It’s Sabbath, and it’s 1973. So it can’t be too bad, right?
By today’s standards, or maybe even the standards of the time, much of the album doesn’t come across as particularly grim or ‘bloody’ in spite of the title and cover art. Based on their previous sludgy, doomy recordings, one might expect this to fall in line, but not so much. Certainly the addition of psy-rock session player Wil Malone as arranger on “Spiral Architect” or Rick Wakeman playing keys on “Sabbra Caddabra” contribute to this album’s departure from previous and lending it a psy- or prog-rock feeling at times. But then there’s Ozzy’s vocals and Tony’s guitar, reminding us why we’re listening, which in my opinion is for the first couple of tracks on both side A and B. The rest is, well…. Critics vary in opinion, saying it was a breakthrough and others saying the band was simply off track. Tony Iommi once recalled his issues with writer’s block on the album:
“Ideas weren’t coming out the way they were on Volume 4 and we really got discontent. Everybody was sitting there waiting for me to come up with something. I just couldn’t think of anything. And if I didn’t come up with anything, nobody would do anything.”
Eventually he and the rest of the band did come up with something even if not all of it is the average rocker’s cup of English tea. Nevertheless, a nice addition the Sabbath collection. This is nearly mid-way through the core group’s 1970s era, placing it squarely in classic rock territory. But if you’re a ‘greatest hits’ kind of collector, you might find this one a miss.
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