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!