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Black Sabbath, Vol.4

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Average Rating
★★★★½
(148 Reviews)

Metal Album Reviews[RSS]

  • Before I get into the “negatives” of “Vol. 4″, I want to weigh in on one MAJOR positive. This album has the BEST production of any Ozzy-era Black Sabbath album. They would not do an album that SOUNDED this good again until “Heaven and Hell.” This was the first album produced by Tony Iommi (credited to the band, but really Iommi) and also their first recorded outside the U.K. The guitars are upfront (as they should be!), Bill Ward gets probably his best drum sound ever (despite having documented major trouble getting the “feel” of some of the songs, which almost caused his departure from the band), and Ozzy’s voice, well…no comment. The only complaint I would make on the production front is that Geezer Butler’s bass is mixed too far down.

    What is really amazing about this album being so good is that they were out of their heads on drugs (especially coke) during the recording. Indeed, the album was to have been titled “Snowblind” but Warner Brothers wouldn’t have it.

    The songs are mostly good, with a couple approaching epic proportions.

    “Wheels of Confusion/The Straightner”: Starts out with bluesy Iommi melodic guitar lines, then goes into the trademarked Sabbath tempo and time changes that only they can do. Excellent.

    “Tomorrow’s Dream”: Shorter and snappier, indeed almost “hit single” material but still good and heavy.

    “Changes”: UGGGHHHH. I know I’m in the minority on this among all those who worship anything Ozzy ever sneezed on but I absolutely HATE this song. The experimentation is laudable (Tony on piano, Geezer on Mellotron) but Ozzy’s monotone voice barely carries on Sabbath’s heavy numbers and he’s just not suited to singing a ballad (the same goes for “So Tired” on his “Bark At The Moon” album). This album would get four stars from me if it didn’t have this song.

    “FX”: A pointless stab at neo-Floydian bleeps and blurps. I guess you had to be there and on drugs to “get it”. I was neither and I don’t. At least it doesn’t last very long.

    “Supernaut”: PRIME SABBATH! One of Tony’s BEST guitar riffs and Geezer and Bill lock in as still the best rhythm section in heavy metal. Ward really shines here, both in propelling the song and some very good drum fills.

    “Snowblind”: SNORT! Yes, that’s what this is about. A good song that Ozzy does sing well on, even if I don’t care for the subject matter. I think that keyboardist Gerald “Jezz” Woodroffe may be responsible for the synthesised strings in the outro underlying Tony’s excellent solo.

    “Cornucopia”: Apparently this is one that Wardy had real trouble nailing down but I can’t tell it because his drumming is very good. This is one of Sabbath’s almost-orchestral “epics”.

    “Laguna Sunrise”: Nice Iommi acoustic interlude over Jezz Woodroffe’s keyboards.

    “St Vitus’ Dance”: Pop goes the Sabs! Really, this is one of the poppiest numbers they’ve ever done. Were they aiming for a hit single with this one? Not my favourite.

    “Under The Sun/Every Day Comes And Goes”: The crushing powerchords opening this song really define the term “heavy metal”. This is another of the “epics” and almost symphonic in nature, with the song divided into “movements” by Ward’s drum patterns (including overdubbed gongs!). Ozzy sings Geezer’s agnostic-orientated lyrics quite well (even though I don’t care for the sentiments), but it’s really the instrumentation that elevates this track. Classic indeed.

    This was the first Sabbath album where they started to sound less-than-unified (a trend that would continue throughout the remaining Ozzy years) but there’s still much here well worth checking out.

    Posted on December 12, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • This album is my favorite album of any I’ve ever heard from Sabbath, well actually of any band. This is the definative Sabbath album.1.Wheels of Confusion-great song with cool riffs and bass lines.5/52.Tommorrow’s Dream-awesome song with a great meaning behind it.5/53.Changes-this song is very saddening, especially with Ozzy’s moaning vocals portraying a very hurt individual. 5/54.FX-very useless and the only song (if it can be called a song) on the album i dislike 2/55.Supernaut- one of the best blues/metal songs ever written. This song can never be duplicated in it’s complete majesty. This is sabbath at it’s best 6/5 :) 6.Snowblind-this anthem about cocaine is my favorite Sabbath song of all time (other than Supernaut, and Junior’s Eyes)10/57.Cornucopia- cool song about people dying in wars such as the Vietnam War 5/58.Laguna Sunrise-this song is a really good song but it’s not near as good as Orchids 4/59.St. Vitus Dance- I love this song. It’s friecken awesome. The lyrics are complimented by great music and cool bass lines. Great song-period 5/510.Under the Sun- This song is awesome. It’s heavey as hell and explodes into the room whenever I play it. 5/5Hope this review helps ya5.

    Posted on December 12, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • With todays music scene seriously dipping in quality, I’ve been doing what alot of people have been doing : going back in time and discovering the older bands such as Pink Floyd, King Crimson and my latest discovery Black Sabbath.After Master of Reality, Black Sabbath had sort of backed themsleves into a corner. The fans where in love the slow pounding sludge guitar that was Sabbath’s trademark, Sabbath had begun to experiment a tiny bit on Master of Reality with tracks like After Forever and Solitude but that was just the beggining. You see Vol.4 not only rocks harder than MOR it also beats it songwise. This album grabs you by the kneck from beggining to end whereas Master of Reality was tough to get listen to at times not so here. Another thing about this album is it’s rocking power, it seems like the band let loose and went wild, Iommi’s guitar is allowed to breathe, while on the last record it sounded layed back and so did the band.The songs I most enjoy are Wheels of Confusion, Yesyerday’s dream, Supernaut, Snowblind, Cornucopia heck I love each and every song on here!! Changes sounds like something Ozzy would go on to do with his solo carreer. I don’t understand the people who give the album bad reviews, personally I can’t find anything wrong with this one, great introduction to the band if your new ot them.

    Posted on December 12, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • 1972 was a watershed year for hard rock and Black Sabbath both. Luckily, the maturing group was able to spearhead the next part of the Proto-metal Revolution they’d founded with ‘Master of Reality’ in the form of this, their best work. ‘Volume Four’ was a functional, utilitarian name that was used to try and capture something whose essence could not be described with any adjective except, perhaps, ’shifting’. Unlike any of their previous three albums, the Sabs were able to keep their distance from a formula [more or less homogenous doom rock with the occasional 'let up' (although their first LP is a mish-mash of blues and the beginnings of their 'doom rock')] and make this effort become an entire soundscape filled with moving atmospheres – the ultimate in a heterogeneous texture. ‘Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener’ – THE STORYTELLER. The whining guitar notes, basic chord structures and past tense narrative lyrics find an experimental-minded band. The shifts in tempo were something they’d become very familiar with by this time but it never had sounded this good. Instrumental ‘The Straightener’ kicks in to round out the epic. Geezer’s bass text is used as a canvas by Iommi here as he spatters riff spirals and twists all over the place. ‘Laguna Sunrise’ – THE MIND CREATES A FANTASY. Pretty number written for the beachfront where the Sabs were staying during their work on ‘Volume Four’. A very haunting superimposition of Spanish guitar over a strings backing.’F.X.’ – THE UNKNOWN REALM. 1 3/4 minutes of sound effects, particularly picking noises. Probably very useful if you’re doped up but much better when sober. ‘Snowblind’ – ROCK REFLECTION ON LIFESTYLE. The ‘best’ rock track of the album, ‘Snowblind’ was a single. It accurately depicts the group’s concerns at the time. Money and fame had allotted them nicer cars and nicer drugs to fool with. ‘Cornucopia’ – ROCK REFLECTION ON SOCIETY. ‘Take a life, it’s going cheap; Kill someone, no-one will weep.’ A thundering bass-driven track that’s almost uglier in structure than the post industrial nightmare described by Osbourne’s frenetic lyrics. ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ – LOVE DISCARDED. A short rocker that scored as a greatest hit. The whole feel here is of turning away from the woes of the Present and starting a whole new existence. ‘Supernaut’ – THE SELF TRIUMPHS. ‘I’ve seen the future and I’ve left it behind.’ Ward’s frantic cymbal-bashing and Iommi’s smokingly fast riffs and overdubs augment Osbourne’s grandiose lyrical delivery perfectly. A hard, spiralling anthem. ‘Changes’ – LOVE REMOVED. A long piano/synth bit with Ozzy half-lamenting the joy of love taken away, half-asserting his understanding of the adjustment he’s making to compensate. ‘Under The Sun’ – THE MIND REACTS AGAINST REALITY. Very heavy guitar and bass work drones with the strength of the nihilistic, sometimes self-contradicting lyrics. Soon the tempo changes and both the guitars and voice become more desperate to convey their point. The songs ends on a helter-skelter of doomy rhythm and amorphous riffs. ‘St. Vitus’ Dance’ – ANTI-COMMUNICATION. This short, fast rocker bounces Osbounre’s lyrics back and forth. It’s about problems with understanding the female mind. Altogether and in a sequence, these make up what is termed ‘Volume Four’. There is but one other ingredient necessary to facilitate a successful listening – a mind of any type and in any condition. None of the songs will grow on you; you will see them ever after in the same light under which you orginally found them. The shade of that light depends on your perceptions and no two shades will ever be alike. This is an album saturated in an ebbing, ethereal fluid, one of the consequences being that the sounds recorded on ‘Volume Four’ make it quite impossible to place the whole in any single genre. This is a work that declares there are an infinite number of idiosyncratic interpretations of it available. I have given mine here: to find your own, you need to get this CD.

    Posted on December 12, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • _Black Sabbath Vol. 4_ was the first album where classic sludge-rockers Black Sabbath (Ozzy Osbourne-vocals, Bill Ward-drums, Geezer Butler-bass and Toni Iommi-guitar) started experimenting – which possibly foreshadowed what would be more emphasized on the following album, _Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath_. I just want to make a clarification before I move on: Black Sabbath’s music is not about satanism or devil worshipping – it’s subject matter is mainly about the harsh realities of life (i.e., crime, war, drugs, mental illness and more), which is rather “dark”. Moving onto the tracks:The album opens with “Wheels Of Confusion/The Straightener”, which is a sludgy/heavy powerhouse. This is arguably the heaviest on the album. The lyrics are reflective and sad. “Tomorrow’s Dream” is a r&b-rocker with groove. “Changes” is a beautiful piano-based ballad. The combination of Ozzy Osbourne’s emotive vocals and the sad orchestral backdrops make this a somewhat painful track to listen to at times. “FX” is a short experiment featuring eerie guitar feedback from Toni Iommi. “Supernaut” (to me) proves that music is a transcendent force without limits or boundaries. The mix of boogie, classic psychedelic r&b and metal, shows that unlikely combinations can work – which almost makes it seem like it was never “unlikely” to begin with. “Snowblind” is a slow heavy rocker. Tony Iommi does some of his best soloing on this track. The end features some orchestral backdrops (possibly from synthesizers). “Cornucopia” is probably the most ominous sounding on here (check out the opening section). The dark lyrics contribute to this aspect as well. “Laguna Sunrise” is the beautiful and evocative acoustic guitar instrumental. If anyone were to listen to this calm, sedate and airy track (without knowledge of it being Sabbath), you wouldn’t guess that this was the same band known for their dark and sludgy output – that’s talent. “St. Vitus’ Dance” is an upbeat, summery and “happy” sounding rock track – at least on a musical (excluding lyrics) level. “Under The Sun/Everyday Comes And Goes” sounds the most “Sabbath-esque” on here. The beginning is heavy and ominous. It then segues into a straightforward heavy rocker. The lyrics are deep, thought-provoking and rebellious. They address such issues as religion, personal beliefs and violence.In short, _Black Sabbath Vol. 4_ is a classic metal album, which deserves to be owned by diehards, as well as those interested in Black Sabbath, or the roots of heavy metal. This would serve as a good introduction, as it features a well-crafted balance between heaviness and mild experimentation.

    Posted on December 11, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now