Symptom Of The Universe: The Original Black Sabbath (1970-1978)

Black Sabbath

Warner Bros., 2002

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


We Sold Our Soul for Rock ‘N' Roll is one of those metal records that everybody seemed to own, at least those who came of age past Black Sabbath's prime. It remains a stellar introduction to the eight albums recorded with Sabbath's original lineup and is still recommended for absolute newcomers.

However, Symptom Of The Universe is a definitive overview of this period, taking nearly all of Soul and expanding it to two discs, adding more album tracks to present the true best of the definitive heavy metal band. Simply put, picking this up means most fans won't have to purchase any other Sabbath album except Paranoid and perhaps their debut, although at least half of both records are present here.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The first disc presents slab after slab of dense proto-metal, heavier than almost anything that followed, unrelenting and bleak at times, but always melodic and hook-filled. Perhaps radio has dulled the visceral attack of "War Pigs," "Paranoid," "Iron Man," "N.I.B." and "Sweet Leaf," but hearing them in their element along with album tracks like "The Wizard," "Children Of The Grave" and "Fairies Wear Boots" only emphasizes their power. Adding "Warning" from the debut is a nice touch, even if it draws heavily from the Led Zeppelin II playbook, an influence the band readily admits in the liner notes.

Half of Paranoid is present, as it was on Soul, while the disc is filled out with four songs from Master Of Reality, though "In The Void" and "Lord Of This World" show the formula growing somewhat stale. The second disc encompasses the band's final five albums with Ozzy and branches out with the sound quite a bit, offering the best of this rather overlooked period. The gasoline-chugging "Supernaut" and the acoustic instrumental "Laguna Sunrise" are both opposites of a song like "Iron Man," while "Sabbra Cadabra" and "Symptom Of The Universe" more or less wrote the book for heavy metal in the ensuing decades.

Owing to musical differences and substance abuse, the band started drifting on their final few albums, and so the last half of the collection is pretty dull, with only "Hole In The Sky" and the garage rock of "Never Say Die" standing out. Points also for the "Evil Woman" single, which had never been released in the U.S. and which is pretty funny when you consider the thought of Black Sabbath making a hit single.

Most casual fans will find this is all the Sabbath they need, and the track selection cannot be faulted, although the Paranoid track "Planet Caravan" deserves a second look somewhere. Still, for the definitive overview of the original heavy metal band, Symptom Of The Universe gets it right.

Rating: B+

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