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Black Sabbath - Volume Four CD (album) cover


Black Sabbath


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3.88 | 679 ratings

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5 stars A descent into unmitigated mental chaos, Volume 4 was the Sab`s last full-on stoner LP which would hold appeal to disciples of the head culture which emerged from the latter part of the `60s. Having been scared out of their boots by heroin and embracing the sweetness of marajuana on previous albums, cocaine had become their new discovery drug by the time they retreated to the sancity of a Beverly Hills mansion to compose their next album and supposedly to unwind in a relaxing atmosphere from the rigours of relentless touring. Consequently, just about every track was autobiographical to their hedonistic lifestyle during the recording of Volume 4.

An executive decision by the record company quashed the Sab`s original title proposal of Snowblind because of it`s stark descriptiveness of a cocaine high. The song itself, a cousin of Hand Of Doom off the Paranoid LP, could have been construed as an anti-cocaine song had it not been for the harsh descriptions of it`s effects which occur throughout right from the horses`mouths. So, hence the mundane title Volume 4. Nonetheless, controversy wasn`t entirely averted as the Sabs somehow manage to thank the COKE-cola company on the credits inside the gatefold cover on early vinyl editions. Ozzy also manages to whisper the word cocaine at the end of each verse of Snowblind as well. While the elements of their previous three monumental albums were still preserved, the monster riffs and cheerless musings, the emphasis of the horrors of the world shift to the horrors of the drugged out mind.

The American recording approach gave the Sabs a more defined and focused sound though, bringing Tony Iommi`s guitar up front with more grinding raunchiness and speedier tempos, melding them into a tighter rock unit rather than a bulldozing mutation dredged up from the netherworld. This is exemplified in several shorter pieces which also have the tendancy to sound alike. While not complete throwbacks to the sixties they maintained the Sabs`s touch of heaviness, even swinging at times echoing some of the material on their eponymous debut album. One of these tracks, Tommorow`s Dream was an attempt at a single perhaps trying to duplicate Paranoid`s previous success on the charts. Two extended tracks, the spaced out Wheels Of Confusion and Supernaut in all it`s narcotic induced invincibilty begin to experiment a little more song structure and composition. Drummer Bill Ward concocts a suprisingly effective layered latino samba percussion section on Supernaut which has to be heard to be believed while Wheels Of Confusion contains one of the heaviest madening bridges heard on any metal song ever.

Laguna Sunrise, on the other hand, is a reflective multi tracked orchestral instrumental by guitarist Tony Iommi which is almost certainly influenced by the artsy southern California surfer`s paradise Laguna Beach. It establishes Iommi as the true introvert and he probably wrote this while escaping all the hedonistic madness which was going on back at the mansion during the recording of Volume 4. It definitely offers reason and solace amidst the rest of the narcotic fueled songs in a haunting sort of way.

One of Black Sabbath`s Spinal Tap moments (actually almost 5 minutes of it ) occurs on the ballad Changes which, astonishingly, is one of their best known songs that was originally supposedly about drummer Bill Ward`s breakup with his wife. Accompanied by a sombre grand piano and a weeping mellotron Ozzy sounds so down in the dumps that you can almost envisage the tears of wax melting down the base of the candle-abra. At least it`s played in the slack key of C without any black keys to worry about through all the grieving. It makes one wonder how they found time to get so glum amidst all the groupies, endless narcotic supply and nonstop partying. In any case, hardcore Sabbath fans either love it or hate it and it did break some groud showing that tripped out rock stars have feelings as well. Other heavier bands and artists would follow suit, including token ballads on their albums such as Kiss`Beth from Destroyer and Alice Cooper`s Only Women Bleed from Welcome To My Nightmare.

Volume 4 with Ozzy triumphant in his orange Elvis jupsuit doing the Richard Nixon signature salute on the cover is Black Sabbath at the zenith of their drug induced powers which suprisingly sees the band progressing and experimenting musically, a maturity which would be developed even further over their next two LPs. Yet another headbanging 5 star indespensible addition to the heavy metal lexicon from the beasts of Aston.

Vibrationbaby | 5/5 |


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