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Black Sabbath

Warner Bros. BS 2822
Released: August 1975
Chart Peak: #28
Weeks Charted: 14

Tony IommiSabotage is not only Black Sabbath's best record since Paranoid, it might be their best ever. Even with the usual themes of death, destruction and mental illness running throughout this album, the unleashed frenzy and raw energy they've returned to here comes like a breath of fresh air.

"Symptom of the Universe" rambles on, an atonal riff-based crusher, then shifts for a coda of lightly paced acousting jamming. "Megalomania" is an inversion of that, erupting into a hard rocker with a hummable chorus before it's slammed home in a quake of phasing and feedback. For diversion, there's "Supertzar," which features the English Chamber Choir chaning off an off-time splurge of guitar phrases. Black Sabbath loyalists will no doubt love this record and those who've never bothered may even want to indulge.

- Billy Altman, Rolling Stone, 9/25/75.

Bonus Reviews!

Black Sabbath is still hanging in there, as if it were still the late Sixties, as if volume and frenzy were a substitute for substance, as if their satanic gimmick still had some shock value. No way, as we used to say. This is frowsy, toothless, old-style rock that only fitfully glimmers with excitement or entertainment (parts of "Hole in the Sky" and a section of "Megalomania"), dated blather that, these days, couldn't shock a seven-year-old.

- Peter Reilly, Stereo Review, 1/76.

After a two-year layoff, the kings of heavy metal are back with an LP that should satisfy their many fans. Material sounds basically the same as the other Sabbath sets, with emphasis on chugging, wall of sound guitar, bass and drums and screaming vocals. Themes, as they have in the past, center around the group's state of mind, the universe in general, and other sundries. Arrangements feature spacey sounds, distorted vocals and some interesting guitar solos, both acoustic and electric. The band is still one of the best of its kind, but audiences have changed over the past two years and they really have not. Whether it will affect their popularity remains to be seen. Best cuts: "Symptom Of The Universe," "Megalomania," "The Thrill Of It All," "Am I Going Insane (Radio)."

- Billboard, 1975.

Five years on from Paronoid and the sound is cleaner but the music formula is much the same though wordless choirs and alienating vocal echo effects have been introduced. The riffs, subject matter and lyrics have changed little though the more sophisticated master tapes of Sabotage means this album can be more readily enjoyed from CD. Songs like "Symptom Of The Universe" even show the development of the Robert Plant styled vocalising and acoustic guitar breaks à la Led Zeppelin.

The sound disappoints by being dull, boomy and compressed in tracks that should be cleaner and harder hitting. Little real use was made even of the already restricted dynamic range available from the analogue master tape.

CD playing time of the U.K. release on Castle has been extended by the addition of a live track ("Sweet Leaf" -- notable chiefly for its monotonous drumming, out of tune vocals and tempo like a slowly unwinding clock spring). The selection here however is no way as generous as the over one-hour playing time of the Castle-released Paranoid.

- David Prakel, Rock 'n' Roll on Compact Disc, 1987.

On Sabotage, the band was at their artiest, adding synths and found sounds which accentuated Tommi Iommi's tight solos and riffs. It may not be their best or most influential record, but Sabotage is certainly one of their most interesting. In fact, it was the last consistently impressive album they ever recorded. * * * *

- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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