Album of the Week 22-2012: Black Sabbath – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

Sure, there’s loads of new albums that I needed to cover these last few weeks, but sometimes, I just need to plug a classic. Like this one. Of course, I am eternally grateful to Black Sabbath for inventing Heavy Metal and to me, this is the crowning achievement of the Ozzy Osbourne-era. This is Black Sabbath at its most powerful and compositionally at its most brilliant, although the Dio-fronted ‘Heaven And Hell’ would top even this seven years later. Maybe ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ isn’t as revolutionary as the first two albums, but it is the album where Heavy Metal came into its own.

After the wildly experimental ‘Volume 4’, the band allegedly found themselves without inspiration until they retreated to the supposedly haunted Clearwell Castle in Southwest England. Haunted or not, what they have found there was the inspiration they were hoping for. The crushing main riff to the title track, often labelled “the riff that saved Black Sabbath”, is said to have come to Tony Iommi while he was working in the dungeons.

Like on any good Black Sabbath album, the riffs of such caliber are all over the place. ‘A National Acrobat’ is a goosebumps-inducing slab of early Heavy Metal riffing, ‘Sabbra Cadabra’, while being a bit lighter and almost Rock ‘n’ Roll in the lyrical department, has a couple of brilliant riffs to carry the song, ‘Killing Yourself To Live’ and its ever increasing intensity and also the brilliantly progressive closing track ‘Spiral Architect’ is chock full of them. Luckily, none of those riffs have taken any space at expense of drummer Bill Ward’s and bass god Geezer Butler’s almost Jazzy interplay.

The band’s progressive tendencies that were clearly present – maybe even excessively – on ‘Volume 4’ are still here. Especially on the latter half of the record, starting with the only minor flaw of the album, ‘Who Are You’. While still a fairly decent song, the idea of doing this entirely with synthesizers is a failed experiment to me. A few guitars may have done the trick. The medieval, flute-backed bridges in ‘Looking For Today’ were a better idea and what can I say about ‘Spiral Architecht’ that the music itself doesn’t already say?

Performance-wise, this is Ozzy Osbourne’s finest hour. He pushes himself vocally beyond what he can reasonably do. That may be why he isn’t doing any of these songs live anymore, but this is Ozzy at his most powerful. No more bored ‘Iron Man’-delivery, this is raw power. And the rest of the band is as good as always and just… loud! And tight-but-loose, in the best Led Zeppelin tradition.

If I had to name 10 records that every Metalhead should own, there would be two of Black Sabbath and ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ should be one of them. Everyone into Metal should own the first six (yes, people, six!) Black Sabbath albums, but as far as the Ozzy-albums go, this is the one I revisit most. One listen will probably explain why.

Recommended tracks: ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’, ‘A National Acrobat’, ‘Spiral Architect’, ‘Sabbra Cadabra’

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