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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Black Sabbath

Never Say Die

Review by Gary Hill

Black Sabbath were arguably the creators of the heavy metal genre, but were never really happy to rest on their laurels for that accomplishment. They generally have pushed the envelope in many ways touching on musical styles which most metal bands consider out of their realm. This album, actually greatly overlooked, is a fine example of that phenomenon. Influences on this one include pogressive/art rock and jazz.

The lineup here is Bill Ward, Geezer Butler, Ozzy Osbourne, and Tony Iommi. This was the last Sabbath album that Ozzy appeared on before pursuing his solo career.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Never Say Die
This is a solid track in a mid period Black Sabbath mode (perhaps similar to Sabbath Bloody Sabbath), not the more plodding Sabbath of old. "Don`t you Ever wonder why, It`s a part of me that tells you, Don`t you ever say die".
Johnny Blade
A markedly twisted sounding keyboard intro gives way to a track which is quite high in energy. This is the sad tale of a street fighter, and contains a few keyboard flourishes and an interesting metallic arrangement that only Black Sabbath could pull of so well. "His only friend is a switchblade knife, He`s the one who should be afraid, What will happen to you, Johnny Blade?"
Junior's Eyes
Bluesy bass guitar and jazzy drums with a very open arrangement start this number. Eventually, the guitar and vocals join in, but the texture to the verses still maintain this nice texture. The chorus section has a more traditional sort of metallic feel. This is a song about a child dealing with lots of pain in his life, including the loss of his Father. "Junior`s eyes they couldn`t disguise the pain, His Father was leaving and junior was grieving again, Innocent eyes watched the man who gave everything". This is a very strong and emotional track.
A Hard Road
This is another solid rocker in a more traditional Black Sabbath mode. There are no real surprises here, but still a very competent song.
Shock Wave
Another fairly standard Sab tune, this is actually one of the weaker tracks on the album.
Air Dance
Air Dance is a very unique cut. The intro is pretty traditional Sabbath fare, but gives way to a central song structure which is in a rather progressive rock/jazz vein. This main song section features some wonderful piano work/jamming running throughout. This is quite a magical piece, and is my favorite song on this album. This track features many quirky changes and qualifies rather well as a progressive/art rock song.
Over To You
Although another solid rocker in the style of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage, this one contains more of that intriguing piano work that also shows up in Air Dance. This piano work is quite intricate, and, in fact, somewhat Wakemanesque at times. Over to You laments the fact that "I handed my future over to you".
Breakout
Drums start this instrumental which is a nice marriage of the Sabbath metal sound with a gritty jazz sort of mode. A saxophone part adds to this jazzy sort of feel, and this piece serves as an introduction to Swinging the Chain.
Swinging the Chain
Another very strong track in the tradition of classic Black Sabbath, Swinging the Chain is rather bluesy and, in fact, features some nice harmonica work. The arrangement to this one does hold some pleasant surprises.
 
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