Born Again

Black Sabbath

Warner Brothers, 1983

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Certain things in life just should not go together... like Seagram’s 7 and Dr. Pepper. (Yes, I tried it in college... it was the alcoholic equivalent of motor oil.) Axl Rose fronting AC/DC (yeah, I said it)... and Ian Gillan fronting Black Sabbath.

Apparently Born Again, the 1983 release from Tony Iommi and crew, wasn’t initially supposed to be a Black Sabbath album, but (no) thanks to Don Arden, contracts were re-worked to make it a formal Sabbath album, whether the members wanted it that way or not.

The thing is, no matter what you would have called this band, the combination of the awkward stylistic pairing of Gillan with Black Sabbath, uninspired songwriting and piss-poor production marked this as the worst album to that point that Iommi and band had spit out.

Seriously, whoever thought Gillan’s vocal shrieks fit the style of music that Black Sabbath had been playing to that point needed to get their ears cleaned. Ozzy Osbourne wasn’t a shrieker. Nor was Ronnie James Dio. Gillan’s style of singing was a better fit for Deep Purple (or, at least, we were more used to it in that setting).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Perhaps—just perhaps—it might have been more palatable had the songwriting been better... and this is something that Gillan does get to share the blame in. Only seven of the nine tracks are full-fledged songs, but these are so lightweight that even Satan himself would have doubled over in laughter. “Disturbing The Priest” tries to create an evil tone, but it never develops into anything truly sinister. And “Zero The Hero”? There's a reason this one gets its fair share of ridicule (though it’s marginally better than the album opener “Trashed”).

The one semi-decent song, “Digital Bitch,” does illustrate the challenge that Iommi was facing with Black Sabbath—namely, how to keep the band relevant after more than a decade in the public eye. I don’t necessarily know if the subject matter of this one was conducive to Black Sabbath’s overall style—then again, what was “scary” in 1970 would hardly make someone blink in 1983.

And also, just perhaps Born Again might have been a little more palatable had the production not been so treble-heavy. You wanna talk about the “loudness arguments” of the digital era? This album essentially white-washes out any of the bass groove that Geezer Butler and Bill Ward were laying down as a rhythm section. Even Gillan’s vocals become victims of the sonic tidal wave. And that’s the thing: even had this not borne the Black Sabbath moniker, it still would have been barely-listenable, sub-standard sludge.

Born Again not only marked the sole appearance of Gillan as lead singer, but essentially drove Butler and Ward away from the band. (Butler would eventually return, and Ward took part in the live shows that led to the Reunion album.) Die-hard fans of Black Sabbath can argue that there were worse albums in their discography than Born Again. That's entirely possible... but this one is close to the edge of the aural dustbin.

Rating: D-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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