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Black Sabbath - Sabbath Bloody Sabbath CD (album) cover


Black Sabbath


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4.12 | 771 ratings

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4 stars The world's first progressive metal album?

Every subculture has it's universal truths, and the heavy metal genre has quite a few: Metallica sold out with "The Black Album", Dimebag Darrell is a martyr of the genre, Dio is a god among men and above reproach, metalcore insults the genre, saying Slipknot is even decent is tantamount to heresy, and Black Sabbath is responsible (directly or indirectly) for every sub-genre in heavy metal. In regards with that last gospel truth, there is some genuine truth to that. Nearly every metal band under the sun has cited Black Sabbath as an influence. There first two albums laid the foundation for the entire genre and their next two albums extended the genre even further and indirectly influenced sub-genres such as doom, sludge, and stoner metal. So after laying such foundations, where else can they go?

Their answer was their fifth album, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. When it was initially released, fans, critics, and even the band themselves, weren't too sure what to think about it. It received acclaim for sure, but it was vastly different in comparison to its predecessors with its use of synthesizers and cleaner production values. Some fans were put off by it and the band even commented that this was the start of when album's cost more to make due to studio influence. However, in hindsight, this album was the first instance seen of the two genre's of progressive rock and heavy metal fusing together.

The album opens with the title track, which is dubbed "the riff that saved Black Sabbath", and that claim is not unfounded. I've noticed that the reason many prog-heads gravitate towards this album because of Rick Wakeman's presence (despite the fact that he only appears on one song). Even if he played on every song, the focus on Wakeman takes away the attention from Black Sabbath's true star; Tony Iommi. Not only could the man churn out heavy riffs like a factory, but he was also the leader of the band's creative process. Without him, Geezer could not write his lyrics and Ozzy could not sing. Tony also took a lot of elements from jazz and psychedelic rock, allowing him to create unique pieces such as "Wicked World" and "Fairies Wear Boots." Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is another weapon in his unique arsenal which shows the roots of a popular style in progressive metal; alternating between heavy and soft on a regular basis. Tony plays a heavy and catchy riff while Ozzy sings his typical fashion but then Tony switches to an acoustic guitar while Ozzy sings more smoothly. A guitar solo transports us to the last part of the song which is heavier and tonally different than the first half, another prog-metal style. This amazing song, this genesis of prog-metal, is 99% the work of Tony Iommi. Let's give credit where credit is due.

The progressive rock elements are peppered throughout the rest of the album but do not come together with the heavy metal was well as the title track does. A National Acrobat, starts off with a riff similar to the title track (albeit a bit softer) before delving into fantasy-like lyrics and Tony's extended guitar solos. An enjoyable track, but it kind of meanders on.

Fluff is an excellent piece that shows Tony can write beautiful compositions on instruments other than the electric guitar. However, the instrumental sounds remarkably out of place. This is not because it is a soft song on a heavy metal album. Black Sabbath has done it before with "Planet Caravan" and "Solitude". These two songs came after some extraordinary heavy material (the former after "War Pigs" and "Paranoid" and the latter as the penultimate final song on it's album) and sounded like something Black Sabbath would do (a psychedelic journey and a mournful song). I don't detract any points because of it because a good song is a good song regardless.

The prog-head's interest peaks at Sabbra Caddabra where Rick Wakeman makes his appearance. However, the keyboards and pianos sound like something Tony could have easily handled and don't show the skill Wakeman is capable of. He recorded his parts while Yes was recording Tales of Topographical Oceans, an album which Rick hated. He even asked to be paid in beer rather than money for his contribution. I don't say any of this to insult Wakeman or his fans, but simply to show how little involvement he had and how little he cared about it (it was something more he did for fun). The song itself is like that, fun, but really nothing too memorable.

Killing Yourself to Live is a typical heavy metal song, but that's not always a bad thing. Tony still shows that he is the king of the riff even when he decides to dabble into other things.

The two songs I've seen most picked on by both metal and prog-heads are Who are You? and Looking for Today, the former relying a synth melodies while the latter attempting to be a "hit" song. While I do agree with the criticism towards the latter (I've listened to it multiple times and can't remember a single thing about it), I must confess I have a soft spot for the former. It's more of an experiment on Ozzy's part and the song does have a heavy feel in line with the Sabbath style.

The album closes with Spiral Architect, which opens with Tony playing an elegant melody on the acoustic guitar before the hard rock and the orchestras break out. A very interesting experiment that Sabbath has never done before, but manages to pull off very well.

Despite being a little rough around the edges, I believe I can (without a doubt) give this album four stars. It's an excellent addition to any prog-rock music collection and an essential to heavy metal listeners. Just as they did before, Black Sabbath sowed the seeds for another sub-genre in heavy metal, but also for a genre they originally had very little to do with.

Ghost_of_Prog | 4/5 |


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