Black Sabbath – Technical Ecstasy

November 30, 2012 in Reviews by Dagg

Black Sabbath
Technical Ecstasy
1976

It’s always a great story for a band to go out on top of its game, but I think as fans, that’s never quite satisfying. Sure, we never want to see our favorite bands fall into obscurity, but surely they have two or three more good albums in them we think. If Sabotage is accepted as the peak of Black Sabbath’s career, I’m sorry to say that all they had left in this lineup was two or three good SONGS. If it’s an effective measure of how quickly and how dramatically Black Sabbath fell from grace (in one year), the band went from Ozzy’s most ominous vocal performances ever, to drummer and full time prank fodder Bill Ward singing lead vocals on a track. Not that the band’s respect for him had grown any in this period; it’s around this time that the band’s pranks reach downright cruel levels, including putting a drunk Ward in a boat and shoving him off in the middle of a lake, then just leaving him there for a night. Sadly, it’s stories like this that are far more entertaining than the music that’s to come out of Sabbath for quite a few years.

It might sound like I’m gearing up for a truly monstrous thrashing of Technical Ecstasy, but I’m not quite ready to blame this album for world hunger, that comes later. Technical Ecstasy isn’t awful by any measure, but it is so painfully disappointing. The album in fact starts off fairly strong with “Backstreet Kids”. Sure, after the 90s this is a title that might have some bad connotations, but they can’t be faulted for that. Additionally, it’s a very un-Sabbath song, more in line with a mix between Deep Purple’s Mk. II and Mk. IV lineups. Pretty good metal, but absolutely enraging to the Sabbath faithful. “You Won’t Change Me”, is a bit of a darker track, but with the newer, almost poppy sound. Keyboards take much more prominence than had ever been permitted in the past, mostly because with the rest of the band too messed up on cocaine to contribute, Tony Iommi was frequently bouncing ideas off the touring keyboard player at the time. Right around track three is when the wheels not only fall off the wagon, but more accurately explode in a furious inferno. Not in the good sense either, but in the “Drummer singing a piano ballad pop song sense”. Sure, it’s a very nice song, and Iommi’s solos continue to evolve, but this is a completely unrecognizable band from the one that played “Planet Caravan”.

The rest of the album features, in the nicest language possible… moments. Moments that are ruined by terrible decisions. “Gypsy” for example, would be quite a well written track if not for the interlude in the middle that consists of Ozzy trying to narrate a story over an unimaginative piano ‘melody’. Lost in the haze is that Bill Ward puts on quite a show for “Gypsy”, but the probability of anyone really caring on such a song is pretty low. Your enjoyment of “All Moving Parts” hinges entirely on your willingness to accept Funk Sabbath, I can handle it, but I don’t see the necessity. The album does end on an unusually strong note with “Dirty Women”. Iommi’s guitar showmanship on this track may have been what inspired the album title, because it is rather technical compared to most of the man’s work. Ozzy sings pretty low on this as well, almost like he’s trying to roar.

Your mileage will vary on this album. For some, it’s a mostly interesting slice of another side of Tony Iommi’s songwriting; for others like myself, this is an album with a number of good moments mixed in a sea of mediocrity, accentuated by some truly terrible ideas; and for probably the majority of the Black Sabbath fan base, this is awful heresy. At the very least, the second and final tracks are worth enjoying a few times on youtube, and at the absolute minimum, it’s not as bad as its successor.

Dagg’s Rating: 2.25/5