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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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4 stars Cue Nancy & Ronald Reagan......"The drugs don't work". There you go, simple isn't it? Take the wicked weed and evil powder, and all will fall around you. Drunk, blind, nose falling off, you're incapable of producing anything memorable, let alone decent music.

Well, this little pearler, originally intended to be entitled Snowblind, does rather make a mockery of such "sensible" debate. I speak here as one who doesn't touch anything illegal, never has, would never recommend such action. However, whilst there is no doubt that the collective addictions and snorting eventually became an albatross around the band's collective necks, in 1972, at the start of this long process, those self same "pleasures" catapulted the band towards sounds and experiments that were to begin a run of incredibly creative albums, mixing proto heavy metal, stoner rock, and progressive music that made them unutterably unique. And mighty fine.

This is a fantastic album, probably only matched in its creativity by Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, although I think that this one pips it, because there is barely a weak moment included. It includes many tracks that became staples to the present day. The incredibly uplifting and creative Tomorrows Dream, the wonderfully mournful chameleon that is Changes, probably my favourite Ozzy vocal, where he proved beyond doubt he could actually sing rather well, although I doubt I will ever forgive him for that blasted awful remake with his screeching offspring.

Snowblind itself, both as a proposed album name, and the track itself, a tribute to the highs a certain white powder will bring, made many a record company executive mess himself with worry as to how "polite society" would take to it (the song, not the powder!). They needn't have worried. This was never a band designed to appeal to said polite masses. The kids loved it, as did many adults who loved their rock dirty, heavy, and intelligent, telling a story.

Contrasts abound, as described above. The opener, Wheels of Confusion, is a classic rock track, brilliantly executed. FX is a piece of experimentation with sound that comes across, perhaps, as rather naive now, but was rather good for its time, Supernaut is more of a "traditional" Sabbath song, albeit turbocharged by habits, Cornucopia is downright dark and evil, with a wonderfully messy riff at its heart, St Vitus Dance probably adequately describes Ozzy at this time, whilst closer Under The Sun/Every Day Come is a track that would easily have fitted on the debut album. We even have time for a lovely Iommi solo piece in Laguna Surprise, where he proves himself as accomplished a fret man as virtuosos that abounded at the time.

Although most of my reviewing time on the site is taken up these days by rating newly released music, it is nice every now and again to revisit old classics and jot some thoughts down. To my mind, Black Sabbath are a band who must be revisited at odd intervals at least, in order to remind one self of just how damned good they were.

Old sweats reading this will undoubtedly have this fine album gathering dust in their collection somewhere. Younger readers, carry on enjoying Opeth, and the likes, but why not dabble in the "dark side" for a bit, and see just where it all started?

Four stars, and only just short of the five as well. An excellent album.

lazland | 4/5 |


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