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Forty-Five Years Later: Black Sabbath – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

Dreams turn to nightmares, Heaven turns to Hell, burned out confusion, nothing more to tell!

That’s about all you need to read to know what this record is about. I kid, but woah boy, are we in for a treat here. Heavy metal legends Black Sabbath’s recent retirement made for a very sad one, but what comes with that is a guaranteed legacy with an overwhelming amount of albums, many of them being what I call essential. Black Sabbath are most known for their first three records: Black Sabbath, Paranoid, and Master Of Reality, as well as the first Dio fronted record Heaven And Hell, but something that doesn’t get talked about quite as much is my second favorite record by the band, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.

It may be hard to believe for some of you, but Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is now celebrating its forty-fifth birthday! For 1973, this record was absolutely vicious! Imagine being a parent back in the day and looking at this album cover, which sports someone being attacked by demons on their bed, with a “666” displayed in the bed-frame, and an evil face depicted on a bed that appears to come to life. Yikes! Their fifth album doesn’t mislead with this though, because the music is all too fitting. It also makes sense that this one is so ghoulish looking, considering a lot of the material was written while the band spent some time in a supposedly haunted castle. I know, pretty spooky. Coke addiction and writer’s block didn’t stop these famous rockers from pumping out riff after riff, all the while horsing around and scaring each other in this castle, because this disc is absolutely crushing!

Clearwell Castle, where Black Sabbath and many other bands wrote and rehearsed.

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath marked a total change in atmosphere for the band. This is quite evident in the opening and title track, as Ozzy’s voice is now suddenly more powerful than ever, and Iommi’s riff-work channels the darkness from earlier records into a more complex vessel. The bridges and solo work that lay atop everything are neat enough on their own, but how about the ending to this? The riff used in the track’s outro is spine-tingling, and Ozzy’s outburst of the lyrics typed up yonder sounds torturous. Looking at other tracks, “A National Acrobat” sticks to more relatable problems rather diving into an exorcist vibe. However, the dark energy is still very much alive on this track.  See “Spiral Architect” for another one that fits this bill. Although this one lightens up a little bit, it has a smoother delivery than either of the mentioned songs.

Some like to say that this was a progressive record, but that’s just too much of a stretch for me. “Who Are You” really jumps out with its odd construction and instrument choice, but really, it’s nothing more than what I just said; weird. Despite this, that tune still carries a pretty scary vibe, which I find to be an amazing “night time song” if you will. Gotta dig the way they use those synthesizers to their advantage. “Looking For Today” is one of the happier tracks that the band busts out, breaking up the scary a little bit. It still stays consistent and retains the same vibes as the other songs. “Killing Yourself To Live” is like the younger brother of that track, as it has similar playing techniques but is oh so slightly weaker in quality; still a great tune.

What does that leave us with? “Fluff” and “Sabbra Cadabra.” The former is exactly what it sounds like, a very unfitting ball of fluff to fill time. I’ll admit, it’s a very soothing acoustic instrumental which I believe was played at Iommi’s wedding, but let’s be real, it hardly fits with anything else on this album. The latter is one that I can thank Metallica for, because I was a fan of them before I was a fan of Sabbath, and I partially blame their cover for the start of my love of this beast (it also includes part of “A National Acrobat” in it). Songs about love or sex can’t be dark, can they? You bet your ass they can! Just listen to the eerie patterns in this track and the intricate instrumental sections that take over the second half of the song. And again, Osbourne’s voice in this goes beyond his normal extremes, especially with the “lovely lady” howls. To top it all off, it’s just catchy as hell.

Before we can really say how well this held up, let’s look at the next few years for the band. Sabotage, one of the band’s heaviest albums, would follow this record. I don’t think it’s too difficult to predict this if you follow the direction that Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was headed. The two are almost like an iconic duo, and with that, it’s really clear that this album is still very relevant today and is easily an essential. Almost every fan that I talk to has nothing but great things to say about this record, and it’s quite clear that this only pushed the doom metal influences even more. It may not get as many mentions in the metal media as earlier releases, but when it does, it’s always good.

Outside of that, I’m a firm believer that Black Sabbath’s step up in heaviness greatly affected the creation of more extreme genres. Sure, you had your Motorheads and Venoms shortly following this, but those bands took this and bridged the gap between 1973 and when thrash and death metal would rise from the grave. Think of the violent themes that many a thrash metal and death metal band would use or the aggressive vocal styles that could be traced back to this. If the influence on heavy metal that came after this record and the absolute love that it gets from veteran and young metalheads alike isn’t enough to convince you that it held up very well, I urge you to go listen to it yourself.

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath has been in circulation for a long time, released on December 1st, 1973 on Vertigo Records. It is a very nice record to have on vinyl since the atmosphere is so dark and intense. Copies of this aren’t too hard to come by, same goes for the CDs, but it’s also been remastered and pressed to 180-gram vinyl. There are lots of ways to get ahold of this sick record, and I can’t stress enough how important it is to feed your ears with all its glory.

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