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Black Sabbath - Born Again CD (album) cover

BORN AGAIN

Black Sabbath

 

Prog Related

2.75 | 289 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
2 stars 'Born Again' - Black Sabbath (4/10)

By all means, a collaboration between Black Sabbath and Ian Gillan should have ruled. Sabbath had spurred the heavy metal sound, and Gillan had dished out some of hard rock's most enduring records with Deep Purple. Not only that, but Sabbath now had a precedent to become awesome with a new vocalist. Dio's induction led to "Heaven And Hell", the album that saved the band from crippling mediocrity. "Born Again" has no such luck, however. The songwriting standards are back to the way they were with "Technical Ecstasy", and for whatever reason, Gillan's vocals to not fit nearly as well as they should have. "Born Again" is a disappointing chapter in the band's history.

Although not as articulate as Dio, Ian Gillan had an amazing voice throughout the 70's. Particularly in his shrieking falsettos, there is no doubt that he was one of his era's vocal greats when it came to hard rock. Listening to his performance on "Child In Time" from Deep Purple's "In Rock" album makes it clear that his haunting voice would have worked well with Sabbath's relatively dark sound. Although many argue that his bluesy style does not fit with the heavier sound that Black Sabbath goes for, it could have been incredible. Sadly this potential is far from realized; the whole thing sounds underbudgeted and generally uninspired. Gillan's falsettos sound great for the most part, but the songwriting falls flat for the most part. Barring the moments where he sets his voice on fire, Gillan's performance feels like he doesn't care about the music, and who can blame him? The composition falls flat more often than not; there isn't a melody of riff that sticks after the album's over.

The biggest fault here is undoubtedly the production and mixing. Apparently, the rough cuts were accidentally published rather than the refined mix, and if that is true, it's a pretty juvenile slip-up for a veteran band to make. The album sounds like a rough demo, or a work-in-progress. As a result, the more upbeat 'rock' tracks are completely unenjoyable to listen to, with only Gillan's shrieks clambering above the mess. However, something very unexpected happens as a by-product of this. Also thanks in part to Gillan's eerie falsettos, this is the darkest Sabbath have sounded since the debut. The slower tunes and ambient interludes are actually pretty good, and the lo-fi sludge gives it a diabolical atmosphere that I might compare to some black metal. "Disturbing The Priest" and "Zero The Hero" rekindle this evil sound. Further proof that not everything is black or white, especially when it comes to music.

"Born Again"s creepy vibe is not near enough to save it from being considered one of Sabbath's weakest efforts, sadly. Taking into account the fact that most of the album still defaults on conventional hard rock songwriting, it becomes nearly unlistenable when paired with a production that sounds like it was engineered by a studio intern. It might be worth checking out for Ian Gillan friends, but this is a chapter in Black Sabbath's history that is best left forgotten.

Conor Fynes | 2/5 |

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