Saturday, October 5, 2013

Black Sabbath - Vol 4 (1972)

I'm feeling a little nostalgic now, so it is time to listen through some old favourites, some classic rock, some classic metal, and a few albums that will take me back to my teenage years.

And what better than Black Sabbath? Okay, so this album was released before I was born, remastered and re-released in 1996. You cannot really get any more classic than the Sabbath. One of the most influencial bands of all time, their tuned down guitars, heavy bass-lines, slow and ponderous rhythms, Ozzy's nasal high-sometimes-whine-something-wail of a voice... They inspired so many, and still tour to this day. Formed in 1968, with various line-up changes and several different vocalists, the iconic Black Sabbath is that of Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi. They have sold over 70 million albums, worldwide.

And this is one of them. I am sorry I have not contributed more to their sales pool.

The cover is fairly stylistic of the era - black with white writing, Ozzy in golden-yellow silhouette, arms raised so that his fringed sleeves hang down. Not sure of his fashion sense, but who cares? He's Ozzy, he can wear what the f**k he likes! And it was the 70s, after all.

For some "fun" information about this album, there's lots of info on wikipedia:,_Vol_4

The blues-fueled "Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener" opens the album, guitars churning into the distinctive steady and heavy Sabbath beating. Ozzy's melodious rasp is fresh and young.  The tempo is catchy, down-tuned, earthy in nature and there's something very primeaval and visceral about it.
"Long ago I wandered through my mind
In the land of fairy tales and stories
Lost in happiness I had no fears
Innocence and love was all I knew
Was it illusion? "
More sludge-laden, but suprisingly well produced (this being the re-release) opening chords of "Tomorrow's Dream". A song I've heard on the radio many times, but never really knew the name of. The slow, heavy rifts, the wailing vocals... Very Sabbath.

Now this is the track for which I bought this album. It begins with piano and Ozzy's voice plaintive, mourning the loss of not only his love - but the best friend that he ever had. "Changes" - one of the most sublime and beautiful, haunting pieces that I ever have heard. Strings complement the vocals and add an extra level of sorrow and loss. The lyrics are romantic and bittersweet:
"...but soon the world had its evil way, My heart was blinded, love went astray..."
This track makes use of the mellotron - the 70s equivalent of a synthesizer.

Eerie, echoey "FX" is instrumentation lost in a void, jumping from speaker to speaker, forlorn and abandoned. According to wikipedia (see link above), this track is essentially a joke.

Then we chug on in to "Supernaut". Heavy on the instrumentation, and the drummer (Bill Ward) gets full reign, switching out with the guitarists.

Now, the song "Snowblind" says a lot about what the band were going through at this time: rather large amounts of cocaine. This possibly explains why the album, whilst heavy, doesn't have any really complex and complicated guitars and is, for the most part, moderately straightforward. This song has some nice slower vocals crooning through the chorus.

"Cornucopia" sludges on through, with faster pacing to the verses and a smooth chorus. Competent instrumentation.

Bringing in a slower, golden-tinted edge reminiscent of the rise of the sun over still, calm oceanic water; "Laguna Sunrise" is a most pleasing instrumental, strings intersecting with the mix of lead and bass guitar. An orchestra was actually involved in the making of this piece.

"St Vitus Dance" has slow, jerky rhythms, bringing to mind a puppet tugged about on a string (or yes, the disorder). Ozzy's voice rises high and slightly echooey.

And here we witness the birth of doom metal, in "Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes" with the slow, blues-heavy, almost dirge like, low and deep opening rhythms, which pick up the pace as the vocals jump in.

I've found it quite difficult to do a track-by-track dissection on this album, probably because the Sabbath sound is so instrinsically a core element of metal: the sludgy down-tuning; the high, slightly raw edged vocals; the slow, almost dirge-like drumming. If you're reading this blog, you've probably heard every track of this album.

It's worth a good, solid 7/10

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