A crowning achievement for the band that basically invented Heavy Metal.
Decades(!) ago a local Classic Rock DJ acquaintance of mine said that he couldn’t market post “Iron Man” BLACK SABBATH to his station owners. They told him no one wanted to listen to that sh*t! Well, “that sh*t” is not only the best part of Ozzy-era SABBATH, it denotes some of the best Heavy Metal ever imagined. And 1973’s ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath‘ is one of the most elaborate, most creative, and heaviest damn things to come out of that seminal period. A masterpiece.
It’s hard to reconcile the struggles SABBATH was having during this album’s recording with the finished product. When studio “issues” forced them to relocate they sought inspiration at Britain’s Clearwell Castle. Compulsive drug abuse, uncontrollable (often dangerous) practical joking, and a general disregard for sanity had begun tearing at the foundation of this four piece. Regardless, the album is nothing short of amazing.
Incorporating a heightened complexity, wild experimentation, and a broader sound gives ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath‘ an evolved maturity and resonance only first hinted at in preceding masterpiece ‘Volume 4’. “Devil worship” shenanigans aside, these eight songs sweep in with big, contemplative themes and the progressive intricacy to match. Quite possibly the very first Prog Metal album. Hell, even YES keyboardist Rick Wakeman would make an appearance–taking only beer as payment for services rendered.
How could the group responsible for “Iron Man”, only a couple of years later create something as evocative and wise as “Killing Yourself to Live” or “Spiral Architect“? With Bassist Geezer Butler’s lyrics tackling depressed, philosophical subjects far outside the range of typical Rock/Metal.
Still very 70s in tone with period specific synth wonkiness and those wacky “porno” bass lines. Yet, one can’t deny the timeless, paint-peel potency of the title track and its crazed follow up “A National Acrobat“. Does Guitarist Tony Iommi bleed killer riffs, or what?
The experimentation and variety are well demonstrated on the calming, beautifully acoustic instrumental “Fluff” and orchestral supported “Spiral Architect“. While synth creeper “Who Are You?” evokes nothing remotely Earthly, or remotely SABBATH.
The oddly festive “Looking for Today” stands out as a Folksy sing-along more suiting JETHRO TULL. BLACK SABBATH and festive; an unholy alliance, indeed!
And “Sabbra Cadabra” dives in with everything not nailed down. Wakeman’s keyboards are just small part of this Prog Rock/Metal epic. That’s some serious Jazz-rhythm cool from Drummer Bill Ward.
What about Osbourne? It’s usually hard to connect his 70s era BLACK SABBATH voice with the 80s/90s Rock radio staple he’d eventually become. On ‘Sabbath‘ Ozzy’s slowly transitioning into something more polished and emotional. Just listen to his bitter lament on “Architect” or the enraged wail of “Killing Yourself“.
The core of SABBATH was (remains) Guitar God Tony Iommi. Being able to travel outside traditional Metal boundaries really opens up Iommi’s compositional skills. Like his contemporary Ritchie Blackmore, Iommi does best when allowed to go where he wants; genre be damned. A liberated, personal, and mind-blowing performance.
If you’re like many whose exposure with BLACK SABBATH is limited to “Iron Man“, “Paranoid“, and maybe a couple of more “radio friendly” tracks then you owe it to yourself to check out 1973 masterpiece ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath‘. A vast array of not always Heavy Metal that confidently sits among the best. A Must Listen.