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Black Sabbath - Sabbath Bloody Sabbath CD (album) cover

SABBATH BLOODY SABBATH

Black Sabbath

 

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4.08 | 508 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I don't know this for a fact, but somehow I strongly suspect that this one cost Sabbath quite a few fans, even if it sold pretty well. Over-the-top gory album cover or not, this album is easily the band's least heavy, least dark, and least stereotypically Sabbath one to this point (not to mention the prominent presence of synthesizers on a few tracks), which basically means that diehard fans of the band's established sound will have a good chance of not liking this one anywhere near as much as the first four. But doggone it, I *like* this album, and were it not for a serious stinker (and another track that's really dull) I might call this one my favorite. The heaviness that characterized the previous albums is nowhere near as all- encompassing and suffocating on this album as on past ones, and while many will lament at this, I rejoice at the fact that this means there's some more friggin' diversity in the style of rockers Sabbath tackles.

Of course, Sabbath isn't really the ideal band to have go out and experiment, which means that there's a massive duffer to be found within. Yes, it is the infamous "Who are You" that I speak of, which is, without a doubt, my least favorite Sabbath track from the first six albums. The synth tones sound absolutely ridiculous in this context, the melody is plodding and completely uninspiring, the lyrics can't help but be noticed in their horribleness, and ... did I mention the synth tones? I like Yes and (to a lesser extent) ELP as much as anybody, but Wakeman (who actually appears on another track) and Emerson tended to play much more interesting and engaging parts than the "majestic" lines given here, not to mention that their 'beauty' parts actually had a chance to be moving from time to time. Frankly, this is a track I cannot imagine enjoying, and if you do, I have a feeling you and I wouldn't have much in common if we met.

Other than that and the ultra-mundane "Killing Yourself to Live," though, this album is terrific. The opening title track is easily my favorite of a good bunch, as it does a good job of alternating a good anthemic heavy riff with poppy acoustic parts that keep both fresh and enjoyable, while Ozzy's ever-getting-higher voice providing a good deal of entertainment all its own (especially when he yells out "You bastards!"). Throw in an all-new heavy riff in the coda, a riff that puts half of Vol. 4 to shame, and you have a really awesome classic on your hands.

The other 'rockers', though, largely (as mentioned before) avoid the kind of heaviness that had defined the band to this point. "A National Acrobat" starts out with a nice, relatively 'light' riff, before going into a cool funky, wah-wah'd version of the riff while Ozzy plays off it well (his echoed screams at the end of certain lines sound really nice here). Throw in some brief, tasteful solos, a good "HA HA!" at one point in the coda, a totally unexpected switch to an upbeat guitar line at the end (mixed in with some other riffs), and you have another un- Sabbathy Sabbath classic.

Another un-Sabbathy Sabbath classic is "Sabbra Cadabra," which is as close as Sabbath ever came to doing a generic 70's 'bar-rock' number in their prime, and which pleases me greatly because I love humming that riff and hearing Ozzy sing his "love me til the end of tiiiiiiiiime!!!" lines as well as he does. And hey, it even has Wakeman throwing in some synth lines (not really like anything he'd use in Yes, more like his solo career tones) in the middle (which don't suck, unlike the ones in "WhoRU") and contributing some great boogie piano in the ending coda. And how about those parts in the middle where Ozzy is singing those encoded "I don't wanna leave you" lines amidst some great, tasty guitar-piano interplay, or when Ozzy is laughing at the end in such a disturbing way? Great stuff, I tell you, even if some Sabbath fanatics might disagree.

These same fanatics might wish that the rest of the tracks weren't departures from the formula in the way the aforementioned tracks are, but they'd definitely be disappointed in how things turned out. "Looking for Today" isn't brilliant, but it's a nice, very poppy (in feel and melody, though maybe not in guitar sound) number that provides a good way to close things out (at least, on my copy, which I think is supposed to have this as track seven). Plus, I think I hear flutes here and there on it, which don't really add much to the sound, but are at least amusing to note. "Spiral Architect," then, takes this slight desire for additional orchestration and goes so far as to add strings to a melody and lyrics that have to be among the most goofily pretentious and overblown of Sabbath's early career, which definitely says quite a bit. Some have gone so far as to compare it to Styx, and while that's not necessarily far off, I tend to think of this as sounding exactly like the sort of thing Spinal Tap would have written in the 70's had they really existed. But you know, as much as I love to namecheck Spinal Tap as the quintessential ridiculous rock band, that movie had some really friggin' great songs in it, and this really fits into the mold of their art-metal triumphs.

Finally, there's "Fluff," an instrumental that must have pissed off many an angry metalhead to no end. There's no way I'd ever guess that an instrumental this pretty and delicate, filled with a nice acoustic guitar theme, nice tinkly piano, some moving harpsichord and an occasional 'weeping' guitar sound in the background, was made by Black Sabbath, but here it is anyway.

In short, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is an album made for people who wouldn't think of buying a Black Sabbath album, and made to largely annoy those who would. Since I fall into the category of "Music lover who kinda likes Sabbath sometimes" instead of "Sabbath fan," that description works just fine for me. If it works for you, get it, and even if it doesn't, it would do you some good to get it anyway. Just make sure to skip the stuff that sucks, of course.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |

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