Black Sabbath – Sabotage
Rather unashamedly, this is my favorite Black Sabbath album ever, and from a band I consider to be the most significant band in the history of metal. That’s high praise. So sit tight dear readers, if you’re not yet familiar with the 6th Black Sabbath album, Sabotage, prepare to be amazed. Though I am not usually one to profess the philosophy of one Emperor Palpatine, it is appropriate in the case of Black Sabbath: their hatred makes them stronger. One only has to look at the myriad history of repeated reunions, followed by their eventual devolution into failure. Just over a year before their most recent reunion, Tony Iommi and Ozzy were at eachothers throats in a legal battle over the rights to the name, and even with a reunion secured, Bill Ward was still somehow forced out. This isn’t tabloid-mongering or money grabbing either, these guys legitimately hate each other. However, they all seem capable of recognizing the best works of their career came from Black Sabbath. In 1975, the band still hated each other at a healthy level, but weren’t yet successful enough to go their separate ways. Adding to the tension was the constant barrage of legal battles the band had to fight over financial management of their music, thus the inspiration both for the song “The Writ”, as well as the album’s title. What resulted was a powder keg of aggression and musical brilliance.
This is often cited as an early work of progressive metal. That’s a debate not really worth having at this juncture, but suffice to say, the distinction is at least partially fair. “Symptom Of The Universe” is a rather strange song, with a punishingly heavy riff sorted out with cheery acoustic guitar overdubs, along with some of the band’s wackiest transitions ever. “Supertzar” is a classic heavy Iommi riff played over a 50 piece choir, with atypical Sabbath drums and a harp. The transition from “Am I Going Insane? (Radio)” to “The Writ” is disturbing enough purely via the feverish laughter, never mind the background treat of something between a scream and a sob coming from what sounds like another room. Aside from the first tracks on each side (“Hole In The Sky”, and “The Thrill Of It All”), most deviate from traditional song structure.
But most of all, it’s HEAVY. Not heavy in the sense of Master of Reality, with its weight crushing against you, but in the more thrash metal sense. There is not a single song on this record where Iommi’s brilliance doesn’t shine through in spades. On the two side closing tracks, “Megalomania”, and “The Writ”, Sabbath’s metal might reaches heights never reached before or after that point by the band. Iommi is of course, one of the progenitors of the heavy metal riff, but lost in the discussion often is his ability to solo. Admittedly, this is rarely the focus of Sabbath records, but like everything else on Sabotage, his solo playing is downright ferocious. The album is gritty and aggressive in all the right ways, as well as being both sophisticated, but decidedly simple at times. To boot, Ozzy had never sounded this good, and would never sound quite this menacing ever again. It’s a downright evil album, and a downright perfect one too.
Dagg’s Rating: 5 out of 5