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Black Sabbath Volume Four album cover
3.87 | 751 ratings | 39 reviews | 29% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1972

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Wheels of Confusion / The Straightener (8:14)
2. Tomorrow's Dream (3:12)
3. Changes (4:46)
4. FX (1:43)
5. Supernaut (4:45)
6. Snowblind (5:31)
7. Cornucopia (3:54)
8. Laguna Sunrise (2:53)
9. St. Vitus Dance (2:29)
10. Under the Sun / Every Day Comes and Goes (5:50)

Total Time: 43:17

Bonus Track on Castle reissue (1986):
11. Children Of The Grave (Live 1980) (4:35)

Line-up / Musicians

- Ozzy Osbourne / vocals
- Tony Iommi / lead & acoustic (8) guitars, piano (3), Mellotron (3)
- Geezer Butler / bass
- Bill Ward / drums, percussion

- Orchestra (6,8)

Releases information

ArtWork: Bloomsbury Group (design) with Keith McMillan (photo)

LP Vertigo - 6360 071 (1972, UK)

CD Castle Communications ‎- NELCD 6005 (1986, Europe) w/ a bonus Live track
CD Essential ‎- ESM CD 304 (1996, UK) Remastered by Ray Staff

Thanks to Ghost Rider for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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BLACK SABBATH Volume Four ratings distribution

(751 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(29%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(50%)
Good, but non-essential (16%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

BLACK SABBATH Volume Four reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by 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) 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...

Review by russellk
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!

Review by ZowieZiggy
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.

Review by 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

Review by 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.

Review by Tom Ozric
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.

Review by Mellotron Storm
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.

Review by b_olariu
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.
Review by Sinusoid
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.

Review by 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 donīt 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. Itīs very simple but very powerful.

The album starts with Wheels of Confusion which is an eight minutes long doomy song. Itīs very melodic and has some great soloing from Tony Iommi. Tomorrow's Dream is up next and itīs a favorite of mine on Vol. 4. Nice heavy tune. Then comes Black Sabbathīs attempt at making a ballad. Changes is definitely the lowpoint of this album. Itīs 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 thatīs probably why it is listed here at Prog Archives. Well Iīm glad it is as I have just had the pleasure of listening to it again. Itīs not so often Black Sabbathīs albums come out of the shelf anymore but when they do itīs 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.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
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.

Review by progrules
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 !

Review by 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.

Review by 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

Review by tarkus1980
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.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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)

Review by 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.


P.A. RATING: 4/5

Review by Warthur
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.

Review by 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.

Review by lazland
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.

Review by Conor Fynes
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.

Review by Sean Trane
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.

Review by FragileKings
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.

Review by The Crow
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: ****

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
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".

Review by siLLy puPPy
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.

Review by DangHeck
3 stars As the title so aptly implies, this is the fourth LP by the great, classic Heavy Metal band Black Sabbath, released 1972. Apparently the result of a cocaine-fueled era for the band, getting the stimulant delivered to them by speaker cabinets, Vol. 4 is considered one of their classic recordss (perhaps despite this? haha). The album has such notable fans as Frank Zappa and John Bonham (for "Supernaut", specifically) and Henry Rollins (specifically for the opener, "Wheels of Confusion"). I hadn't listened through this album in something like 10 years, so for that alone, I was excited.

"Wheels of Confusion / The Straightener" starts off our album low, slow, but sure. The main riff is real nice, rolling along with Ward's drum. The track picks up around 2:30 with a sort of more triumphant feel. In the middle section, I feel this is in some way stylistically glancing at Deep Purple with some of the riffs. The song just drives forward and onward, consistently so. In its final minutes, the rhythm once again shifts to the original roll, with some really cool keyboards under the driving beat. Mellotron responsibility is shared between Tony and Geezer, so who knows, but also who cares. Awesome.

And then it's the big and positively looming of "Tomorrow's Dream", with some of the grooviest, beefiest instrumentation they've done to this point, which is saying quite a lot really. The chorus is really strong. It is then followed by a new riff and a mellotron note that swings upward. Not the strongest, but still grood. Next, on "Changes", we have something we have not heard once before from them: a piano-led ballad?! I had no recollection of this song until the chorus haha. Pretty nice vocal performance by Ozzy. The string setting on the mellotron, the only other instrument played, causes the track to hang in the air. And with it, I never expected there to be something by Sabbath that would in any way cause me to think, 'Oh, sure, this is like The Moody Blues.' Haha. The chorus is lovely, but the song isn't much.

Next, starkly juxtaposed, is the unsettlingly sparse, super-tape-echo on the short "FX". Very interesting. I can't give it any high marks, though, as it doesn't act as an interlude or as any other function, so... it just feels kind of random and lost in the grand scheme of things. Next, the aforementioned "Supernaut", and of course this is beloved by Zappa and Bonzo! So heavy, so groovy, especially with the fun rhythmic breakdown in the middle section! Of course. Very fun song. Again, especially in this final half, big beeves. Next is one that I'm just a tad more familiar with, "Snowblind", with a very, again, familiar main riff and (at times excellent) vocal delivery from Ozzy. Simple though. The most (and only?) exciting part is after minute 3, with a total rhythm overhaul. This section lasts for about 30 seconds, but it really is satisfying within the overall composition.

One of the better songs throughout for me is "Cornucopia". She's a big'n. Solid main riff and interesting compositional flavorings. But more interesting still, a surprise even, is the acoustic and heavenly "Laguna Sunrise", a real scalp-tingler. Frisson, baby! I hope it isn't contrarian, but this is the least Sabbath-esque song and it's one of the best ones on here haha. I definitely hear a deeper Zep connection with it. Next, "St. Vitus Dance", a very fun song. Sort of hypnotic in its slight rhythmic oddity(?). And finally, we have a very signature Sabbath song to close us out, "Under the Sun / Every Day Comes and Goes"; very doomy, but then, agreed(?), that main riff, in its simplicity even, feels like a sign of what's to come: for them as a band, but also for all of Heavy Metal. Awesome. Big shift around minute 2, but... it's not my favorite. It returns to the original riff after minute 3. I guess I'm a little sad it ends this, in my opinion, weakly. Is what it is.

Good but not great.

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Report this review (#305510) | Posted by thewickedfall | Monday, October 18, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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Report this review (#185475) | Posted by burtonrulez | Monday, October 13, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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