes moments of heavy metal Sabbath always developed with some new elements more related to Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Still, the album is quite heavy, and the shining moments are many.
The first track, Hole in the Sky, is a terrific opener. Very heavy (today it seems heavy, imagine by 1975), leaded by a powerful riff, makes a nice way to start the album. Perhaps would have been better to make it a bit longer, because it clocks when you’re still enjoying that damned riff, and quite suddenly, to let in Don’t Start (Too Late) an acoustic guitar piece of only 40 seconds long.
And then comes the epic song of the album, Symptom of the Universe. Starting with an awesome Master of Reality-like riff, it’s very heavy and musically flawless. Well-structured and with a soft and nice outro, it features one of the best Ozzy’s performances with Black Sabbath, it also has an amazing guitar solo. And Geezer… what can I say? We all know what he can do with his bass guitar… One of Black Sabbath best songs, probably second to Children of the Grave (my favorite heavy metal song of all times). Its main riff surely was an influence for latter trash metal groups like Metallica, and it was seven or eight years before...
Megalomania is another great song, and the longest Black Sabbath ever did. Starts calmly and a bit strangely, and around the third minute a great riff kicks in and the whole song speeds up. Nice solo, too. After that, comes The Thrill of It All. Nice track has a couple of good riffs, and some “experimentation” with a piano and synths. Not a highlight, but a very good song, more of a hard rocking style than the previous ones.
The two following songs, Supertzar and Am I Going Insane? are strange ones. The former one is based on an excellent riff, but is “ruined” by the choir, which is completely unnecessary. You’d think that such a formidable guitar work could be employed on a much better song. I really can’t understand what they did here, but leave it there. Then comes the fan-loathed Am I going Insane? It’s quite understandable, given the fact that it has little guitar on it, and it’s driven by a synth. Personally, I don’t find it so annoying, and it’s good to see the band trying something different. Of course it’s not a song to get in love with, and the least necessary track here, but it’s ok. After all, Black Sabbath didn’t make famous for its poppy compositions, did it?
The final song is The Writ, connected to Am I going Insane? by some laughs and a man screaming. Then, the whole band kicks in suddenly. Based on a simple but very mighty riff, it has a familiar sound associated with previous albums of Black Sabbath, raw and effective. The guitar work is excellent and Ozzy does his best performance on the whole album. There’s a beautiful melodic passage in which Ozzy shines. Then the riff comes again, and the song starts to fade away. When it’s over you’ll say: What?? That was an 8 minutes song? Yes that was it, despite it seemed 4. And what’s more “charming” it’s that The Writ hasn’t got any guitar solo, yet it clearly doesn’t need it at all, and the guitars are one of the tracks highlights. I can’t imagine a better ending to this superb album.
Obviously, this an album every Black Sabbath fan MUST have, but I also think that anyone who likes heavy metal or hard rock should take a look at this, and not only Paranoid and Master of Reality. Here you will also find awesome heavy metal songs, and a true masterpiece which is Symptom of the Universe. Don’t get confused with what happened after Sabotage, forget about Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die! (successors), and dedicate to this and the previous five. THIS it’s the last Ozzy era album worthy, the last of the “First Six” LAST BUT NOT LEAST.
Black Sabbath line-up:
Ozzy Osbourne: Vocals
Tony Iommi: Guitars
Geezer Butler: Bass guitars
Bill Ward: Drums
- Hole in the Sky
- Symptom of the Universe
- The Writ