Review Summary: WHEEEEEREEE CAN YOU RUN TO?
By Volume 4
, it was clear that Black Sabbath, although having created another excellent album, were getting slowly stuck in a creative rut. By the recording of their fifth album, they were ready to admit it. They had no idea where to go.
"Ideas weren't coming out the way they were on Volume 4 and we really got discontent. Everybody was sitting there waiting for me to come up with something. I just couldn't think of anything. And if I didn't come up with anything, nobody would do anything."
~ Tony Iommi
So, what do you do as an occult-inspired band to revive your creative drive? That’s right, one taketh one 18th century Gloucester castle, one moveth into the creepy dungeons of said castle, and one starteth rehearsing in said dungeons. Such is the interesting story that caused Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
to happen. Iommi got his inspiration back in those dungeons, and thus conjured up the main riff for the title track, swiftly followed by another album’s worth of material. Sabbath was back yet again.
Their fifth album had the band further exploring new possibilities to expand their classic sludgy sound, a move they had pioneered, be it in a crude form, on their previous record. For Bloody Sabbath
, they got out synthesizers, strings, keyboards, you name it, to create an approach leaning slightly towards the also popular progressive rock movement, headlined by the likes of Yes
(in fact, ex-Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman guest performs on Sabbra Cadabra
This doesn’t mean Sabbath was turning into something else than it always had been. The typical heaviness is still dominant, and although again not quite matching their second and third album again, the instrumentation is still vintage Iommi, Butler & Ward. The only real exception is Who Are You
, which is especially heavy on the synths, and while definitely not among the best songs on the album, the spacey effects combined with Osbourne’s wailing voice is a perfect match. Speaking about the vocalist, he is at his best on this record. His voice is and will always be an acquired taste, but the magic it did for Sabbath in the earlier years is undeniable. On this particular work, Ozzy manages some very decent higher (only higher, not high
) notes and semi-screams, especially notable on the later part of the title track.
Three other prime moments for the newly introduced instruments are Sabbra Cadabra
, Looking for Today
and Spiral Architect
. The first starts off as a frenzied performance, both vocally and instrumentally, but eventually leads into Wakeman’s virtuosic performance, which perfectly accompanies the track, rather than dominating it. The second, filled with some traditional bluesy riffs, contains some fitting flute in the background, but the third encompasses the new elements in the best way; highlights are the piano intro and the string section towards the end. All were rewarding new moments for Sabbath, but as shown in the album’s other half, the boys did indeed not forget their past.
The again very tasteful Fluff
, revisiting the acoustic breaks of Orchid
and Laguna Sunrise
, maybe doesn’t count, but the title track, despite having a brief softened-up moment shortly after the beginning, is essentially classic Sabbath; drowning, sludgy riffs and Butler’s dominant bass playing creating the backbone. It’s the kind of monstrous song that reminds you how good Hand of Doom
and Children of the Grave
, just to name a few, were again. A National Acrobat
and Killing Yourself to Live
follow in the same vain, but thanks to Osbourne’s scream-ish performances, the tracks were different enough from the band’s earlier work to have become brand new standouts.
After the great but still disappointing Volume 4
, few will have thought Sabbath had it in them to create a superb album. With their fifth record, the band showed that they, although moving away slightly from their roots, were still essential in shaping the world of heavy metal. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
takes on quite a new form, but succeeds on all fronts nonetheless. Not afraid of experimentation, Black Sabbath’s fifth is another addition the group’s legacy, a legacy that in the years to come, they would almost lose…
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’s Black Sabbath was:
- Frank Anthony ‘Tony’ Iommi ~ Lead Guitar, Piano, Synthesizer, Organ, Flute
- John Michael ‘Ozzy’ Osbourne ~ Vocals, Synthesizer
- Terrence Michael Joseph ‘Geezer’ Butler ~ Bass Guitar, Synthesizer, Mellotron
- William Thomas ‘Bill’ Ward ~ Drums, Percussion
- Rick Wakeman ~ Keyboards, Synthesizer, Piano
- Will Malone ~ Orchestral Arrangements
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Killing Yourself to Live
TO BE CONTINUED…