Review Summary: It finally happened.
I have a problem. Many might not see it as such, but it can be very serious. It's hard for me to talk about sometimes. Well, here it goes. I like nearly every album I listen to. Even albums that I don't care for, I often respect to some amount, finding a way to see through it's faults and enjoy more than some would in my place. Many times I'll go into an album that everyone else hates, thinking that finally I'll get my chance to join in. However, this is often not the choice, and I end up in the minority of thinking it's the greatest thing ever.
That being said, Born Again
by Black Sabbath is a very important record to me.
After being pleasantly surprised at the quality of Technical Ecstasy
, and not quite as frustrated at Never Say Die
as most were, I expected that for some reason I would find myself enjoying this one in a similar fashion. The chugging opening of "Trashed" seemed promising enough -- that is until Ian Gillian went "AHHHHYAYAA. AH." That's when I immediately knew I had hit the motherlode.
It's no stranger to anyone that the production on Born Again is infamously bad, and it's at it's most noticeable on this opener in particular. What could have been a straightforward rocker in the likes of "Neon Knights" is immediately turned into something nightmarish. Having accidentally blown out part of the speakers in the studio without realizing it, the band mixed the album with a tainted ear, and the product can be heard in the extremely murky sound quality. The entire album has a scratchy, low, muggy sound, and this is only broken with Gillian's piercing vocals, causing only the lows and highs to be featured without any middle ground. One might relate the sensation of listening to the mix as rubbing sandpaper against your ears with an occasionally thumbtack sticking out for good measure.
That's not to say that the entire album is terrible, however. Songs like "Disturbing the Priest" (one of the best/worst song titles in existence) and "Zero the Hero" feature driving riffs and a great sense of atmosphere. But tracks like these that come so close to being good are stretched out to unbearable lengths, leading the end of the song to repeat over and over until it's more than overstayed it's welcome.
Perhaps the ultimate testament to this album's failure is the fact that the ambient "Stonehenge," the 2-minute long transition track, is by far the best thing on here. Featuring droning synths and gentle swells and melodies, it offers a much-needed respite from the ill-fated opener. It's genuinely the only good song on here, and some would be hard-pressed to even consider it a song.
Most of the other tracks aren't really worth much of your time. "Digital Bitch" is far from a good song, but it's enjoyable to a certain degree. Quick and punky, it's a far cry from the never-ending drone of the attempted ballad, "Born Again." The title track is not a bad song, honestly, but just like its precursors it's far too long and repetitive to get the treatment it might deserve.
The album ends on an especially low note, just like it started. With the aborted rocker "Hot Line," featuring possibly the worst vocals on the album, and the wtf-were-they-thinking slowburn approach of "Keep it Warm," Born Again
is firmly cemented as an deep, dark valley of Black Sabbath's legacy that was once filled with mountains.
may have been excruciating to listen to at times, but ultimately it proved to be a very important part of my life as a music lover. You can't win them all, and this proved that I have the courage to simply not enjoy a work of music. This is the first album that I can honestly say that I... extremely dislike. I can't even say that I hate it. Well, not yet. Maybe one day...