Sound — 9
While most people were introduced to Black Sabbath by any of their first six albums, or maybe their most popular compilation: We Sold Out Souls For Rock And Roll or maybe even Heaven And Hell. Few were introduced by the band or even like the albums released after the departure of Ronnie James Dio. I think this is a mighty fine way to be introduced to the band, like I was, as this is the closest album to their most harraled releases. Dark, morbid and horribly woeful, set against the back drop of a very plain and dated production job. While some will complain that the tracks are bleak and boring or even lifeless, the material is actually quite strong and direct. One only needs to look at the album cover and title to be reminded why this album is saturated in darkness and gloom. The first side and beginning of side two is extremely fast, save for the two seque pieces. Side Two is a bit more slower and reflective, but both sides feature a song that has a tempo from the other. Disturbing The Priest is perhaps the worst song on the album. It's a throbbing mid tempo number with sludgy riffs, slow atmospheric sections with contrast as we get plenty of evil laughter and demonic cries mixed with some quiet singing. Bill's awesome drum work is the true highlight here. Zero The Hero is probably the best known track on the album. Tony's primitive chugging riff, which could have easily fit on Paranoid or Master Of Reality, is underlined nicely by Geezer's driving bass. It does become quite repetitive and the idea is beaten into the ground by the length of track, standing at seven-and-a-half minutes. The solo in the middle is pure bliss, complete with cautious effect pedals to add to the snarling tone set forth by Geezer's almost-psychedelic bass line. Digital Bitch is one of the better tracks on the album, and the verses head bang with authority and Bill is drumming like a madman. Hot Line is another fast-paced rocker, with a riff borrowed by many since 1983, with it's amazing simplicity. Geezer has a grooving bass line, Tony has two awesome solos, Bill's drumming continues to reveal its Jazz influence and Ian screams like a banshee, especially on the end, which seem to meet brand new heights. This is also a better song on the album and gives further proof that the second side is far better than the first. Keep It Warm is the obligatory ballad in the same tradition of Heaven And Hell and Mob Rules, ending with a slower song, but this time it's a down tempo ballad. This is a heartfelt tune with a bluesy feel providing a sense of sadness and understanding for a loved one. A nice downtime kind of track to end the album. The title track's placement is the only flaw on the album. It would have made a better closer, not just because of it's atmosphere but because it's the best song on the album. Make sure your not depressed when hearing this woeful tale, as it goes through phase after phase of pessimism. Feel your romantic hardships brought to life as you are hammered by the pounding drums. Feel your buried rage manifest with the aggressive screamed chorus, your heart becomes the target of the 'Mutant Gods' as they 'control your mind and use your mind for fortune and fame. You'll likely find your freedom become bloodless, like 'Grey and plastic retards all floating in circles'. And as your soul drifts admist the 'Fruits of new sensations", the final verses cement the evil deeds with a riff cast forth straight from the depths of Hell. I'm not kidding, the way this track flows is one of the most morbidly beautiful successes in music ever! And remember, this was released in 1983, not 2004, when all music is about is life being 'shitty'. The song ends with a minute and a half guitar solo that is so beautifully meticulous and precise, it's gut wrenching and sorrowful, yet brightly optimistic in it's delivery. Pure slab of taste and class, never bested by anything that preceded it.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics are direct and very literal while other times they are evasive and mystical. The direct songs from a lyrical point of view are Trashed, Keep It Warm, Zero The Hero, which are about getting drunk, ode to life on the road, laziness, respectively. The evasive lyrics are Disturbing The Priest, Born Again and Hot Line, which can be about anything. Digital Bitch is an example of both styles blending together nicely. It has lyrics denouncing the idea of someone, whom is born into riches, having any kind of integrity.
Overall Impression — 9
Zero The Hero, Digital Bitch and the title track are the most impressive songs on the album. Born Again is Sabbath's darkest, thickest, most evil-sounding slab of metal with Ian adding a maniacal vocal by screaming, howling, and wailing like he's possessed. The classic Sabbath core return to their bluesy roots of the Ozzy-era albums. It's too bad this lineup fell apart, as it probably would have resulted in more great albums. But the only good thing about this being a 'One Off' album is it EVENTUALLY led to the Tony Martin Era, which is arguably the greatest era Sabbath has/will ever see.