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Black Sabbath - Volume Four CD (album) cover

VOLUME FOUR

Black Sabbath

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clarke2001
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Ah, Black Sabbath, the antithesis of good in music. Excuse me, antithesis of good.

I won't try to go into deeper analysis of which song particularly influenced what in a days to come (like I know), or which song might be squeezed under the prog rock blanket: this is simply an outstanding rock album (metal album, let's say it) which solid songs, solid as a rock, but they're also clever and enjoyable. In a word, they're good, without any excuses.

Multi-part "Wheels Of Confusion" with science fiction atmosphere (and their song closest to prog IMHO), catchy "Tomorrow's Dream", Mellotron laden ballad "Changes", short and scary, sound effect "FX", again catchy hard rock/metal "Supernaut"...the same goes for "Snowblind" , "Cornucopia" & "St. Vitus Dance","Under The Sun" oh what an intro. All that doom started here, listen you will find SEPULTURA and hundreds of others - but that is a sidenote - because the song counts, and they are unique. "Laguna Sunrise" , gorgeous acoustic instrumental (with some keys)...it seems out of place on the album, just like "Changes", right? Well, yes and no, it belongs to the spirit of band's experimentation, show also a brighter side of Sabbath and...actually justifies the overall dark picture of album.

In a word, this is intelligent hard rock. Give it a try if you didn't yet, because it's worth it. If you're more into it, you'll probably agree with my rating without much explanation...

Report this review (#143836)
Posted Friday, October 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
russellk
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars For me, Vol. 4 is where BLACK SABBATH first embraced aspects of the burgeoning progressive movement.

This cannot be more obvious than in the opener, 'Wheels of Confusion.' Its structure is complex and progressive, moving from part to part, and with a marvellous outro ('The Straightener'). It's an eight minute mini-epic, and signals a much broader (and generally less heavy) sound than the sludgy blues previously employed on 'Paranoid' and 'Masters of Reality'. Listen carefully to this song, those who quibble about this band's inclusion. Piano, mellotron and orchestra signalled an intention to widen their music.

Of the remaining tracks, 'Snowbound' and 'Supernaut' are built around trademark outstanding deathcrush IOMMI riffs and rise above the other offerings on this album. Despite the mellotron, 'Changes' is a low point even for OZZY OSBOURNE. I don't know why they thought this was a good idea, but they persisted with songs like this on and off for years. The other tracks are fine without being outstanding.

BLACK SABBATH would go on to turn out two progressive-tinged monster albums, evidenced by their increasing inability to reproduce the sound live - then to abandon the progressive approach after SABOTAGE, their apogee. This album is certainly worth acquiring to see the acknowledged progenitors of riff heavy metal grapple with prog!

Report this review (#143862)
Posted Friday, October 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars It took almost as long to "Sabbath" to release this album than their first three ones. But serious drug addiction was affecting the band. It is a known fact that dear Ozzy and Bill were now completely addicted to cocaine. And lots of references to heavy drugs can be found on these songs even if the record company was trying to hide this as much as they could.

This album won't sound so heavy for the first time. "Changes" is a mellow soft-rock ballad featuring even some mellotron (!) but not really memorable and the short psychedelic / experimental (in my opinion, fully trippy) "FX" won't be remembered as a great track either. Just two fillers.

But several very good songs again will be written for this "Volume Four". Another great opener (but this has always been the case so far) in the form of "Wheels Of Confusion" with a somptuous finale : great guitar work but not in the heavy metal style. Almost refined ! Some seriously powerful harmony is to be noticed in there. "Supernaut" also belongs to the same category. Again, the heavy mood is mixed with a more "decent" rock. Good percussion work (solo ?) in the middle-part and great riff (but Iommi knows how to place them to seduce).

Some pure heavy ones as well of course (this is still "Sabbath", isn't it) ? Tommorrows Dream", "Cornucopia". And at the same time, a short acoustic guitar in the style of "Orchid" on "MOR". But "Laguna Sunrise" is not so good, by no means.

Even if this album is not 100% a heavy one (maybe 85% or so), it is far from being a favourite of the afternoon tea in those days.

"Flight Of The Rat" is again the inspiration for "Under The Sun" the powerful closing number. "Sabbath" can't hide this while listening carefully to it. It was already to be noticed on "After Forever" from "MOR". But the closing and repetitive part is just great. Iommi again displays all his skills and delivers such a great work. He is the one who is holding the whole band on his own. By now, "Sabbath" is HUGE. All over the world.

This album hitted the eighth spot in the UK charts (Nr. 12 in the US). Three stars.

Report this review (#144199)
Posted Friday, October 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The album was actually to be titled as "Snowblind" but Warner disagreed due to its reference to drugs. Through this album actually the band was partying hard and a bit of losing its focus. The recording was made in unfriendly circumstances as Iommi and Osbourne did not get along really well.

Despite bad reviews written by rock critics at that time, they did not really care about it and they moved ahead with their music. I have to admit personally that this album is not bad at all as the opening track "Wheels of Confusion" can be considered as progressive music in terms of its structure and relatively long duration. "Under the Sun Everyday Comes and Goes" is a composition full of guitar melody instead of power chords - the main characteristic of Black Sabbath's music. "Changes" is a very nice ballad and it was major hit in my country - even most people in my country knew Black Sabbath from this song. "Snowblind" is one of my favorite Sabbath songs. It has a powerful and catchy guitar riffs combined with dynamic drumming and catchy melody.

It's obvious that musically this album still maintain the existence of their early albums music even though this album is not as popular as the first three. However, it does not necessarily mean that this is a bad album -not at all. It's a very good heavy metal band who had been consistent with their music direction. Keep on rockin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#146170)
Posted Sunday, October 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Essential listening, essential procurement. A must have for any avid prog metal collector from the 70's. Volume Four is widely underrated however it delivers ( in total contrast) to it's title, a conceptual masterpiece of such masterly skill, simplicity and an underground deluge of succinct crisp rock that it left many albums by Black Sabbath before and after in it's wake, perhaps with the exclusion of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.

'Wheels of Confusion' is a hypnotic dirge of insatiable sound. All four members kicking some serious butt in every department.' Tomorrow Dream' another stirling classic track but often overlooked on this album but beautifully connected to the whole album's delivery.' Changes' is a lazy glance at reflective metamorphosis of the psyche, beautiful and touching, reminiscent of ' Solitude' from their previous album.' FX" some interesting psychedlic filler before the drug induced ' Snowblind" and the speedy ' Supernaut' take their respective positions. Again always demonstrating continuity of a studio concept.The rest of the second side is equally as good' St.Vitas Dance' especially but the all time BS masterpiece has to be the closing ' Under The Sun/Everyday Comes and Goes". They have never reached such dizzy heights as they did on this ending track. Volume Four is Black Sabbath at their absolute best. Enjoy it if you have not already taken this trip.

Report this review (#147709)
Posted Saturday, October 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tom Ozric
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 1972 saw the release of 'Volume 4', an album of great expectation from a growing legion of fans who were being turned on to Sabbath's heavy, dark music. It's actually quite an amusing observation (to me, anyway) that a lot of the crowd Sabbath appealed to (even these days) are Emos, speed-freaks and pot-heads with 'heavy' attitudes (gross generalisation, though) but the music and Ozzy's singing still 'tapped in' to the consciousness of 'straighter' music lovers around the globe.

By the time this album was released (and more so their next one), the band were well and truly riding on the crest of a wave to the 'big time'. Volume 4 starts out with quite an epic - the 8min + 'Wheels of Confusion', one heavy monster with an excellent rhythm, great riffing from Master Iommi, and some great tempo changes throughout. The instrumental passages are quite breath- taking. 'Tomorrow's Dream' is memorable thanks to its simple structure and progression - that statement is relative to most of the songs on the album, too, but they all have a distinctive sound, almost murky, Geezer de-tuning his bass to 'D' (or maybe even 'C') and the rebellious sounding vocals of Ozzy (no-one can match up to him, even if other singers technically surpass him), and occasional mishaps (there is a chord that Iommi botched in the crazy 'Cornucopia' - somewhere at a tri-tone riff). There is generally one mellow track on a Sabbath album, or even reflective balladeering - this time around we have the song 'Changes', with a beautiful piano and mellotron arrangement from an uncredited Rick Wakeman. Of the remaining tracks, 'FX' is created from echoplexed guitar picking, 'Supernaut' has one of the most endearing riffs you'll hear on this album, 'Snowblind' is a pure classic, 'Laguna Sunrise' is an almost symphonic piece with Iommi on classical guitar backed with a wistful string arrangement, 'St. Vitus Dance' is has an unusual rhythm, and 'Under The Sun' is FULL-ON Sabbath at their heaviest - absolutely phenomenal track. Definately 4.5 stars for this one.

Report this review (#148125)
Posted Tuesday, October 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Well the boys took the crazy train(plane) to LA, California to record this one. I don't know if it's the production or what, but both Ward and Butler aren't as prominant as usual. Overall this doesn't seem to be as dynamic as the previous albums, it seems to be lacking passion in my opinion. A turn off for me is the song "Changes" that brings to mind Ozzy's solo career, and i get the same feelings when he shouts "All right" during the song "Cornucopia". Still there are four killer tracks in "Wheels Of Confusion" , "Supernaut" , "Snowblind" and "Under The Sun".

"Wheels Of Confusion" opens with some bluesy guitar.This is kind of a slower paced relaxing tune. It picks up a notch 2 1/2 minutes in. A change 5 1/2 minutes in as some aggressive guitar from Iommi comes in to end it. "Tomorrows Dream" was released as a single, the first since "Paranoid". Some sludge in this one as Iommi delivers lots of low end guitar. "Changes" really annoys me big time. I can't even listen to it. I know, I know, it's just me. "FX" is a waste of space, as we hear these odd sounds with no real melody. Experimental you could say.

"Supernaut" is more like it ! Lots of energy is in this one. "Snowblind" like "Changes" has some mellotron in it. This is such a good, heavy, mid-paced tune. "Cornucopia" opens rather darkly and heavily. This mood comes and goes. Average song in my opinion. "Laguna Sunrise" is an instrumental with acoustic guitar and strings. The title is a reference to Laguna Beach, in California of course. "St.Vitus Dance" has a bit of a sixties vibe to it instrumentally. It's more upbeat. I like it. " Under The Sun" is another song I really like. Check out Ward 2 minutes in leading the way as Iommi follows him with guns firing. Nice.

3.5 stars. A good record that pales somewhat when compared to their three earlier albums.

Report this review (#157651)
Posted Friday, January 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Foprth album by this legend and what an album, great, doomy, smooth all Sabbath's ingredients are here on this 1972 release - Vol 4. In the same vein with the predecesor Master of reality, delivering some classics like Cornucopia, Under the Sun / Every Day Comes and Goes (the best track from the album, absolute a killer song) and the smooth Laguna Sunrise. Even this album is almost more than half heavy has some prog leanings specially on the opening track Wheels of Confusion / The Straightener, the rest of the pieces are mixt between hevy riffs and mellow arangements. Every musician shines here, among the best Sabbath albums ever, and my second best from the '70's of them, after Master of reality. So a big 4 for this stunning album, but not quite a masterpiece.
Report this review (#159452)
Posted Monday, January 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#162185)
Posted Tuesday, February 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars With this fourth album, Sabbath began to experiment their music. Vol. 4 is very different from Master Of Reality or Paranoid. Not because of the slow ballad Changes (which is magnificent and unusual, Ozzy and a piano !) or the short instrumental FX, totally experimental. Here, the band, in some of the most well-known and controversed liner notes, thanked the 'Great COKE-Company, Los Angeles'. No need to argue : the cocaine flew during the recording of this fourth album. A song like Snowblind is another example !

Probably my favorite from all the Sabbath album. Maybe not their best (even if it's great), but a splendid album. I love the sleeve ! I love Wheels Of Confusion, Tomorrow's Dream and Cornucopia too. The one and only song I dn't really like is Supernaut. I found the guitar riff interesting, but too repetitive.

Report this review (#164756)
Posted Sunday, March 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars VOLUME FOUR is not that classic of a Black Sabbath album, let alone a rock album and especially a rock album with some connections to prog. There was a prog mystique Black Sabbath carried on PARANOID that is mysteriously missing here and is mysteriously retained on the next album. Only ''World of Confusion'' and ''Under the Sun'' carry that mystique here. Both are simply teases for me to try to pop in the album again.

Everything else is either unnecessary fluff or standard hard rock. ''Snowblind'', ''St. Vitus Dance'' and ''Supernaut'' are decent hard rock songs, but nothing special considering that the production on ''St. Vitus Dance'' is horrible. ''Laguna Sunrise'' is an okay but nonimportant acoustic guitar thing. ''FX'' and ''Changes'' are weak tracks that put question marks over my head; I assume Black Sabbath was trying to vary their sound, but these two things are too weak for me to enjoy. The other two songs not aforementioned aren't worthy of further explanation.

This is a strictly non-essential album worthy of only a few tracks for the eager Sabbath fanatic. Prog fans should stick with the fifth and sixth studio albums for more satisfying results.

Report this review (#173256)
Posted Saturday, June 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The fourth studio album from heavy metal legends Black Sabbath is entitled Vol.4. It was released in 1972 and made Black Sabbath even more famous than they already were. At this time every time Black Sabbath made a new album their fanbase grew considerably. Vol.4 follows the concept of the previous albums. Not much has changed even though Black Sabbath for the first time tries to make a ballad ( I don´t consider either Planet Caravan nor Solitude to be regular ballads. They are more stoned psychadelic songs).

The music is power chord riff based doomy heavy metal. It´s very simple but very powerful.

The album starts with Wheels of Confusion which is an eight minutes long doomy song. It´s very melodic and has some great soloing from Tony Iommi. Tomorrow's Dream is up next and it´s a favorite of mine on Vol. 4. Nice heavy tune. Then comes Black Sabbath´s attempt at making a ballad. Changes is definitely the lowpoint of this album. It´s simply a horrible song with piano. FX is just a short transition song. Then comes Supernaut, Snowblind and Cornucopia which are all great heavy metal songs. Laguna Sunrise is an acoustic guitar piece from Tony Iommi while St. Vitus Dance is another short and not that exciting song. Under the Sun ends the album in grand fashion. Great doomy track IMO.

The musicianship still relies much on feeling and touch and not so much on great techniques. The playing does seem a bit sloppy at times, but it suits the style perfectly.

The production is much better than the disaster of a production that was on Master of Reality.

I will always prefer the two first Black Sabbath albums but this one like Master of Reality and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath comes close behind. So allthough this is not my favorite Black Sabbath album it still deserves 4 stars and this is a highly recommendable album even though it has nothing to do with prog rock/ metal IMO. For the time it was very innovative though and that´s probably why it is listed here at Prog Archives. Well I´m glad it is as I have just had the pleasure of listening to it again. It´s not so often Black Sabbath´s albums come out of the shelf anymore but when they do it´s always a great pleasure for me. Simple but powerful music is not always my cup of tea, but in the case of Black Sabbath they just seem to have that extra dimension that makes their music great.

Report this review (#173615)
Posted Wednesday, June 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars An album lost under the wheels of confusion!

While the previous three albums had taken Black Sabbath further and further away from their Blues roots, they reverted somewhat to their earlier, more Blues-based sound with this album and injected more straightforward Hard Rock in the process. While I consider the previous Master Of Reality album a masterpiece, Volume Four is not more than a merely good album to my ears. Like on Paranoid the band here feel as if they do not quite know in what direction they are heading making the end result uneven and lost in the wheels of confusion.

Too much of Wheels Of Confusion are filled up with Psychedelic style jamming instead of having a real structured arrangement. Unlike the excellent and very innovative material on Master Of Reality, Volume Four didn't really push any musical boundaries. Master Of Reality perfected the style the band had originated and was more of a pure Heavy Metal album with many progressive aspects, Volume Four is more of bluesy Hard Rock album with no real direction. Tomorrow's Dream, Supernaut, Snowblind and Corncopia are all good, but it sounds like they are going through the motions on these tracks. The only slightly interesting thing here is the percussion solo on Supernaut, but even this pales in comparison with the interesting an atmospheric percussion on Children Of the Grave. Snowblind is a bit better with a few more tempo changes and more riffs, but again it is not up to par with anything from Master Of Reality or the first two albums for that matter.

Changes is a nice piano and vocal based ballad with lots of Mellotron! This is actually one of the better tracks here, in my opinion. Partly because it was different from anything they had done before. FX is a pretty pointless experimentation with sound. Laguna Sunrise is an acoustic guitar piece whose very presence offers a breath of freshness. However, it is perhaps too repetitive to be really great. The brilliance of the guitar instrumentals on Master Of Reality consisted partly in that they were so short, creating a strong sense of urgency.

St. Vitus Dance is more of a rock 'n' roll song. Under The Sun features really inspired tempo changes and an ultra heavy riff. Probably my favourite track on this album.

If you are a Prog fan and want to explore Black Sabbath this is not the best place to start. Thankfully, Black Sabbath would once again get back on track and create a couple of masterpieces in Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage.

Volume Four is good, but non-essential.

Report this review (#177924)
Posted Wednesday, July 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#180431)
Posted Thursday, August 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another interesting album by the Sabb. This a real hard rockin' album, with a few surprises and sevealr inconsistencies. Wheels of Confusion is a solid epic never faltering. Tomorrow's Dream is an unexciting but passable rocker. Changes is a keyboard led ballad with Ozzy giving an unusually emotional vocal. FX is the strange one here. It meanders pointlessly consisting of purely sound effects. Sabbath's stab at ambient? Supernaut is a riff driven return to form. Cornucopia is superbly heavy song. Snowblind is a surprisingly catchy ode to cocaine. Laguna Sunrise starts with a good idea but gets repetitive. St. Vitus' Dance is quirky and catchy and short. We end with the mini-epic Under the Sun, which ismuch in the same style as the opener.

Overall a solid album but flawed album. I give a 3'5 rounded up to a four. Not very prog, will appeal to metal/hard rock lovers.

Report this review (#185475)
Posted Monday, October 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars The Sabbath embraces progressive

Ah, Volume four is Sabbath's first real attempt at progressing their sound in a major way. And for the most part, they are successful. The sound is still muddy, and Tomorrow's Dream sounds like it was recorded in a pig slop bucket, but it is a hard rocking tune. Opening Wheels of Confusion is fairly progressive, but bores me. The solo at the end though, is absolutely fiery.

I don't expect the greatest of recording from Black Sabbath, but some of this just sounds mediocre, production-wise. Changes comes off rather forced, but I like it. The lyrics are just absolutely abysmal. Honestly, I have heard better lyrics on instrumentals. Changes is cheesy, and it bogs the record down. FX, better known as "needless noises" or "That intro to Supernaut" is a neat first listen, but doesn't go anywhere beyond boring atmosphere and flat sonic explorations. Not that I will let 1 and a half minutes ruin an album for me, besides...

Supernaut absolutely kicks ass. Well, standard Sabbath levels of kick ass, that is. Not the best they made, but an album highlight, and that guitar riff is killer. Ozzy's vocals aren't my cup of liquid drink as usual, but they don't ever really offend. Another wild solo from Iommi. The songs follow a solid hard rock vibe, with Cornucopia bringing the heavy back. This song would be a decent doom metal song if it didn't sound like they were recording in a dank 10x12 tool shed with tin walls.

Laguna Sunrise follows, and is another dab of experimentation. The strings and keys are not bad, but it seems a bit needless and lacking. It doesn't offend, but it doesn't amaze. Although Saint Vitus pops back in with nice hard rock. The closer follows suit, and is a decent enough song.

The album is a good metal one, but Black Sabbath have done so much better, and as an album that is supposed to add experimentation and levels to their sound it feels very mundane and mediocre. The weak production also makes me enjoy it, less. Get it if you are a fan of Sabbath. Two Stars.

Report this review (#212430)
Posted Saturday, April 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
progrules
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I got inspired to do this review of my favourite BS album by Alitare who gave it two stars but also said Black Sabbath has made far better albums. Well. better maybe, but far better: no way as far as I'm concerned. Always a matter of taste of course and according to my taste this is at least one of their very best. I bought it in the late seventies in about the same year I bought the debut and I always considered them more or less equal in quality. The debut was much darker even than the already dark Volume 4.

It starts off with one of the highlights, Wheels of Confusion/The Straigthener. A splendid composition with the instrumental second part as absolute highlight: Tony Iommi at his very best. 4,5*.

Tomorrow's Dream is a shorty but a very nice song indeed. This track is representitive for the overall sound of this album. Nice rhythm and great guitar. 3,75*.

Changes is the ballad of the album. First few notes almost sound like Steely Dan. But this doesn't last long for mr. Osbourne sets in his typical vocals. I used to like this one but right now I have to say ballads are not BS's strongest point. 2,75*.

FX is a very progressive short instrumental track. In fact it's some strange echoeing sounds following each other. But for a hardrock band I would like to declare this very progressive (wink). 2,5*.

Supernaut is my all time fav BS track. This one rocks and swings all the way. Really mindblowing stuff. Bill Ward is the star on this one. 4,75*.

Snowblind is a much slower song and quite frankly not by far as impressive as previous. Not a bad song though with a very fine solo by Iommi. 3,75*.

Cornucopia is one of those nice dark songs Sabbath is so good at. Pity it's so short. 3,5*.

Laguna Sunrise is a ballad like instrumental. I remember my cousin and I used to debate whether this was a good or a great little tune. I like this one better than Changes actually and they prove they can do a softer song. 3,25*.

St. Vitus Dance is the one that's least stuck in the back of my mind I have to say. It has been more than a decade since I last played this album but this track doesn't ring any bells. Just nice. 3*.

Under the Sun/Every day comes and goes must be the darkest song of this album. Especially the opening notes make you feel you're on a foggy graveyard or something. Black Sabbath's trademark and one of the reasons I love this band. 3,75*.

Maybe a total average of some 3,6 doesn't seem that high but don't forget the longest songs are the best on this album so I have every reason to round this up to 4 stars. Great effort !

Report this review (#213387)
Posted Saturday, May 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars

Not quite on pair with the haunting debut or the apocalyptical Master of Reality,but still better than both Paranoid and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath(ironically the two most succesfull Osbourne-era Sabbath albums).Curiously,there are no anthems in Vol.4,the final result showcasing the album as a whole,rather than individual songs(much unlike the heavy metal classics that made Paranoid what it is).This is ultimately healthy to the album,seeing as it's probably the most consistent recording the band ever pulled out.While all five of Black Sabbath first works were amazing to some extent,this one stands out for being the most ecletic and melodic of the lot.Although it slips at moments and threatens to loose the stride presented since the first album with less energetic tunes,the final result is again incredilbe.

Wheels Of Confusion is probably one of the band's finest pieces.It is also the best album opener they ever wrote,with a haunting guitar lament mourning through the speakers as soon as the needle hits the LP.With constant changing movements,the final minutes of this song are some of Tony Iommi's most remarkable experiments on guitar.Snowblind is the closest thing to a radio hit in the album,with it's rich melody and a certain melancholy that sets the definitive mood.Under The Sun is one of Black Sabbath's heaviest tunes to date,an incredible composition that closes the album with raw Metal glory.The nightmarish feel of Vol.4 is contrasted with delightfull tunes such as the ballad Changes and the instrumental Laguna Sunrise,compositions that prove just how subtle the band could be when they wanted to.Cornucopia and Supernaut are less interesting pieces,but the truth is that the band managed to do another album free of bad songs.

Black Sabbath Vol.4 is a very unique effort,with a distinctive mood and oftenly experimentive sounding.In their best days,this band couldn't make it wrong on studio:constantly changing the structure of their albums,they would eventually end up with a stunning and innovative hard rock offering.The same goes for both Zeppelin and Deep Purple:together,these three groups left the legacy of rock n' roll as it came to be known in the following years.

Report this review (#228387)
Posted Saturday, July 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Still being a good Black Sabbath album, it is a bit of mixed bag.

Recorded in California during musicians heavy drugs using period, it sound a bit unfocused. They found great success formula, and explore it there. All instruments are mixed in one heavy pulsating wave. No more acoustic excellence in sound of their debut. Sound is more soft and a bit rounded. There is acoustic guitar and even ballade on this recording! They changed direction from heaviness to lighter and less aggressive sound. They even aren't so angry anymore?!

I like Ozzy's voice there, and some new elements, as acoustic guitar sound. But too often songs sound repetetivous, uninspired. There are good songs and boring songs in proportion around 50/50.

If in band's best albums you're listening every song, every sound with interest and pleasure, there you will like some songs and just will skip others. Still good album, but far from their best.

Somewhere between 3 and 4.

Report this review (#255096)
Posted Wednesday, December 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars By the time of their 4th album, Sabbath were still going strong, but there were signs the band needed to settle down a while and catch a breath after continuously releasing masterpieces.

Most songs are still really good but something must have gone wrong when recording this album, certainly compared to the powerhouse that was Master of Reality.

There are some serious issues with the sound and recording quality of this album. It got better on recent reissues but generally the album suffers from a thin sound that is too crisp and sharp. The guitar doesn't have enough body nor power, the drums sound as if recorded in a bathroom and there's like no bass, too much cymbals and too loud vocals.

There's also a remarkable difference in acoustics between certain songs, as if they were recorded over different sessions. Tomorrow's Dream for example sounds perfect as if it was recorded during the Master of Reality sessions but most other tracks like Supernaut are an acoustic nightmare. Only mid frequencies here.

Well I guess I'm wasting your time. It's an excellent collection of songs but not as essential as some of their other albums. 3.5 stars

Report this review (#255134)
Posted Wednesday, December 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
tarkus1980
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Ehn, this is where things start to slide a bit. They're trying to make the sound less monotonous than on Reality, which I do appreciate, but the band doesn't do an extremely good job of pulling off its noble intentions. The acoustic instrumental, "Laguna Sunrise," is actually gorgeous (It's an acoustic duet! With a surprisingly tasteful mellotron! And a developed melody to boot!), but there's a really stupid 2-minute echoey sound loop ("FX") stuck right before the album's best track, and it in turn follows a piano ballad ("Changes") whose melody and lyrics are just about the definition of the word "trite." I guess I should've been careful what I wished for ...

Unfortunately, a lot of the "normal" Sabbath songs fall a good deal short of the standard they'd established for themselves. "Cornucopia"'s slower riff is just waaaaaay too slow and sludgy for my tastes, and the faster one just doesn't sound like Tony was at the top of his game when he came up with it. "St. Vitus' Dance" is better at times, especially when Tony breaks out his patented tone, but the thinner lines don't really gel with the heavier ones, and it feels overall like kind of a tossoff (especially since it's a mere 2:30). And "Snowblind," well, it's ok (it's nice to see Tony can do a decent heavy song without relying on "the tone"), but it definitely wouldn't make any best-of's I'd make from the band's prime albums.

The other four songs, fortunately, are pretty much classic Sabbath, and largely make up for the deficiencies found elsewhere. The opening "Wheels of Confusion" returns the band to its multipart days, going from a whaling bluesy introduction to a series of pummelling riffs to a lengthy coda underpinned by good synths and driving riffage and intense soloing. Truth be told, it kinda seems to me that Tony was so determined to make a lengthy epic with this many good riffs that he might have robbed himself of several good songs by not spreading the riffs out over multiple tracks, but for an opener of this caliber, I'd say it was worth it.

Even better, though, is "Supernaut," which has a main riff that's easily gotta be in my top two or three from Iommi, and which is played fast of all things! And hey, there's hyper- energetic drumming that helps prove that Bill Ward really was one of the best (and pretty underrated, if you ask me) rock drummers of the early 70's. Sure, it's awfully repetitive, but this is Black Sabbath we're talking about; good repetition is fine by me.

Rounding out the album are a solid Reality-style pounder ("Tomorrow's Dream") and an attempt at a closing 'epic' ("Under the Sun"), each of which have their share of solid riffs. Unfortunately, as nice as these are, they aren't enough to raise the album dramatically in my eyes. A few nice riffs can't totally mask the beginnings of stagnation in familiar areas, and the attempts to move into new territories just don't work that well. Still, it's enjoyable, and, like all of Sabbath's early albums, you'll probably love it if you're a stoned headbanger.

Report this review (#292116)
Posted Tuesday, July 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars By the time the band was recording this fourth release their idea pool began to run dry. Of course there wasn't much of a departure from the Black Sabbath formula set on their previous releases so Vol 4 still manages to hold its own between two juggernaut releases that surround it.

Wheels Of Confusion/The Straightener is easily the weakest album-opener among the first six albums even though The Straightener part of the song does save it from becoming completely uninteresting. Unfortunately the weak opening track sets a mood for the rest of the material which means that we get songs that aren't on par with the past achievements but, at the same time, not uninspired enough to be tossed aside as complete filler. Tomorrow's Dream is a good example of that particular phenomenon that we will hear more of later on.

Other than that, Vol 4 is primarily known for the highly enjoyable rockers like Supernaut and Snowblind, the semi-cheesy Changes and... FX. That last one is a track that always made me wonder what those guys were smoking when they recorded it! I guess it's clear that I'm not that enthusiastic about this album and the reason for that is the lack of new ideas from the band members. After all, they were still only in the beginning of their career and it's uncommon for a band to lose their spark on a fourth album, especially since the previous release was a complete masterpiece! Luckily, Black Sabbath managed to the regroup and release another pair of excellent albums before relapsing into another phase of weakness with results that can be considered mediocre at best!

Vol 4 is definitely not as bad as some of the later Ozzy-era albums would get but that's really not an excuse enough to make up for the fact that this record is somewhat of a black sheep of the family.

***** star songs: Snowblind (5:31)

**** star songs: Wheels Of Confusion/The Straightener (8:14) Changes (4:46) Supernaut (4:45) Cornucopia (3:54) Laguna Sunrise (2:53) Under The Sun/Every Day Comes And Goes (5:50)

*** star songs: Tomorrow's Dream (3:12) FX (1:43) St. Vitus Dance (2:29)

Report this review (#297520)
Posted Sunday, September 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Black Sabbath Volume 4 comes after a "larger than life" statement of the previous album that was in effect the weakest of the first three LPs. However, it follows on the "Masters"'s format of introducing shorter and acoustic tracks, perfecting it to the point that Vol. 4 presents a coherent collection of different styles.

The opening "Wheels of Confusion" is a long, progressive track in its own right and one of the group's best moments ever. Mellotron-laden "Changes" shows a gentle, softer side of SABBATH as well as the acoustic "Laguna Sunrise". Nice and needed ingredients to join all other heavy parts together. "Tomorrow's Dream", "Snowblind" and "Cornucopia" are heavy classics that were unavoidable addition to many later compilations and live sets.

This album re-affirmed BLACK SABBATH as the leaders of the emerging heavy metal genre and still represents one of their best works.

PERSONAL RATING: 4/5

P.A. RATING: 4/5

Report this review (#300051)
Posted Wednesday, September 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
1 stars Black Sabbath Volume four is once more in the theme and how to reflect the album cover to the song. The problem once more is as mentioned in their previous releases--it is scattered and unfocused.

The recording was also unprofessional, it did not record to the standards. Progressive music is not found in this album and cannot remember any progressions.

For a lead singer that says the beatles are his favorite band this album falls short and shows too much drug involvement in the tracks to be considered a professional or mainstream album.

The obvious or much in the island lineages conjuring the opposite--where the island lineage band the beatles were so professional that the individual could not tell to Black Sabbath were all is obvious and everyone is suppose to know.

This is very anti-mainland themed in the observed reference. It is best to stay away from such perverted groups. The island lineages once more all show support for these groups while the mainland individual is left in reference to distance.

I do not recommend this album as any distance in progressive--it is performance based with a theme/style in this distance to entertain.

Report this review (#305510)
Posted Monday, October 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars A true let-down after the gloomy and stunning Master of Reality. This album is the worst out of their first 6, untouchable albums. This one is even sometimes considered their best! Even if I find this statement untrue, I cannot deny the fact that there are some incredibly catchy songs with heavy progressive followings. There has never been a more inconsistent album as this one in history.

1.Wheels of Confusion - Black Sabbath's turn at hard rock psychedelia. It does not go as well as planed, I think. The song has a very trippy beginning, but after the interesting opening sequence, the song seems to be slightly disjointed. The parts and sections inside of the song are excellent, but the themes do not connect. Musicianship is great, as Ozzy Osbourne sings some meaningful lyrics with a great vocal performance. (8/10)

2.Tomorrow's Dream - A bit better than the opening epic, a great and stomping rocker, with an excellent bassline from Geezer Butler, can also be described as the anti hit. The song was a single, but failed to chart, though it has been on many compilations and gets considerable radio airplay. Odd, but the song itself is a little odd but still a rocker. Totally wicked guitar playing from the god himself, Tony Iommi, is only subtracted due to Osbournes lazy vocals and embaressing lyrics. (9/10)

3.Changes - The most embaressing of the tracks, besides some of the shorter ones. Some truely lovely lyrics, ruined by Ozzy's uninspiring lyrics. Beautiful mellotron can only save this song from a total disgrace. (6.5/10)

4.FX - Wierd sound effects, totally something you would find on a Krautrock or Space Rock album. Very progressive, but falls flat because of it's shortness. It could have been a sweet electronica track, but it was never cut. (5/10)

5.Supernaut - A good track, but seems very disjointed in the way the instruments play with each other. The guitar playing is excellent, but the drums from Bill Ward seem very lazy and almost not meant for this song. The track is groovy though, and the vocal performance from Osbourne is one of his best. Beautiful acoustic breakdown in the middle section is also appreciated. (8/10)

6.Snowblind - Easily the best song about cocain, and the best song on the album. The song talks about a truely stunning topic in the best way possible, and the ongoing dark offset of the song is very inspiring. The riff galore is in place, and it's definatly on top of the heep. Vocals from Osbourne are superb, and the rhythm section is grooving heavily with each other. (10/10)

7.Corncupia - This track is the scariest of the trips on the album. A great song, but the length seems to be a problem. So many awesome ideas squeezed into one super awesome track seems to have a toll, as the ideas are short and could have been easily expanded. Great riffs and playing overall. (8.5/10)

8.Laguna Sunrise - Another ballad type of track, but it dosent quite work as well. The string arrangements are appreciated, but the song itself just isn't a Black Sabbath song. A gentle tune, but very out of place with the chaos from above and below. (6.5/10)

9.St. Vitus Dance - Another really awkward track, as the happy R&B feel is augmented with the darkness of riffage does not work well. Terrible lyrics to add, but great musicianship as they roll down some happy tunes. Nothing to really get excited about. (6/10)

10.Under the Sun - Easily one of the best from the album. Extremely trippy guitar playing, and heavy bass riff under the murky guitar work. The song playing is extremely sloppy, but it seems to work well. Great, mystic lyrics and impressive vocal performance from Osbourne, as the group plows through the track, there are some recyled riffs, ultimatly leading back to the title track. An underrated classic track. (9.5/10)

There are some great songs, and some not so great songs on the album. It's definatly the worst of the classics, but it doesn't lag as far behind as some of Sabbath's later releases. A 3 star album, it's pretty good, but you definatly do not need it in your collection by any means. If someone were to start looking into Sabbath albums, start with Sabotage or Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.

Report this review (#321403)
Posted Monday, November 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Just as their first two albums defined the parameters of doom metal, and Tony Iommi's downtuned guitar sound on Master of Reality yielded the seeds of sludge metal, Black Sabbath's fourth album sees them redefining heavy rock yet again. This time, though the sludge sound is still present here and there (as on Tomorrow's Dream) and there's the occasional slow, doomy section (as on Snowblind), the sound of the album is a bit more commercial. It'd be easy to mistake this as Sabbath selling out and moving to the mainstream - except at this point in time heavy metal didn't have a mainstream.

Instead, with up-tempo, feel-good songs like Tomorrow's Dream or Supernaut, Sabbath define a new, accessible style of metal which would become a touchstone of middle-of-the-road bands for years afterwards, but in 1972 came like a bolt from the blue and still stands up to its imitators even today. It's by far from perfect; in particular, the first half of the album is marred by Changes and FX. Changes is a sappy piano ballad to which the band apply amateurish mellotron in an apparent attempt to justify their presence on the Vertigo label (which was supposedly a progressive rock label rather than being a home of hard rock). Even if you set aside the horrible Kelly Osbourne rendition from a few years back, the fact is that the song stinks - the musical backing is simplistic and repetitive, the lyrics are laughable, and in general it simply isn't the sort of music you want to hear when you're listening to a Black Sabbath album. FX is even worse, a laughable stab at musique concrete clearly thrown on as filler - needlessly, since if FX and Changes had been taken off the album would have been around 37 minutes long, which at the time was a perfectly acceptable length.

It's marred by two really lousy songs, and it isn't quite as interesting or groundbreaking as the three albums that preceded it, but on balance Volume Four is another great Black Sabbath album which deserves to be in your collection if you loved what came before it. But I'd still recommend any of the previous three over this one.

Report this review (#498857)
Posted Saturday, August 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Behind the iconic cover........

I thought I had Black Sabbath covered in my knowledge base. I thought I knew them. Then I start listening to this album and it dawns on me that I knew very little about this band, after all. "After all" means over 25 years ownership of this album and not bothering to listen seriously to this album. A big mistake.

Those who says Black Sabbath is a one trick pony heavy metal band, which I did, will get a big surprise on this album. Black Sabbath really stretches their wings on this album. Not at least towards the prog rock scene. They are still heavy as heck and played on full volume (turn it up to 11), this band knows how to blow out the lights. But there is surprisingly many subtle small details on this album, delivered by a four man drums/bass/guitar/vocalist band. A band who according to the many sensational books about them and their own confessions was drugged out to outer space at that time. That does not really correspond with what comes out of the speakers when I listen to this album. Yes, the sound is dirty. But it is sophisticated, intelligent dirt to be found on this album. Besides of the classic tracks Snowblind, Tomorrow's Dream and Changes, you also find some other more progressive, subtle tracks which make you sit up, listen and question your ears. Not to mention question if this really is a Black Sabbath album. The excellent Cornucopia is one of these tracks.

In short; Black Sabbath stretched themselves here and proved that Iommi & Co actually was a cracking excellent band. I am starting to believe they were/are pretty underrated too........

This is a great album which really should be pushed on those who underestimate Black Sabbath. A band who has risen very considerably in my estimation after a lot of spins of this cracking good album.

4 stars

Report this review (#506658)
Posted Sunday, August 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is a dirty little album; beautiful in its soil and stains and grease-covered patina, wallowing in the squalor of real rock 'n roll and never even looking in the direction of anything other than pure hard blues. In retrospect, this is the legacy Sabbath would give us and though at the time they just seemed like a talented hardrock ensemble, in hindsight we see how devoted to the real article Iommi, Osbourne, Butler and Ward really were. No compromise, no question-- mercurial heavy rock with strong melodies and no bullsh*t. Add a tasteful use of the Devil's Interval (two notes that seem to be made for them), a gifted guitarist/composer and a brilliant singer who was just beginning to hit his vocal & lyrical stride, and you had a recipe for greatness rarely seen.

After working harder than almost anyone in rock and releasing two phenomenal LPs in 1970 followed by the more internal Master of Reality with Tony Iommi's C-sharp downtune (and their invention of yet another new sound later to be termed 'stoner rock'), the quartet seemed to retreat from the trappings of success and instinctively avert themselves from the beckoning goodness and light of something "more appealing" or "better sounding". No, they'd have none of that, as evidenced by the near lack of proper intonation in some parts. Plus they were in L.A. and enjoying life. Vol. 4 is a stiff middle finger to almost everyone, even their fans, and you gotta love 'em for having the balls to do it long before punk rock made it cool. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath with its keyboards and orchestration would come next and they never really let their hair down quite like this again, making these '72 Snowblind sessions a real example of what rock was supposed to be.

Not every track is necessarily of the highest caliber or as carefully finished as the first three records, and the set has a surprising and unaccountable live feel that could be considered a fifth member, lingering quietly but darkly, helping to cast a shadow over a mostly flower-covered year in music. Yes, yes, the record is clearly devoted to everything white & powdery that eats at your sinuses and induces delusions of grandeur (it was 1972, look into it), but speedy and wide-eyed the music is not. In fact a lot was going down within the band, and that is undoubtedly heard in these recordings. Misplaced opener 'Wheels of Confusion' hits a nice beat, warm and not overly dense, showing signs of Barrett-era Floyd as well as The Nice and shifting to folk-blues 'The Straightener'. Classic and beautiful is 'Tomorrows Dream' showing Ozzy's range and musicality, and it is at this point we begin to really like the muffle of what sounds like a small pillow placed firmly over the recording mics. 'Changes' is fine if you like a gospel piano in your Black Sabbath (and who doesn't, am I right ?) and I'm afraid 'FX' is no more than someone forgetting to leave off the late night LSD-induced fun and the wonders of an Echoplex. Good classic Sabs for 'Supernaut' is followed by the tremendous if completely out-of-tune 'Snowblind' and, well, you get the picture. Debauchery and rock, it's like chocolate and peanut butter. At least it's supposed to be, and this long-player is evidence of that, a testament to it, a shrine built for its long-lamented memory. 'Cornucopia' gets lost in itself, unexpected acoustic bit 'Laguna Sunrise', back to bare knuckles in 'St. Vitus Dance' and glorious sludge of 'Under the Sun..' .

A beguiling record, at once ugly and powerful, Black Sabbath Vol. 4 will either seduce or repel you. Either way you'll be back. They all come back, eventually.

Report this review (#546038)
Posted Saturday, October 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
lazland
PROG REVIEWER
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.

Report this review (#648302)
Posted Tuesday, March 6, 2012 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'Volume Four' - Black Sabbath (7/10)

Each album that Black Sabbath released up to the point of "Volume Four" had showcased some sort of development. After all, most great bands are rarely satisfied with staying in the same place for so long, and it would be natural for these Birmingham gents to want to explore their 'heavy metal' invention in different ways. Although the diversified approach of "Master of Reality" surprised me when compared to what came before it, "Volume Four" is an even greater leap forward for the band, at least stylistically speaking. Here, the progenitors of heavy metal are embracing the progressive rock movement that was reaching its peak around 1972; if not accepting it with open arms, then at least acknowledging it with a nod and a wave. For all of the new possibilities that Sabbath open for themselves here however, I cannot help but miss the heaviness of their earlier work.

Although I do not hide my love for progressive rock, much of the reason that albums like Black Sabbath's debut and their masterpiece "Paranoid" appealed to me so much was due to Tony Iommi's mastery of the almighty riff. Not only that, but his guitar tone was heavy and thick, even by today's standards. While "Volume Four" has not entirely lost these traits, it's clear from the uncharacteristically mellowed intro to "Wheels of Confusion" that Black Sabbath are trying to do something different with their music, for better and worse. While "Volume Four" may not be as heavy as what came before, the incorporation of prog rock and American psychedelia is an exciting change of pace. The eight minute rocker "Wheels of Confusion" and beautiful mellotron-laden "Changes" are major tips of the hat to prog, which was reaching its artistic peak that year with albums like Yes' "Close To The Edge" and Genesis' "Foxtrot". Among the other unconventional pieces on the album is a listless sound experiment in "FX", and "Laguna Sunrise", an acoustic piece accompanied by full-blown string orchestration that could easily score the happy ending to a Spaghetti Western film.

"Supernaut" has Tony Iommi evoke the spirit of Jimi Hendrix with a playful central riff that ranks among the band's best. "Snowblind" is a rocking fan favourite involving the band's love of the Businessman's drug. Although the instrumentation generally feels less defined and powerful than it did on earlier albums, Ozzy Osbourne gives one of the best vocal performances of his career here, his distinctive voice complimented with a trembling vibrato and greater range than previously expressed. The result is an album that often feels more like hard rock than metal in the traditional sense. The songwriting is layered with keyboards, and tricks that the band innovated on "Master of Reality" have been developed further here. Although this is the most musically sophisticated album the band had made yet, it lacks the same atmospheric intensity I felt so profoundly with their early work. Although they have sacrificed an aspect of their sound on "Volume Four", Black Sabbath's newfound progressive outlook on their music would open a world of new possibilities for them.

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Posted Thursday, May 31, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Black Sabbath is no progressive act. The time of being or "zeitgeist" however had its influences on all artists and therefor all artists in the early 70's, including early metal bands like Sabbath, Budgie and Blue Oyster Cult were influenced by the artistic flow of the time which had lead to the succes of the progressive scene. Metal had no standards yet, and therefor it was possible to come up with a piano + keyboard ballad like "changes" without being bashed from the metal community. Also a song like FX which is nothing else then spacy effects could only happen in this time period. Although these songs are not the best songs of the record and are certainly not the songs that made Black Sabbath so succesful, this is the reason why Black Sabath is appreciated within the progressive community, although not hailed like in the metal scene.

Wheels of Confusion and Snowblind are amongst others good examples of the growing metal hit collection of Black Sabbath. These songs have some artistic edges, but are basically just fine songs based on metal riffs with some nice bridges. No song reaches out as fine as War Pigs, but I can appreciate this record more than the Masters of Reality. Not essential or noteworthy, but steady and pleasant. I cannot find any great weak spots on this record, except there is litle new going on. This record is advised for fans of Paranoid, which should be tried first.

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Posted Tuesday, January 8, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars With this album I found that Sabbath started incorporating more melody and emotiveness into their music - something that would show more fully in the next release. The slow ballad "Changes" was a totally different route for the band. I also found that the band was entering new progressive territory with tracks such as "Wheels of Confusion" and "Snowblind" - the actual precurser to prog metal as we know it today? Volume 4 is, to my mind, one of Sabbath's very best releases and it has driven the music road with me for miles and miles over the years. I can't say that it falls within my top 10 all time albums as there are so many albums that I love but it has to be very close - it is an album that I have never been and never will be without. "FX" is purely a breathing space on the album and it leads so wonderfully into "Supernaut". Once more Ozzie's use of his voice has improved on this album and, to me, it peaks on the next two releases. Like the previous album's "Sweat Leaf" was about weed, "Snowblind" is about coke - the bands relationship with narcotic substances is left in no doubt at all however they seem a little angry and anti in some of their tracks relating to the topic of drug abuse. Sure the band members were spaced out at this stage of their game but it in no way had started to impact negatively on the music - in fact I believe it enhanced their vision for what they were wanting to write and achieve musically at that time stage in their journey. I will never advocate the use of narcotics but having said that I do believe that for a time it enhances creativity until the day when it gets on top of a person and starts to warp and destroy things - with narcotics that day will come and later on in the band members' lives it did. Volume 4 for me is a four and a half star album with a half star removed purely because of the monster of a release that would follow which claims the full 5 stars easily for me. This album is classic Sabbath in full flight, not as heavy as "Master of Reality" but damn close and incorporating more of a prog feel along with a little more melody.
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Posted Thursday, April 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars Continuing on the black artwork (a bit of an exaggeration calling this an "artwork" for this and the previous albums), Vol 4 continued on the heels of their MoR album, which had set the real blueprints for the future heavy metal genre. The least we can is that the quartet repeats the formula with riff- laden songs; and this is what we'll find in all but two songs in the present album. Well, it seems that both Iommi and Butler didn't want to limit themselves to guitars. As Iommi had previously toyed with a flute and keyboards, Butler also plays the mellotron in the softer acoustics songs.

As far as the catalogue of songs presented here, you'll find a majority of riff-laden tracks like Snowblind (guess what Ozzy was singing about) and or Supernaut, but it would be exaggerating to say that these are groundbreaking, despite the latter's electronic short prelude called FX. The only "hard rock" track that present any interest (IMHO, of course) is the opening 8-mins Wheels Of Confusion, which feature a few tempo and ambiance changes. As for the two acoustic tracks, the almost-5-mins Changes feature Geezer on the trons over Iommi's calm guitar and Ozzy's spooky vocals. Laguna Sunrise is more of an acoustic guitar piece, showing Iommi's guitarist influences.

Hardly essential in my book, Vol 4 is still a very worthy album to unconditional fans, even though the album's title and artwork are clearly pointing to a certain lack of inspiration, despite their will to expand the instrumental horizons by introducing more KBs.

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Posted Wednesday, November 13, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Seth Man, one of my favorite reviewers from Julian Cope's web site, once cited something truly important about Black Sabbath: Their ability to "make the simple complex, and the complex simple." It is that extraordinary gift combined with a desire to expound upon their sound which begins to take the band to new heights here.

Vol. 4 is a feast for the heart and mind at once. New depths of melodic innovation are on display from the opening moments, and the level of musicianship is now in the territory of the utterly stunning. There are things happening on this album which I have only begun to understand after years of musical study myself. Things I wouldn't have even recognized during years when I felt my own musical "chops" were at their peak. Cerebral attributes and tricks unique to these four individuals that accomplish things which transcend individual showmanship.

It's teamwork. It's musicians telepathically connecting. It is Black Sabbath becoming so confident in their unique musical visions that a certain looseness begins to set in, experimentation begins to reach new heights and yet it is all tied down with brute force. Discipline remains a core principle of their musical endeavors. I would argue that this fundamental aspect of Black Sabbath; discipline, is one of the most important components behind their continued success. Why these albums recorded so long ago continue to astound and amaze when so many from this genre eventually became caught up in who was playing the "fastest," who could play the "most notes," who could "scream the highest" and so forth ...

Author, speaker and blogger Sean Murphy once described "Wheels of Confusion" as "an electric guitar symphony in less than eight minutes." A better and more on point description of its musical content I have not encountered. It opens with what must be the saddest lick in the history of ever, laid on top of minor chords yielding to a major chord which eventually launches into a riff that immediately confirms Bill Ward was without peer. This verse riff is heavy yet different from Iommi's previous work. It has a deep sense of sparseness to it and leaves room for Osbourne's melodic shouts from the sky. The key, however, to the success of this idea is one William Ward. Where nearly every drummer on the planet would have found a "beat" for this riff, Ward plays like a jazz drummer in some experimental classical ensemble. Loosely propelling it forward with swing, yet fully locked and ready to strike. Osbourne is singing Butler's lyrics from some Reality Moon as yet untapped. "Innocence and love was all I knew. Was an illusion." It is here that the band give their first taste of one of the greatest riff syncopations in their history. Ward syncs it up the first time, then lets that loose, jazzy feel allow it to begin to pass by the second, then finds a variation on his original idea to lock it back down into the second verse, only to loosen things up again so that the jazzy feel of this straightforward chord chugging remains in play for the second verse.

Osbourne's voice has attained a new level of beauty here. It is this voice which would ultimately "sell millions." But the debut of this vocal style for him is here, and the organic quality to his singing is positively stunning. Not overproduced, clear and high in tone. The band then launch into Round 2 of the greatest synchronized riff ever conceived. Ward and Butler now lock down a bit tighter. The riff is played through twice again but this time in complete sync from Ward both times through. Incredible, tight drum fills wedge between a dark, descending chordal motif which seems to indicate the arrival of something new. And then ...

Space.

The band are absolutely in deep space here and even Hawkwind and their tone generators couldn't go much deeper. Iommi introduces the greatest middle section in a rock song this side of Never Happened. Background guitars drop in not as guitars but as meteors which spark through the sky as the Sabs are on a freaking rocket ship being driven by Butler and Ward; who are swinging on one note. Let me state that again: Butler and Ward are swinging on *one* note. Find that in your musical library! The simple becomes complex. UNREAL brilliance. Iommi soon takes the wheel and says: "I'm landing this baby." The guitar descends and the bass and drums fall into line as the backdrop. Osbourne and Iommi co-pilot through a melody which enables this spaceship its final descent to Earth, but not before the trio crash through the riff synced up again as visions of smoking gasses and rocket lava abound.

Like any good story, it's time for the finale. Osbourne's vocals remind of the point at hand. "So I've found that life is just a game. But you know there's never been a winner. Try your hardest you'll still be a loser. The world will still be turning when you've gone." It's the "blues" as conceived of not via the usual tales of love and heartbreak, but by a sense that most people feel betrayed by early references to tranquillity and simplicity. That life, in the final analysis, is really two lives. One of innocence and one of harsh reality.

That synchronized riff is back for the song's conclusion. It's locked and ready for its resting place. One of those uncanny Sabbath moments sits at the very end, where it almost seems as if each member stops for just a quarter second in mid air, then all three crash down in unison. Extraordinary.

Is it over?

Duh Dah ... it's Wheels' next movement, "The Straightener." Here is where that unique Sabbath discipline comes into play. A fairly straightforward drum and bass groove ensues. There are great players and then there are great musicians. Great musicians know when to get out of the way. Butler and Ward lock into a positively beautiful backdrop and allow Anthony Frank Iommi to take the reigns. What ensues are two tracks of some of the most mind numbing guitar improvisations ever laid down on tape. Very slowly he builds an introductory theme. And then, like explorers searching for the same planet on different paths, the two solos break off to explore the night on their own. Their paths intersect at times, even stopping to converse, and each seems to somehow play off the other. This is truly some of the most brilliant lead guitar work I have ever heard. Fast trills attack as jazzy phrasings run rampant. There are a couple of bends which are so "in the pocket" that they will practically pierce your left amygdala. I could quite comfortably listen to this soloing go on for ten minutes, but as is so often the case with Sabbath, they allow it to run free for what seems like the perfect length before fading to black.

That's the first song.

"Tomorrow's Dream" kicks the production up a notch. While "Wheels of Confusion" was a sort of sonic mud bath (Hey! Recording on Mars ain't easy!) and only served to come to true sonic life during the opening chords of "The Straightener," "Tomorrow's Dream" comes crashing out of the gate with incredible production and a guitar tone which Ronnie Montrose must have borrowed for his band's entire debut album. Thick, heavy molasses riffing ensues under a vocal melody that is to die for. Osbourne is reaching new levels here. Ward's double bass drum work is brilliant. It serves rather than overtakes. During the verses Butler is using a little trick here which is one of his greatest. Namely, during the verses, he sometimes allows the bass line to lag just about a half beat behind the riff, then syncs it up for the conclusion. And here, on that conclusion, he sometimes quickly adds a root and octave not once but on both the final two chords in the progression. Extremely effective because it pulls and then pushes the feel of the groove. This song is positively electric as a result. After a bridge from the Garden Of Melancholy, the band shift into a simple, fully intertwined and upbeat middle section which I can guarantee you could never be pulled off like they pull it off by anybody. It's got that "Sabs groove" fairy dust all over it. Back into the power break utilized after the first verse and then the last verse comes on strong. The trio sync up again for that power section and close with lawnmower space guitar fading into the night.

"Changes" was always a misunderstood track. "Down under" they got it straight away, and it was so successful there that the band even played it live on their January '73 tour of New Zealand and Australia. This is interesting in the sense that the Sabs never seemed to warm to idea of devoting a portion of their live shows to acoustic numbers. But then a Sabbath concert was usually a "get up, clap and dance your behind off" party, not a "sit back in your seat, sleep is half approved" gathering. My guess is that they simply felt those types of experiments were best left to the albums. But live, it's clear that the experiment could have worked. Osbourne's vocal delivery was excellent, Iommi's piano more than competent and Butler's mellotron sufficient. Still, the track was at its most powerful in the studio and Osbourne's vocal is breathtaking. It should be noted that Iommi's piano accompaniment is wonderful. Apparently this was really the first thing he came up with on piano, having only recently begun to play! In that respect, it is interesting how many people assumed Rick Wakeman performed on this track, when Tony was just a beginning piano player trying to further develop Sabbath's voice for ballads. The main riff has a playful, innocent quality which fits the lyrics. It's a simple blues at its essence. I think people miss this aspect. The lyrics in each verse are really connected to the "My baby left me" mentality but instead of a boogie woogie or blues back drop it's approached as a pop ballad. Quite innovative. The chorus sections are absolutely haunting. Iommi's piano and Butler's mellotron gently gliding and allowing Osbourne's voice to soar above them in the dark skies of lost love.

"FX" is what happens when drugs and what I suspect was some level of interest in the experimental avant garde combine forces. Iommi messing about on acoustic guitar using his jewelry or some such. It serves it's purpose, I guess, as it gives one a chance to mentally prepare for arguably the greatest tour de force in heavy rock for its time or since; "Supernaut."

"It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing." The Sabs are in full flight here and swinging like no rock band before or since. The main riff beats the output of entire genres, and the verses have a level of jazz-influenced swing which should make even the jazz purist blush. Ward is on this like a snake on a handicapped rat. And Osbourne is on fire! Yelling each line in perfect tone from the skies again. It's easy to understand why Frank Zappa rated this song so highly and I dare say it takes a pretty accomplished musician to understand some of the intricate interplay going on here. Butler again uses his "trick" of dragging the beat through the verses ever so slightly with a variation on the riff, then as each verse concludes, walks down the scale with a sort of jazz sensibility only to come up for air in perfect unison for the stop. The riff of the century comes in again. Butler slides up a bass that must have a hundred frets, and we're off to Verse 2. This song would be a gem if that's all there was to it, but after a guitar solo with trills that are actually lightning bolts in disguise, the band are suddenly a house band in Trinidad playing Calypso with some guy who is juggling forty things with hands and feet posing as a drummer. Ward is unstoppable here! The double bass drum work is remarkable because it is so rhythmic and not based prominently on force. The snare break gives way to Iommi allowing that sliding run to ring open for one bar instead of muffled. He then palm mutes and it's back to Osbourne's hollering: "Got no religion. Don't need no friend. Got all I want and I don't need to pretend. Don't try and reach me 'cause I'd tear up your mind. I've seen the future and I've left it behind." Geezer Butler, ladies and gents. Geezer Butler.

"Snowblind" was always one of my favorite Sabbath tracks There's a "snap" to it which I've frankly never heard any other band attain and it's mostly down to Bill Ward, who had the foresight to know that breaks don't always have to run through entire bars. They can be used briefly to great effect. The way his drums work through this song is absolutely, positively brilliant. His hi-hat work is extraordinary, and the way his snare breaks up the riff is just out of this world. The song has incredible dynamics. It's yet another example of what The Seth Man talked about. In this song, Sabbath take a set of simple ideas and execute in a manner that is highly complex. No matter how many bands cover this song, none of them will likely get it to sound like it does here. It's magical. And I must point out that Osbourne's vocal works against the riff just beautifully.

"Cornucopia" introduces yet another guitar tone and this one is a real mess of sonic sludge yet somehow seems cleaner on top. I suspect Iommi's obsession with guitar tones by this point was guiding him to every corner of the fuzz universe, so he figured this idea had to be explored. The opening riff is pure Iommi, which then yields to what one might describe as verses of Sabsjazz. The beat which Ward accomplishes here should be applauded by every musician on the planet. It swings like a mother but syncopates beautifully to bring out the textures of the riff. So difficult was this track that Ward apparently became frustrated with the patterns to the point of fearing he might quit or be fired. The final result stands as a testament to his musicianship. Not only did he get it right in the end, he absolutely brings it with a truckload of energy and yet never overplays. Drumming on live versions of this track is off the edge of the planet. Frankly, I'm not sure any other drummer could play this stuff. It's just too specialized. Too unique.

"Laguna Sunrise" is a gorgeous acoustic piece. The thing I always enjoy about Iommi's acoustic work is that I can never really trace it to anything. Certainly the case here. Is it from folk music? Eh, not really. Classical? Well, a bit ... but in the end it is a highly original idea, executed well. Not my favorite acoustic work of his, but solid nonetheless.

"St. Vitus Dance" is a catchy little gem of a tune for which I've always held a soft spot. It sounds like something they probably put together fairly quickly and it serves its purpose well. Basically, setting the mood for a closing number by getting your mind up and moving again. It's a twisting little riff and the power chord verses spin it back into a sound that is purely Sabsland.

"Under the Sun" is yet another guitar tone from the city of Never Been Done. By this point, Iommi was printing the maps of the future to much of rock guitar. Nobody was going to catch him. He had fully branded this sound and to this day any guitarist who tries to sound dark and heavy will be traced to him. The lyrics here are sensational and it's evident that Sabbath weren't buying into any one philosophical concept except self-empowerment. Heck, this was like self-help before the term was officially coined! The tricky arpeggio runs from Iommi that break things up between verses are yet another example of an idea for which I'm uncertain of the influence. The song's abrupt change into the "Everyday Comes and Goes" section is perhaps not one of their best ideas but Ward's drumming makes it all interesting. The closing section is utterly gorgeous as the descending melody takes shape while a second guitar with an ascending melody works its way into the proceedings. This last section was actually pulled off live very well in '72 (listen to the Hollywood Bowl show from that year as one example) but for some reason dropped when the song reappeared on the most recent tour. It's very tricky to do without the additional guitar overdub but they pulled it off beautifully. After some restrained, melodic soloing takes place, the riff is then stripped down to its core harmonic component via power chord riffing and slowed and slowed again. This culminates in possibly the most resounding "thump" of a note to ever grace an album. Heavy not just in concept, but in execution.

In my view, Vol. 4 is the album where the fans who really get what this band are about begin to fall totally and completely in love with the sound which these musicians were able to coax out of their collective musical souls. It is at once of space and the earth. A freight train moving too fast around a corner yet never leaving its tracks. The album has a certain looseness about it. A certain organic musical authenticity where the music sounds fresh and exciting, yet it's often tight and focused to the point of musical rigidity. It will never be repeated. Probably couldn't even be properly copied. It is a band playing with fire and confidence, but as it relates to the serving of an innovative musical philosophy. A team of musicians striving for a collective sound.

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Posted Monday, December 22, 2014 | Review Permalink
FragileKings
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars "Volume 4" was the second Black Sabbath album to join my cassette collection, back in 1983, and it happened as a matter of economy. I was 12, had recently become hooked on heavy metal, and had only a weekly paper route supplying me with $25 a month, most of which my mother insisted I save in a bank account. Cassettes in those days were on average $8.99, and "Volume 4" was priced at only $6.99. My first Black Sabbath album was "Mob Rules" and so for me this album had a very different sound to it, especially in the vocals (chronologically speaking, it should be the other way around). I was used to Ronnie Dio singing and had only heard from a friend that Ozzy had started the band, which I took to mean that he had gotten the guys together and said, "You guys will make a great band". I was 12, remember.

This album was a big step for Black Sabbath. They had been making each album heavier than the last and now found themselves at a very important point in popular music history. The heavy guitar sound that grew into popularity in 69/70 was starting to undergo a transformation. Many bands were going more commercial, or more funky, or more in a roots rock direction and meanwhile hard rock was really coming to the fore. Still others were catching the prog wave as progressive rock had reached its zenith. Black Sabbath approached their fourth album with new directions in mind. Though the signature heavy riffs were in place for songs like "Wheels of Confusion" and "Under the Sun", there were other ideas that made it to the vinyl. Ozzy had a piano ballad with Mellotron (or were they real strings?), Iommi had a classical guitar instrumental piece with strings, too. In fact, no fewer than three tracks include strings or Mellotron. Then there was the effects piece called simply and aptly "FX". On another personal note, "Born Again" was my third Black Sabbath album, so with "FX", "E5150" and "Stonehenge" I was under the impression that every Sabbath album had such a track. "Supernaut" features a (is that calypso?) percussion solo, and "St. Vitus' Dance" sounds like country metal. Those last two songs are also danceable, unlike the serious tones of "Snowblind", a song about cocaine.

The cocaine factor played a heavy role in the making of the album. The band had gone off to California and landed in a veritable river of the stuff. They had it delivered by the soapbox according to one member in an old interview, and Iommi once reflected that the band just lied around crashed out and waiting for Iommi to get them motivated with a musical idea. It's hard to imagine these accomplished and talented musicians lying about like junkies trying to find a new way to butter toast, but the resulting music shows that the band was very willing to move into new territory. Many of the tracks feature songs or instrumental sections within songs. After the first or second chorus, a new riff, rhythm, and melody will come in before going back to the original musical theme of the song. Bill Ward's drumming still had its jazz roots showing through in places, but he also contributed some trickier, non-standard beats and maintained his usual fills.

What makes this album so interesting for me is mostly the slightly more complex song structuring and variations in a single track. "Under the Sun" is heavy and ponderous at first but the middle section called "Every Day Comes and Goes" is a hurried song with some short and speedy drum solos to connect the gaps in the rest of the music. I've always loved "Wheels of Confusion" with its mellow rock introduction and slow simple riff which then gives way to a slightly spacey instrumental section that leads to a very heavy riff, a frantically busy part that then drops back to the simple heavy riff again. The song wraps up with an instrumental entitled "The Straightener", which has a nice melody accompanied by heavy riffs and a lead guitar duet thanks to overdubbing. "Tomorrow's Dream" and "Snowblind" also feature additional parts in the middle of the song.

Though this album's singles don't stand up to those from the other first five albums, I've always enjoyed "Volume 4". Perhaps the band learned from their adventures which ways were the best to pursue. I feel "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" and "Sabotage" didn't pack as much variety as "Vol. 4" though that might be a good thing for most Sabbath fans. And while I'm okay to skip "Changes" and "FX", I usually enjoy listening to the rest of the album.

When I first discovered that Black Sabbath were on PA, my immediate thought was, "Volume 4! Of course!" I can see how this album has helped make the band worthy of inclusion.

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Posted Saturday, January 16, 2016 | Review Permalink
The Crow
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Vol. 4 is an album of a band going through changes (and dealing with sever drug abuse) But they managed to create another milestone for hard rock and heavy music!

This fourth effort is a bit less heavy than Master of Reality and it has a muddier and darker production. I really don't know if this dirty sound was deliberate or not, but it had a capital importance through the years. After 45 after its release, we can check that Vol. 4 and its special and distinctive sound inspired bands like Kyuss, The Obsessed, Sleep, Cathedral and many more.

The album starts with Wheel of Confusion, which contained a rather complex riff and structure if compared to previous records. It is a long song, which shows a worthy attempt to reach new levels for the band. Tomorrow's Dream confirms the dirty and sloughy sound of the album, with a typical Sabbath riff and great verses.

Changes is a weird attempt to create an intimate song, and despite not being really memorable, it has the best vocal interpretation from Ozzy. It can even sing in this song! In addition, the mellotron is pretty good. Sadly, FX is just forgettable. An experimental piece of trash that last 1'43'' too long.

Supernaut retrieves the energy with another powerful riff and a great psychedelic interlude with great drums. Snow Blind brings back the style of Master of Reality and it talks about the drug abuse that the band was suffering at this time. A classic with impressive keyboards towards the end! And Cornucopia is another hit which starts with a doom rhythm and continue with a melody with rock and roll influences but filtered with the ultra-heavy and dirty guitars from Iommi.

Laguna Sunrise is a beautiful surprise, because it demonstrates that this band was able to create competent orchestral arrangements and it shows a wider musical range. The good keyboard work of this song and others from this album give a good advance of what the band would do in Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.

St. Vitus Dance is maybe not so memorable, but it is a short and funny track, which mixes wisely heavy riffs with blues-rock influences. Moreover, Under the Sun / Every Day Comes and Goes is another classic from this album. The energetic and powerful ending that this album deserves.

Conclusion: Vol. 4 is one of my Sabbath's favorites. It is not so groundbreaking as the first two albums and not so damn good as Master of Reality, but apart from FX it's almost a flawless album, which shows a band succeeding in their attempt to expand their sound with keyboards and orchestral arrangements. In addition, it has a dirty and muddy production, which professed a capital influenced through the years, especially for Stoner Metal bands.

However, if you are searching the more Heavy Metal side of Black Sabbath, I recommend you to start with albums like Sabbath Bloody Sabbath or Heaven and Hell.

My rating: ****

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Posted Saturday, July 29, 2017 | Review Permalink
TCat
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
5 stars "Black Sabbath Vol. 4" was released in the middle of the heyday for Black Sabbath, but it was at a time when the drug use was at its peak, and was also the beginning of the contention among the original members of the band. Osbourne, Iommi, Ward and Butler were at their creative and performing best during this time and just pumping out one heavy metal masterpiece after another. This album also saw the band beginning to experiment with their trademark sound.

"Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener" starts out the album with the trademark heavy sound, dark and memorable riffs and ever changing melodies and meters within the song. The track is a mid-tempo track at first but at times speeds up in different sections. The 2nd part of the track starts around the 6 minute mark, which shows a faster rhythm and the guitar taking the lead, with some mellotron (sounding like an organ) added in the background. This section is instrumental and fades out after 8 minutes.

"Tomorrow's Dream" was the single from the track and fits into the normal time for a single at just over 3 minutes. It is still heavy and has the same feel as "Paranoid" and "Sweet Leaf" from their previous albums, but has a section in the middle where things slow down. The single itself did not do very well as it failed to chart anywhere, probably because it was too heavy for most radio stations.

"Changes" is that beautiful ballad that most everyone knows by now. For the fans back when this was released, it was an interesting surprise to hear Ozzy singing alone with a piano and mellotron, and nothing else. It is a vulnerable and heartfelt song, one of the band's most beautiful. The music was written by Iommi and the lyrics by Butler while Ozzy hummed the tune. Iommi taught himself to play the piano part for it and the song was written. The lyrics are about Ward's recent breakup with his wife.

"FX" is a short experimental and psychedelic track that uses mostly percussive sounds made by the guitar by throwing various objects at it and adding an echo effect.

"Supernaut" is another fan favorite that returns to the classic Sabbath sound. An amazing and memorable riff with Ozzy singing at the top of his range. This track was a favorite of Frank Zappa's. You can understand that with the awesome guitar work done by Iommi here especially at the instrumental breaks. One of the breaks features a point where the loudness breaks down and you get a percussive section before it all returns again.

"Snowblind" was originally supposed to be the title track, but the studio didn't want to get into any trouble with its reference to drugs, so the album title was changed to Vol. 4. However, the track retained its title. Again, it is another fan favorite, with a great chugging riff that always stands out among Sabbath's best. This one, like the first track, features changing rhythms and themes, similar to most of the tracks on the "Paranoid" album, keeping things interesting throughout. Later in the track, when the song returns to the main theme, you get more mellotron and strings added in before Iommi breaks into another amazing solo. Everything works together flawlessly.

Next we have fairly short tracks. "Cornucopia" returns to the stark heaviness of the "Paranoid" album, specifically "War Pigs". Even though it is under 4 minutes, the tempo, meter and melody still changes, yet it is still developed well enough to be considered a great track. "Laguna Sunrise" comes next, and it is another beautiful surprise. An instrumental mostly performed by Iommi on acoustic guitar. Mellotron and strings add a lovely texture to the track. "St. Vitus Dance" is a quick but heavy track, but not as memorable as it tends to get swallowed up in the other amazing tracks on the album.

The final track is the combined "Under the Sun/Everyday Comes and Goes". This one starts out heavy and slow and then suddenly changes to a faster tempo when Osbourne's vocals start. A repeating riff keeps driving things forward. The bridge of the song is actually the 2nd part of the title and many copies of the album have it titled as "Under the Sun (including Every Day Comes and Goes)". The track is good, but seems like a weak one to end the album with in that there isn't a lot that is memorable here. I think it would have made a better impression to end with "Snowblind" and put this track in its place in the line up. But that is a minor issue.

Overall, I still find this album to be one of Black Sabbath's best, even better than "Master of Reality" which I find to be the weakest of the first 6 albums. I still consider it a masterpiece, even when the album ends on a track that isn't as impressive, because the rest of the album is powerful and even has a good variety of styles on it. The band still hadn't lost their edge, and in my opinion, wouldn't until after "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" and "Sabotage".

Report this review (#2043405)
Posted Friday, October 12, 2018 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars BLACK SABBATH had a phenomenal three year run with the first three albums "Black Sabbath," "Paranoid" and "Master Of Reality" taking the world by storm and virtually single-handedly launching a new heavier form of gloomy doom fueled rock to the world. As the band became more famous and falling deeper and deeper into the trappings of rock stardom so too did the pressures take hold and it was precisely at the time when the band was entering the studio to record the fourth album unexcitingly titled VOL. 4 the drug addictions were starting to take their toll. As the good life became ever easier to grasp hold of, the temptations of too much of a good thing were starting to stifle the creative processes that had made BLACK SABBATH a household name in a very short time.

Lots of changes were in the works for SABBATH members Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward. Firstly the band let go of producer Rodger Bain and Iommi took control over the production process citing that Bain wasn't capturing the band's true potential. And so the alternative fab four headed into the studio in Los Angeles with speaker boxes filled with cocaine and set out to take the band to the next level on its own terms and those terms would be a focus on the heavier guitar riff filled doom and stoner metal of the first three albums with a few experimental touches. Fueled with drugs and ambition the band members discovered a new life in the sin city of LA and Geezer Butler recounted in a Guitar World interview in 2001 that this was the point where the classic lineup began its inevitable slow burn to implosion.

VOL 4 comes off as a very uneven album after the sheer perfection of the band's first three efforts. Apparently an outside producer was need to organize and babysit these kids in a candy store as VOL 4 comes off as a fairly by the books affair with a few random numbers thrown in for variety's sake although Iommi's producer plaudits aren't too shabby in and of themselves. Of the album's ten tracks, the opener "Wheels Of Confusion / The Straightener," "Tomorrow's Dream," "Supernaut," "Snowblind," "Cornucopia" and the closing "Under The Sun / Every Day Comes And Goes" follow the same playbook rules that got the band noticed in the first place. Those being catchy heavy psych guitar hooks drenched in distortion with a bluesy bad boy boogie style of cyclical riffing that trades off energetic hooks with slow plodding doomy power chords. A few interesting upgrades occur. The opener displays an excellent melodic extended dual guitar solo effect that carries the track past the eight minute mark. The closer finds some extended compositional skills that flirt with progressive rock.

The other tracks all stand out as territories unexplored by SABBATH at this point. The first is the unexpected sappy ballad "Changes" which finds no heavy metal at all but is rather a piano accompanied by a symphonic backing with lyrics that lament about Bill Ward losing his wife. Clearly attempting to cash in on the maudlin crowds and possible commercial crossover, the track is widely deemed as one of the most out of place songs on any early SABBATH albums and was thankful jettisoned from live performances after the following tour. If the track wasn't bad enough, it left an impression on Ozzy who would add similarly insipid ballads all throughout his future solo career and the song would eventually years later *gasp* be rerecorded by Ozzy's daughter Kelly. Gag icon please. Another head scratcher arises from the electronic experimental piece "FX" which honestly goes nowhere and also seem like a drug induced decision to win over some of the emerging electronica crowds that were gathering steam around the same time.

The other two tracks "Laguna Sunrise" and "St. Vitus Dance" are much better but also sound a bit out of place on a SABBATH album. The former sounds a bit like something off of Led Zeppelin's "Houses Of The Holy" with a bit of SABBATH grit but is only an acoustic guitar instrumental with more symphonic backing much like the short intermissions of "Master Of Reality" only more chilled and folky. "St. Vitus Dance" jumps back into heavy distorted rock but has a bit more of a groove to it but also seems to never gather the steam that it needs to really go where it hints at and a clear indicator if it hasn't already proven obvious that SABBATH were very much on automatic pilot while the spent half of their budget on drug binges.

Out of the first six essential BLACK SABBATH albums i have always found VOL 4 to be the weakest of the bunch and despite the attempts to experiment in myriad directions, the least effective as well. It's difficult to be too harsh on this classic album because it does deliver quality early heavy metal tunes in full regalia and as an attempt to take things into a more streamlined hard rock approach VOL 4 does deliver. The problem is that the album is sandwiched between several better albums before and after that sound more cohesive, more professional and infinitely more interesting from a musical standpoint. Personally i loathe the cheesy ballad "Changes" and the half-baked attempt at making an electronic instrumental that stood out with "FX" only displayed the bad judgement fueled by the incessant cocaine abuse. While the band were pleased with themselves, the critics and fans weren't as much since the band had lost a bit of that dark and mysterious edge. The tracks presented here came off as rather tame in comparison. However despite the fumbles, VOL 4 still comes off as a doomy riff fueled early heavy metal classic.

Report this review (#2243953)
Posted Thursday, August 15, 2019 | Review Permalink

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