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Black Sabbath

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

Review by Gary Hill

It has to be tough to invent a musical style like Black Sabbath did. There’s no one around to tell you what does and doesn’t constitute heavy metal. So, when you need to expand your sound you are making it up as you go along. Either you stagnate and risk being criticized for that, or (as Sabbath did) you experiment and stretch your sound and risk alienating your fans. The band did that experimentation (and some of that alienation) with this disc. They brought in (oh my god) keyboards to the fray. The sound was still rooted in the Black Sabbath mold, but they were definitely trying to stretch out. For my money it’s a great album and one of their strongest. But, I can see why it alienated some fans.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Tony Iommi's guitar starts this with some classic riffing. The rest of the band join for a short time. Then Ozzy Osbourne comes over the top to delivery the lyrics. The song drops back after a time to a mellower motif for a vocal segment. It powers back up at the end of that. It works forward alternating between those two sections. A heavy movement later really takes it to a new level. It returns to the song proper from there, but modulates out to a different instrumental bit to end.
National Acrobat
This one comes in hard edged and feels a lot like it could have come from Volume 4. It’s a tasty scorcher that’s got a very classic Sabbath sound. They weren’t really stretching out with this one. There is some cool guitar that’s almost funky, though.
Fluff
A pretty instrumental, this is just about progressive rock. It’s a duet between Tony Iommi on guitar and Rick Wakeman (Yes, that Rick Wakeman) on keyboards. While a stretch from what many think of as the Black Sabbath sound, this is a cool piece of music. 
Sabbra Cadabra
Here’s another with quite a bit of that Volume 4 sound. It’s much more of a straight ahead rocker and feels even more so after the previous number. There’s a cool mellower section that (minus Rick Wakeman’s keyboards) feels very much like something from that previous release. 
Killing Yourself to Live
This might be my favorite cut on show here. It’s hard edged and very tasty. It again has definite ties to the type of sound the band had on Volume 4, and yet there are some heavy riff driven sections that are even closer to Master of Reality. There’s some awesome guitar soloing on this beast.
Who Are You?
There are a lot of keyboards on this. In fact, Wakeman gets a pretty killer solo. That said, there is still a lot of real Black Sabbath elements to be found, too. Take those keyboards away and this could have probably fit on any number of Sabbath discs. It’s a great tune.
Spiral Architect
This is more hard rocking and yet there’s a bit of a light tone to it. It’s another killer track, but the whole disc is great. It’s another that would have felt at home on Volume 4.
Looking for Today
Another that has a lot of keyboards, this still has plenty of the heart and soul of Black Sabbath built into its structure. It’s a strong piece, although perhaps not the best choice to close the set.
 
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