Black Sabbath

Warner Brothers Records, 1975

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's been some time since we dusted off anything from seminal British hard-rockers Black Sabbath, and seeing that it's the Christmas season, well... fill in your "black Mass" joke here.

When Sabbath Bloody Sabbath came out in 1974, Ozzy Osbourne and crew were running at the creative peak of their career. Black Sabbath had done two unthinkables: created a melodic heavy metal album, and topped their other great album Paranoid as their best work. Just one album later, on 1975's Sabotage, they tried to re-create the feel they had captured on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Sabbath Bloody Sabbath... big mistake.

The album starts off heavy enough with "Hole In The Sky," featuring Osbourne's traditional banshee wailing and some killer guitar riffs from Tony Iommi - his rhythm playing just continued to get better and better as the band matured. The short "experiment" track "Don't Start (Too Late)" and another killer riff-oriented number, "Symptom Of The Universe," all seem to be pointing in the right direction for Black Sabbath.

Ah, but when they try to capture the beautiful melodies and intricacies of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, the band goes too far overboard, and the songs stretch out unbelievably long. "Meglomania" is just one example of this excess -- changing musical styles halfway through the track sometimes works - not this time. For the first time in their career, it seems like Black Sabbath is grasping at straws.

Further evidence of this is their attempt to make a radio-friendly song, "Am I Going Insane (Radio)" -- not a terrible track in and of itself, but definitely not what Black Sabbath had built themselves up to be.

So what happened in the span of one year? Obviously tensions were beginning to run high in the band; Osbourne would make his first exit after the band's next album, the start of numerous lineup changes for the band. I would venture to say that both tensions in the band and the drying up of the creative juices caused Sabotage to be a subpar album. And let's face it, the album had a major obstacle ahead of it: top Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, a feat I don't think many albums could accomplish.

Is Sabotage a bad album? Not really.... it's just disappointing when compared to Black Sabbath's previous work. In the band's effort to move forward by repeating their successes, they slid backwards a bit - and we all know what happens on the slippery slope.

Diehard Sabbath fans will still get some kicks checking this one out as it nears 25 years on the market. But Sabotage, while definitely not Sabbath's worst work, is also not their best.

Rating: C+

User Rating: C


Great review CT. I agree in whole, subpar album, but two tracks, "Hole in The Sky" and "Symptom of the Universe" are brilliant. Listen to the main riff of "Symptom" and you will hear the foundation of damn near everything Metallica ever wrote prior to the black album.
This one tends to split the fans, I find. It's actually one of my favourites. Much darker than SBS, and I think side one is one of the most brilliant sequences put to vinyl. Must agree with Bruce on "Symptom..." though!

© 1997 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.