Technical Ecstasy

Black Sabbath

Warner Brothers Records, 1976

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


This is, without a doubt, one of the toughest albums ever to review.

You see, I have strong feelings about Technical Ecstasy, the 1976 release from Black Sabbath - and those feelings straddle both sides of the fence. On one hand, this is an album with which I have strong emotional ties, ever since finding a copy in the discount bin at Rolling Stone Records in Norridge nearly two decades ago. There still are songs on this record which make me smile and want to bang my head uncontrollably. And yet, the critic in me sees the fact that this release symbolized a major changing of the guard for Tony Iommi and crew - and in many ways, this doesn't always seem like a Black Sabbath record.

Fellow reviewer Roland Fratzl, in his write-up of this album some time ago, praised Black Sabbath for taking a chance and not constantly sticking with the doom-and-gloom style which had defined the band to this point. After all, he said, at some point that formula gets old. I don't disagree with that line of thinking, nor do I think it was a bad idea for the band - guitarist Iommi, singer Ozzy Osbourne, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer/vocalist Bill Ward - to tamper with things and give new ideas a try.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

After all, it does work in many instances. "Back Street Kids," the opening track, is one prime example, even up to the almost unintentional ending of the song. Such a stylistic move had been hinted at one album earlier, with "Am I Going Insane (Radio)" off of Sabotage. "You Won't Change Me" is an interesting approach, capturing the spookiness of the music with a more subdued lyrical pattern - a little unsettling at times, but not a bad effort. "She's Gone" - not the first ballad Sabbath had logged under their belts - even suggests that this is a pattern that could work.

Ah, but then there are the mis-fires. "All Moving Parts (Stand Still)" is most definitely one of them, a plodding dinosaur that never seems to be able to get its weight up off the ground. Weak lyrics, weak delivery from Osbourne, and a definitely weak rhythm section doom this one from the get-go. And while "Rock & Roll Doctor" occasionally has some musical flash, it's hardly one of the band's best efforts.

Even the true experiment - having Ward sing on "It's Alright" - well, if you didn't know it was a Black Sabbath song, you'd find it to be quirky and somewhat enjoyable. But coming between the eerie "You Won't Change Me" and the back-to-basics "Gypsy," this track really sticks out like a sore thumb. Don't get me wrong, the performance is quite good - but the placement of this track is what ultimately dooms it. Had the disc closed with it, I could understand such a move.

And yet, for all the critical notes I could slag at this disc, I can't help but be drawn back to it now and again for repeated listens. Where albums like Paranoid and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath could easily remain in my CD player for months or years at a time, Technical Ecstasy is one I get a taste for when I need to clean out my musical pipes and go back to my younger days.

Compared to Sabotage, this album holds its own pretty well, but compared to some of the classic early Sabbath albums, Technical Ecstasy is almost like the bastard child from the Osbourne era of the band. It's by no means a throwaway album, but don't expect demons to be oozing from the speakers with this one.

Rating: C+

User Rating: D+



© 2003 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.