Sound — 10
There a particular reasons why "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" has it's distinctive sound. The band had just come back America following their most successful tour. Whist touring with "Volume 4" they are indulged in huge amounts of cocaine as can be seen noted on the back of the "Volume 4" album and the song "Snowblind." So they're back in England, in the studio, the biggest metal band in the world (Zep & Purple are more hard rock!) and they can't think of anything! They spend weeks in the studio and still can't think of anything.
So Iommi takes them off to some caves, Chislehurst Caves I think, and as they are standing around he downtunes his guitar from dropped D by another full tone and strikes the riff to "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath." The sound bounces off the rocks and reverberates against the hard surfaces. They had found the sound they were looking for.
The deep downtuned metallic sound of the eponymous song dominates the album. To those new to this album will be surprised by the diversity of music styles, only on "Sabbra Cadabra" is there a similar heaviness and guitar sound.
Tony Iommi had always wanted to pursue more complex melodies and harmonies from "Master of Reality" onwards. Ozzy complained in a guitar magazine interview he did in the 1990's with Zakk Wylde that Tony "would get a good headbanger going and then make things complex."
On the title song you can get a real good headbang and then chill to the acoustic jazz interlude before launching into even more intense headbanging if that's your thing. The song consists of two distinct styles: one of the greatest ever heavy metal riffs accompanied by drumming that is evocative of a pile driver smashing into tons of red hot metal which Tony and Bill had experienced working in heavy metal industrial factories. Bill's drumming is one of the most powerful sounds in any modern music.
Then there's the jazz acoustic guitar interludes which link the riffs, as wonderful melody in a major key and in a standard tuning which contrasts with the relentless minor key of the riffs. On the second verse where the riff returns listen for a second guitar in the background playing at higher pitch. It sounds similar to a violin having its notes forcibly wrung out. Unusual and very effective it's accompanied with Geezer's ascending bass scale.
"A National Acrobat" is mid-slow tempo song with a very heavy sound emanating from the drums. Sounds like the sticks are being dropped onto the skins, a heavy sound with a very short reverb. The guitar riff is similar to Tudor music. Sabbath doing a madrigal. The second half of the song appears to be an improvisation indicating the problems the band had in coming up with ideas for this album.
"Fluff" is an instrumental dedicated to the radio broadcaster Alan "Fluff" Freeman who was one of presenters who was a fan of their music. It's a gentle acoustic number starting with an alternation between D major and an open 4 strings it then continues with a soft piano accompaniment and electric guitar stabs lower in the mix.
"Sabbra Cadabra" is the heaviest song along with the title song. It has a thundering riff with drum fills which few bands can match. Hardly ever heard anything as heavy. I know bands like Cannibal Corpse will be called heavy but they just play fast and try to heavy. During "Sabbra Cadabra" a 1970's synthesizer is brought in. Very distinctive sound and one of the best uses of the synthesizer, it's played by Yes' Rick Wakeman. Tony introduces a jazz influenced melody. Many don't realise that Tony and Bill are jazz fans.
"Killing Yourself to Live" has a jazz influence by its of accidentals on the guitar and its time signature. Has an amazing riff played by the band as a voice over says "smokers... get high" this figure drives audiences wild in 1970s concerts.
"Who Are You?" is another of Tony Iommi's interests in making the music melodically more complex. A minor key synthesizer figure starts the song. This unlike the synthesizer on "Sabbra Cadabra" will be improved by replacing it a superior instrument, it really sounds dated and typical of an early 1970s synthesizer: synthetic and bland. In the middle section Rick Wakeman plays a piano bridge, very pretty and accompanied by a far better use of probably the same synthesizer.
"Looking for Today" is in a shuffle triplet feel tempo. It's the most uptempo song on the album, lovely song with Tony playing his flute.
"Spiral Architect" closes the album with a very popular acoustic guitar melody followed by a fast guitar riff and a series of two notes cadences. Lovely soft metal melodies accompanied by strings and ending with a surprise. Listen to find out.
Lyrics — 9
Danny Baker, the radio presenter and prog rock, '70s metal and punk fan, said recently on a programme that Sabbath are unusual in that don't sing about women being hot, easy or desperate for the band.
The song "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" was inspired by a USA newspaper headline attacking the band before they played in a Southern State. During the "Volume 4" tour they often received death threats from religious conservative areas. The album is a mixture of some the heaviest and lightest of Sabbath's '70s songs. The lyrics reflect this moving between heavy and angry to optimistic and happy: "Spiral Architect," "Looking for Today."
Overall Impression — 10
Henry Rollins, the singer of Black Flag, in his stand up routine on depression says, "when I am depressed, when I have the first 6 Black Sabbath albums playing in my head simultaneously... Love your depression, standing on a milk crate, sweating and playing sh-t at 11."
This is one of those exhilarating albums. Other bands may be flashier or want to play like Eddie Van Halen, Tony can't because of his finger injuries or they sing gore filled lyrics supposedly showing how evil they are. But to obtain a sound of this intensity and heaviness outdoes almost any other heavy metal band due to its integrity. These 4 come from rough areas of Aston in Birmingham. They worked in heavy metal industries and slaughter houses. They grew up in a town that was heavy metal because everyone was working in those industries.
That helps to give them a genuineness that so many others lack. It can't be imitated or learned. It has to be lived, it's a sound that comes with experience.
Album cover: When I was doing my art exams I was partly inspired by Drew Suzan's art work, he went on to do some "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" posters. Drew was inspired on the front by German artist Grunewald's "Temptation of St. Anthony" and on the reverse by Salvador Dali's "The Last Supper."