Right, down to the business at hand. Here we have the fourth album in Black Sabbath’s catalogue, aptly named "Vol. 4". The individual on the cover is none other than the man himself, Ozzy Osbourne. The font as you will no doubt see and understand is very 1970’s. The information in the sleeve on my CD (a better quality one) states that this was released in 1976, the year of my brother’s birth.
This is from a heavy point of view the pinnacle of the Sabbath sound. "Master of Reality" was heavy but I believe this record is heavier in many respects and represents the sound that made them a success. The biggest difference for me that separates this record from the previous three is the theme of love that etches its way into a couple of the tracks and there are a couple of instrumentals in here as well, but "FX" has to be the most pointless track to have ever been created. It basically is a minute and forty seconds of Iommi playing around with the frets of his guitar.
The opening track, "Wheels of Confusion" is a brilliant start to the album and indicates that we are about to witness something truly special. It’s also one of Sabbath’s longer tracks, which makes the fact that the band can turn its length to its fortune quite a credit indeed. The ending is a brilliant rock out moment with Iommi leading Butler and Ward out of the song well. I have listened to this song many times just to hear the ending. Absolutely brilliant. But as good as this song is, there is better to come. "Supernaut" is the best song on this album and one of most personal favourites. Again, it’s the cymbal work by Ward that makes it work so well. There is a solo in the middle of the song that is absolutely amazing and words cannot describe how awesome it is. Again, Ward’s work on this song cements his place as one of music’s best drummers of this period of time. The lyrics are about travelling in space? I dunno. The lyrics are a bit vague, have a listen to it for yourself and come up with your own hypothesis.
"Snowblind" is a cool song too, and Sabbath delve into the drug theme once again for this one, but the music is strong and soulful with Iommi provided great, strong riffs. "Cornucopia" is a heavy song with great work by Iommi and Butler, but once again, it is Ward who steals the show. You may have noticed a recurring theme here. Well, I hope so in any case. The best I can figure out is that this song is about depression and living within the world of man? "Laguna Sunrise" is a cool wee number largely by Iommi and a keyboard and achieves quite a surreal sound. You can imagine listening to this song on the beach during sunset, or that’s what I believe. "St. Vitus' Dance" is a festival-style dance fest song, if that doesn’t make sense, well I can’t describe it any clearer than that. Lyric wise this is a song about giving love another chance. "Under the Sun" is a song similar in style to "Cornucopia", at least from a musical perspective. Lyrically it’s a song about living your life without regrets. The ending is pretty cool. The song just completely slows down until it finally stops. Excellent.
All and all, not a bad album. It has a few good numbers in there, a few knock out blows and shows that Sabbath were really laying the platform for others to follow. As I said earlier, "Supernaut" is a personal favourite of mine, and "Wheels of Confusion" has a very awesome ending. Everyone does some good work on this record, but Ward has to receive the award for greatest contribution. He really isn’t any better than he is here and shows just how good he can be with his manic beating of kick drums, snares and most importantly, cymbals.
I have to say, not a personal favourite of mine. The albums of either side would be among my favourites, but this one was, for me rather average in terms of general appeal. I like most of the songs, but apart from "Supernaut", most of the rest are good, perhaps great but not outstanding. Still, the albums stands as a reminder to the glory days of the Sabbath sound and the peak of their rhythmical style. After this point the sound gets a little lighter, but I believe the songs get a little catchier and a little more enjoyable.
So, that’s my review of "Vol. 4". Hope you enjoyed it. Give us feedback - we always like that - and head to our many pages and links. Check out the full website and see what we have on offer.
Next up will be a couple of my favourites and in the essence really the last two albums that the band actually enjoyed doing, so I’ll see you next time. Enjoy yourselves and listen to the album, it really is quite good.