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Black Sabbath - Volume Four CD (album) cover

VOLUME FOUR

Black Sabbath

 

Prog Related

3.78 | 440 ratings

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Nhorf
3 stars Yes, “Vol.4” absolutely represents a turning point of Black Sabbath's career: before the release of this record, the band was getting heavier and heavier and reaching the pinnacle that “Master of Reality” was, they had to search for another directions and styles. The result is a very very heavy album (at least as heavy as its predecessor, that's for sure), but featuring clear and innovative progressive elements, since the songs are all very varied, following distinct structures. If you look to the song lenghts you may conclude that the songs CAN'T be that complex, but the truth is that they are short but pretty complex, you see? The band adopted an even more progressive sound later with “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” and then with the absolute proto-prog metal opus “Sabotage”.

As I've already said, the heaviness is still an important characteristic of “Vol.4”, with all the tunes also being quite slow. This is a reason why so many people claim this album to be one of the doomier Sabbath efforts, and I can't help but agree with that. Not only all the tracks are, as I've already said, pretty slow, but also the atmosphere that surrounds you when listening this record is absolutely EVIL. Indeed, Sabbath always produced very obscure music and this opus follows the same path. Only “St. Vitus Dance” is an exception, being a quite “happy”-sounding track, with that catchy main riff and vocals. “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes” is like the other side of the coin, carrying a very dark vibe, thanks to those awesome riffs, courtesy of the always inspired Tony Iommi.

As “Paranoid” or “Master of Reality”, “Vol.4” is another extremely guitar-driven album, the riffs playin a very important role indeed. It's not easy to produce midpaced/slow music, you got to really have good riffs, solos and songwriting to entertain the listener, and Black Sabbath absolutely nail that. The drumming is very proeminent, much more proeminent on this album than on its predecessor, and that's a good thing at the end of the day, because Bill Ward sounds awesome here, with his aggressive beats and fills (example: “Every Day Comes and Goes”). Geezer's bass is unfortunately a bit low in the mix and Ozzy's performance is pretty competent, all in all.

“Vol. 4” also has a notorious melodic edge, mainly with the presence of the ballad “Changes”. It's a very different and distinctive ballad, if you compare it to the first two ones Sabbath ever composed: “Solitude”, on “Master of Reality”, and “Planet Caravan”, on “Paranoid”. While the first one is very focused on the gentle vocals and on the mellow guitar work and the second on its dreamy vibe, “Changes” differs, with the piano assuming the main role. Unfortunately, and despite carrying a otherwise strong chorus, the track is very repetitive (when I say repetitive, I really mean repetitive... think “St. Anger”), with the vocal and piano lines being far too similar to work. The sublime “Snowblind” is another example of the melodic elements “Vol. 4” contains, the song slowly building up in the middle section, leading us to a fantastic and heartfelt solo, one of the best Tony Iommi ever played. One of the highlights of the album, no doubts about it.

On other hand, the melody is also present on some of the other heavier tracks of the album: the last segment of “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes” is an example, and so is the beginning and ending of the opener “Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener”. The two songs are also two of the most complex tracks of the album, and you can easily recognize that, since both are divided in separate movements. “Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener” is the longest track of the album, and it sounds like the mixture of three separate and distinct tracks. All the movements are very different, but the transitions are excellent, mind you. It begins with a very bluesy and emotional solo, then going through varied heavy sections, and ending with a marvelous outro, filled with excellent guitar solos, all of them extremely melodic. “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes” is also pretty exquisite and uncommon on a songwriting level, the song being pretty heavy all the way through, but containing at least three different segments, each one highlighted with a different riff. The best part of it is, again, the last part, with that beautiful riff, God, Tony Iommi is amazing at creating riffs.

“Supernaut” is another example of why Tony Iommi is so good, its main riff being one of my favourites ever (my all-time favourite is the first one on “A National Acrobat”, which is THE perfect riff, but this one is damn close). Its middle section is pretty good too, with those strange guitar, piano (?) lines and drum lines. “Tomorrow's Dream” is a catchy tune, with some more amazing riffs, even though it is actually weaker than the ones I've already mentioned. “Cornucopia” is a bit on the forgettable side though, and so is “Laguna Sunrise”, the obligatory acoustic number that, unfortunately, doesn't go anywhere, even though it contains some really beautiful lines. At least it's shorter than the boring “Fluff”, of the “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” album, so that's something. Finally, “FX” is the weakest tune, by far, being another POINTLESS interlude filled with strange sounds. Absolutely worthless indeed.

So, another Sabbath classic, even though it's a tad weaker than its three predecessors. Despite its doomy vibe, mainly represented by the heaviness and slowness of the songs, this album also shows the Sabs exploring and using constantly more and more progressive elements which would lead the band, later, to release, like I've already said, the extremely complex and ambitious “Sabotage”. There are some killer songs here, but, unfortunately, tracks like “Changes” of the infamous “FX” harm the whole listening experience. Worth listening at the end of the day, though, especially if you like the three predecessors of “Vol.4” and also, why not, its two sucessors.

Best Moments of the CD: -the beginning of “Wheels of Confusion”. -the melodic last segment on “Every Day Comes and Goes”. -the first time the main riff of “Supernaut” is played.

Nhorf | 3/5 |

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