Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath
Released: December 1973
Chart Peak: #11
Weeks Charted: 32
Certified Platinum: 10/13/86
Though they are best known as the planet's premier heavy-metal band, Black Sabbath's major contribution has been to successfully capture the gist of specifically Seventies culture through their music. They relate to this impersonal, mechanical decade much as Delta bluesmen and their Chicago spin-offs related to their eras -- by synthesizing collective feelings and giving their contemporaries hope by revealing the disaffection that units all of them. In that remote but real sense, Black Sabbath might well be considered true Seventies bluesmen.
Many will no doubt laugh, but I can think of no other group that has so consistently spoken in the musical language of its times. The power chord, that brief but brutal third-generation staple, has always been Sabbath's major medium, the aural twin of the metallic age surrounding us. And, as such technical advances as the mellotron and Moog have risen to the musical fore, they've been incorporated into Sabbath's sonic setting, the computerized musical counterparts of a cold, programmed world.
But it's Sabbath's lyrics that have been the instant conveyor of their message, accompanying a dedicated cadre through a multiplicity of emotions and worldly experiences. Ozzie Osborne possesses an eternal teenager's tones, voicing the vicarious existence of youth "lost in the wheels of confusion." On songs like "Iron Man," "Wicked World" and "Children of the Grave" he's blended with the band in a well-nigh perfect vocal/instrumental portrayal of the violently schizophrenic emotions of the ostracized elite, riddled with ridicule for their latter-day Cassandrian visions.
Which brings us to Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath, on which the band both fully accepts this dictum and grows comfortable with it. Through enough solid heavy-metal to satisfy even the staunchest metallurgist ("Sabra Cadabra," "Looking For Today" and the title tune lie firmly within the bands' accustomed format -- a logical extension of the Who's classic mid-Sixties formula) they search for peace in the eye of the hurricane of life. In fact, this record transcends third-generation rock in that it possesses a degree of internal intricacy that belies popular conceptions of heavy-metal. The use of tempo changes and electronic keyboards to cast liquid emotions makes Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath an extraordinarily gripping affair.
"The blues oughtta make you wanna cry one minute, and make you wanna get up and dance the next." That's what Black Sabbath have always done for this believer, and in doing it again, Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath is nothing less than a complete success. Call it the blues of the decade, or heavy-metal -- whatever the name of their music, Black Sabbath are a true Seventies band.
- Gordon Fletcher, Rolling Stone, 2/14/74.
Frequently maligned and perhaps the most mis-interpreted band in rock's history, Black Sabbath has nonetheless produced some of the most mentally-stimulating corporally-compelling music of the last five years. Not since the Who's mid-60's Mod days has a band displayed such a fascinating mastering of the power chord/heavy metal formula, using their chops to churn out overwhelmingly mountainous metallic magic.
Each Sabbath album has also shown increasing musical growth, and with Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath the band's depth reaches the point where it surpasses the metal mastery as their primary asset. Most of the songs take on a King Crimson coloration, with visionary lyricism that's no mere exercise in poetic playfulness. Sabbath's increasingly successful co-ordination of moog and mellotron instrumentation into the basic heavy-metal format enables them to shift moods with admiral dexterity, particularly on "Who Are You?," an excitingly electronic effort.
But fear not, heavy-metal kidz, your pride-and-joy is still in abundance, and executed with a level of finesse and polish far beyond the grasp of most power trios. "Sabbra Cadabra," "Killing Yourself To Live" and the title tune wail away with glorious abandon; in fact there's a bit of heavy-metal intensity in every number. The group's most well-rounded effort to date, Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath is a cinch for my Top Ten of '74, and may well go a long way toward getting Black Sabbath the respect they've so long been denied.
- Gordon Fletcher, Circus Raves, 4/74.
Sabbath adds some synths to their sludge and comes up with a surprisingly solid album, which manages to expand on their patented slow, gloomy sound. * * * *
- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
On Sabbath Bloody Sabbath Black Sabbath successfully mixed its stun-gun guitars with synthesizers. * * * *
- Thor Christensen, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
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