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Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

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★★★★½
(161 Reviews)

Metal Album Reviews[RSS]

  • Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is what happens when you have four masters of noise trying out a whisper. “Louder and louder” has been Sabbath’s approach up to now, but on this album the band, by experimenting with song structures, arrangements, a quieter mix, and more lyrical subtlety, achieves one of its strongest mixtures of violence and introspection ever. Though Sabotage is the better album, without Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, it would not exist.The songs are among the best in this band’s catalogue: The title track, which aside from Tony Iommi’s trademark, monumental riffing also has splashes of ringing acoustic guitars and one of Ozzy Osbourne’s most effective vocal performances; “Killing Yourself to Live”, a thematically and musically weighted recording; a marauding riff monster in “Sabbra Cadabra” (covered by Metallica on Garage, Inc.); “A National Acrobat” — many of these songs have become staples in both Sabbath’s catalogue and metal history, and along with Sabotage, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is one of the few Black Sabbath albums that doesn’t sound dated in any way whatsoever. Starting with this album, a trace of melodicism has snuck into the volume cranker that is Black Sabbath, and its music is the better for it.

    Posted on December 7, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • For a very long time, 1974’s _Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath_ was my absolute favorite Black Sabbath album. However, the previous effort _Volume 4_ has grown on me so deeply over the years, that it’s now become sort of a tugowar between these two.From the beginning, Sabbath always seemed to counterbalance hard-hitting, sludgy numbers with mellow, sedate pieces. So, it’s probably not as big of a stretch to find that Sabbath did this with subsequent albums: (in Sabbath’s case at least) it was probably not so much a change, as much as it was an evolution – if there’s any distinction between the two. _Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath_ is probably Black Sabbath’s pinnacle – either this or _Volume 4_, I’d say. It displays a combination of sludgy hard rock, orchestrated rockers and even some jazzy aesthetics can be spotted in certain tracks. It’s a very diverse album.Some of the songs. The title track is probably my all-time favorite Sabbath track. The slow, surging, acidic (and equally beautiful and melodic) wall-of-noise that spurts from Tony Iommi’s guitar blends perfectly with Ozzy Osbourne’s beautiful, utterly multi-faceted wail — and vice versa. I always thought that Ozzy Osbourne’s voice was a powerful instrument amongst itself. Not too many people seem to like his voice, which is understandable, but I’ve always saw beauty in it. “Fluff” is probably my favorite Tony Iommi instrumental. A sedate, peaceful, earthy, wispy piece in some multiple of three, with gentle arpeggios, beautiful, wispy, soothing chords (e.g. D, Gmaj7, Gmaj7/E etc.), and later, an atmospheric pillow of sound comprised of overdubbed guitar parts and keys decorate the song in quite a lovely fashion. “Sabbra Cadabra” gives the title track a run for it’s money in terms of my all-time favorite Sabbath song. This is a tasty monster. Iommi’s bluesy electric lines are as tasty as ever, and so is Bill Ward’s drumming. This track features something that may be a bit peculiar – some strange rhythmic ideas. The verses could well be in 4/4, but a tricky thing seems to be happening: the motifs would appear to be in 6/4 (12/8) due to the placement of the crash cymbal, along with the repeat (and placement) of the motif’s beginning. After the first four beats, a strange, snaky, ascending-descending-ascending melodic line appears over the next two beats, while Ward is doing the kind of creative bass-and-snare drum fill that most drummers would do to close out a time signature. After that little fill, the crash cymbal appears, and the beginning of the main motif is repeated. Thus, making one believe that this (four fourths, plus two fourths) is in 6/4. However, closer inspection will reveal that after this, two more fourth-beats appear before the motif is actually fully completed. Then, this whole motivic pattern (4 + 4[4+2=6+2] = 8 quarter notes) appears again before Ozzy’s vocals come in: only this time, during his vocals, there are no tricky rhythmic and/or accent placements — at least not from Bill Ward during the second repeat of Ozzy’s vocals. I’m not sure how it’s all set up in exact terms, but I find it pretty darn nifty. But, even with all that stuff aside, this track smokes. Later, Yes’ Rick Wakeman gives us some synthesizer sweeps, along with some jazzy keyboard licks, which give this track a bit of an extra kick – an added dosage of flavor. “Who Are You” is a trippy, almost psychedelic-like track drenched in synths, and Ozzy’s tripped-out vocals. I love this track: it’s very trance-inducing. “Spiral Architect” is the orchestral-rock track of the album. It’s almost tear-inducing in it’s beauty, melody, and the way Ozzy delivers his vocal.This is a classic in Sabbath’s catalog — right up there with _Paranoid_, _Master of Reality_ and _Volume 4_. Metal purists may react to it in lukewarm fashion (or worse), but give it time to grow on you. It had to grow on me, and it’s possibly my favorite from them (as mentioned in the opening paragraph.) In a word: classic.

    Posted on December 7, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • If one were to ask what Black Sabbath’s golden era was, most ivory-tower music historians and co-called “experts” would probably say it was the band’s first four albums. If you were to ask anyone (critic, or fan) what was Sabbath’s best offering, “Paranoid,” (1970) or perhaps the self-titled debut, (1970) or even “Master of Reality” (1971) would be your answer. For this fan, however, I’m going to have to go with the band’s fifth album “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” (1974) as being my personal favorite album by the legendary British metal band.

    In terms of creativity, musicianship, and songwriting, the iron was still hot by the time Sabbath recorded “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.” Key elements that so defined the band’s first four albums are still in place; blues-based, sluggish riffs, a gloomy outlook, and gothic trappings abound, but this time the band try to expand their sound by introducing synthesizers and orchestration into their formula (courtesy of Rick Wakeman of YES). Like any of the band’s first six albums, Sabbath is as focused and tight as ever.

    In all honesty, the first six albums are all classics, all flawless; you could really argue any of the first six releases as being the band’s best album. I tend to give the nod to “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” because I think it showcases Iommi’s best riffs and the added synths work really well encompassed into the band’s bluesy/sluggish signature sound.

    On “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,” like any classic Sabbath or early Ozzy solo work, we see Ozzy in his prime. Long before Ozzy Osbourne became a parody of himself, being known to most as an oafish buffoon on a reality show as opposed to an icon, he really was genuinely chilling. Geezer Butler (bass) and Bill Ward’s (drums) bone-crunching rhythm section are as intimidating and intense as ever.

    The opening title track “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” stands as one of the band’s greatest songs. From the second the needle hits the groove of the record, or you press play on your CD player, your senses are almost overwhelmed by a riff that is simultaneously intense, gripping and infectious. As the song grinds along, it goes from angry, lean and mean, to a melodic, almost bittersweet, to a full-throttle attack. After the overwhelming “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,” the listener is offered a reprieve with the laid-back yet fully captivating “A National Acrobat.” The beautiful melancholy acoustic “Fluff” is perhaps Iommi’s all-time greatest instrumental and serves as a sharp contrast to the rest of the album. The band’s experimentation makes itself known with the hard-hitting “Sabbra Cadabra,” as synthesizers and piano come out of left-field, throwing the listener a welcome curveball. One of the band’s bleakest songs, “Killing Yourself” is kind of like a heavy-metal version of John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero.” The gloomy-as-could-be synth-heavy “Who are you” enters prog-rock country. The album offers another surprise with the pop-savvy “Looking for Today,” and the epic closing “Spiral Architect,” the latter adding orchestration. The orchestration works well in combination with Iommi’s killer solos.

    When a band tries to expand their sound with experimentation it doesn’t always work. This isn’t the case at all, however, with “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.” This album is the perfect example of a band experimenting, growing, and maturing, without loosing its teeth or letting its ambitions run wild. “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” stands as not only one of the band’s best albums (or best) but is also one of the best rock albums from the 1970s.

    Posted on December 7, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • With its cover image, one would expect to be led into some dark, abysmal, terrifying journey. Flip to the back cover, and everything is serene and ‘heavenly’, yet all the same people are intact and present. ”What’s going on here,” you say? Are these people intrinsically evil or are they good? Is the hell image truly how things are, and the heaven is what it’s supposed to be like? On the inside cover, which was gatefold, there was the image of the band (Iommi/Osbourne/Butler/Ward) guarding a bed, like on the front cover, like spirits, warding off some bad karma or energy. It was all very weird.

    And you haven’t even heard the songs yet!

    And what you get lyrically is the Black Sabbath manifesto. There is so much on here about ‘heaven’ and what ‘hell’ is made of it, that I am so surprised that they get the tag ‘Evil’. No, what they are is quite knowledgable and self-empowering. What they are is quite critical of people who fill your head all full of lies. There are some amazing lyrics on this album, that totally go against what someone would have you believe Black Sabbath stood for. Devils and Demons. As if…….

    If you didn’t tell someone it was Black Sabbath, and printed the lyrics out, you’d be surprised at what answers you would get as to what was being said. Put the Black Sabbath ‘tag’ back in, and a preconception enters the head. ”Don’t believe the life you have will be the only one, You have to let your body sleep, to let your soul live on” – yea thats evil alright. Sheesh – get out my beads and incense, I’m in danger of being ‘possessed’. Woooo-oooo-oooooo-oooooo. The whole album lyrically is like this, in direct contradiction to Black Sabbath’s perceived image as Satan’s Minstrels.

    So how best to approach it? Do you take Sabbath Bloody Sabbath as an indictment of everything Evil, or some sort of give up hope, all is lost tome? I don’t think it can be summed up even remotely as easy as that, because there’s so much on this album just in its music alone. The end section of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (the title track) is one of the heaviest sounds of 1973. I mean it is just dark. The mid-section where the insistence is that no one here will help you, you’re on your own even when you ask for help, is musically melancholy and so out of keeping with how this song ends. It actually ends angry, as if what came before it has totally frustrated it and it wants to get that out. The title track alone is worth admission, just for its many moods, and its kick*** ending. Ten times heavier than Zep or Purple. On any day.

    ”A National Acrobat” has always been my favourite song on SBS. It’s Sabbath ‘Funk’. Heavy style. And Osbourne’s vocal is literally quite amazing. ”Just remember love is life, and hate is living death”, o my God these guys are so evil! They reek of it. I’m not sure what a national acrobat is, but I just love how the title has nothing to do with the song, and if you heard it on the radio (as if) you’d be left wondering what the hell is that song called? It’d be one of those songs the DJ never said the name of after it was done, and you’d have to buy 18 Black Sabbath albums just to find the song that goes, ”dada da da, dadadadadda da da .. I am the world that hides the universal secret of time . . . ” Did I tell you how Evil these guys were?

    ”Sabbra Cadabra’s” Ozzy vocal is another standout, and boasts the great Piano/synthesiser work of ex-Yes member (at this point) Rick Wakeman. A simple song about loving a lady a lot, it’s the vocal that sends the song past that, one of Ozzy’s best moments.

    ”Killing Yourself To Live” became ‘the song’ from this album, or the one people immediately think of. Sorry if I’ve skipped ”Fluff”, and it is a pretty song, but we’ll just deal with the non-instrumental tracks. Black Sabbath dared suggest that the world was not meant for pain, suffering or misery on ‘Killing Yourself . . . ”, and I’m hard-pressed not to believe them.

    ”Who Are You” I just enjoy simply for the pleasure of hearing such a heavy track employing synthesisers to do the work. It’s something quite different, but don’t let anyone tell you Black Sabbath weren’t experimental before this. They were a very experimental band beyond Iron Man. ‘Planet Caravan’ was an indication of this, as was everything off of Volume 4 (1972). In fact, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath just improves on Volume 4’s direction, by adding more cohesion to the multiple songs in one format. And far more interesting than ‘Band on the Run’. And Sabotage(1975) just nails it.

    ”Looking For Today” is an in your face indictment of ‘the music business’, and the temporary nature of it all, and how futile it all is. Not only of the music business, but of popular culture in general. Sabbath aren’t the first to cover this ground, and another great indictment is Ray Davies (The Kinks) ‘Top of the Pops’ from Lola Vs. Powerman & The Moneygoround(1970), but rarely does it get so summed up lyrically as well. Another great example is Andy Partridge’s (XTC) ”Travels In Nihilon”, and Tool’s ”Hooker With a P****’

    And actually its funny now that I think of it. The same year this came out, was the same year as George Harrison’s ”Living in the Material World”, and looking lyrically at both of them, they cover the same subject matter in the songs, but one gets labelled ‘preachy’ and one gets labelled ‘Devil worship’, that its no wonder that George Harrison and Black Sabbath were such an influence on me as a person, and how I looked at the world around me. They seem so at odds with eachother stylistically, personally, musically, but I see them saying quite the same things about Life on Earth as we know it. You may not see the ‘link’, but I see no difference really in what these people were saying about our time here.

    ”Spiral Architect” could be just be a kazoo player, I wouldn’t care, because i just love the title of the song alone.

    Has anyone noticed ”Fluff’ is just that? Fluff? I thought these guys were evil!

    Posted on December 7, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Since it was a big departure in sound from their first four albums most consider Black Sabbath’s fifth disc the one that most divides critics and fans. Some think that the newly discovered keyboards (by Rick Wakeman, a member of the band Yes) and orchestral arrangements made “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” too artsy and soft. But others (like me) think that, while this album may be “more progressive” than usual, it is also their most creative effort to date. And, of course, like all Black Sabbath albums, the guitars are still very much involved. “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” does not skimp on the type of sludgy, rumbling riffs that Tony Iommi made Black Sabbath famous for. The catchy, churning main riff of the first track (the title song) helped to break the band out of the creative “dry spell” they were in, following the recording of their last release, “Vol. 4″ (after Iommi discovered this guitar lick, the rest of the songs came easily.) This song also has a couple of acoustic breakdowns. Next, “A National Acrobat” has shimmering, wah-wah guitars, and “Fluff” is an instrumental. It’s an interlude-type song, with serene, twinkling, acoustic jangles and cool, pretty piano keys. The synthesizers are most clearly evident on tracks four and six, “Sabbra Cadabra” and “Who Are You?” (the latter track, which has a melodic string arrangement, is very spacey–it sounds like it’s the soundtrack to a laser or light show.) But “Killing Yourself To Live” is heavier and more up-tempo, as is “Looking For Today,” which features a catchy, rhythmic hand-clap pattern. Lastly, “Spiral Architect” is where the orchestra joins the scene. Its lively, almost uplifting violins contrast Iommi’s guitar solos well. So, “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” is a true gem which proves Black Sabbath were successfully able to expand on their sound and add creative touches to their music, while still remaining true to their roots. The sound quality can be a little dated at times, but this is yet another classic in Sabbath’s catalogue.

    Posted on December 7, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now