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Black Sabbath - Volume Four CD (album) cover


Black Sabbath


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3.88 | 681 ratings

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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.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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