Technical Ecstasy

Black Sabbath

Warner Brothers Records, 1976

http://www.blacksabbath.com

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/05/2001

Well, the year was 1976, and Black Sabbath were a bonafide supergroup. That year, they released Technical Ecstasy, the seventh studio album by the original lineup of singer Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, and drummer Bill Ward. The album marked a major change in musical direction for the group, a move that polarized the opinion of fans.

This is a vastly underrated album in my opinion. It has been unfairly neglected over the years; an obscure gem just waiting to be discovered by a new generation, finally placing it in the spotlight it truly deserves next to the first six Black Sabbath albums, all of which are now considered to be indispensible classics.

I can understand why a fan of early period Sabbath would be disappointed in this record however. The trademark low, ultra heavy, and sludgy evil guitar riffs from the first six releases are nowhere to be found on this entire album, and none of the subject matter in the lyrics deals with the dark, doom-and-gloom themes that they were known for as well. But really, how long could they possibly have continued in that vein before becoming an uninspired self parody?

Technical Ecstasy leaves the simpler material of the early years behind and replaces it with a very diverse, ambitious stab at musical excellence, which it achives for the most part. One aspect of the band has remained intact however, and that is that none of the songs follow a predictable, standard format. Complex unconventional structures and tempo changes occur frequently in just about each song, making it a fascinating listen...you're always in suspense waiting to see how each song unfolds.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The production is thickly layered...there are so many different things going on at the same time, making it far more experimental and involved than being just another collection of straight forward head banging riffs. That's not to say that the album is a slick collection of commercial pop rock, because it certainly is not. One could see the album as having been a logical, more mature progression of the band's sound at the time.

In fact, the album almost feels somewhat like a rock opera, with it's never ending stew of arty, unique riffs, rhythm changes, and extensive use of instruments that the band was not known for employing in the past. Listen to the fast galloping "Back Street Kids", which opens the album...the guitars sound very strange on this track, buzzing in an almost electronic sounding way. "You Won't Change Me" is a slower, more plodding song that recalls the older Sabbath, but includes heavy use of keyboards and synthesizers, which I think was quite uncommon in 1976, pre-dating the New Wave explosion by several years.

The diversity continues with "It's Alright", a soft, Beatle-esque piano ballad featuring the vocals of drummer Bill Ward for the first time in the band's history. "Gypsy" is yet another fascinating multi-part song which would not have sounded out of place on a brilliant effort like Queen's A Night At The Opera. "All Moving Parts Stand Still" moves the band into a funkier, almost danceable territory!

Then, we come to what I personally believe is the worst song every recorded by the original Black Sabbath lineup, and that's "Rock 'N Roll Doctor", which is an upbeat standard blues rock song, something like Ted Nugent would do, but these guys sound completely out of place doing that style of music. It's just a terrible song, and for some reason the production on it is much worse than any of the other material on the album.

"She's Gone" is a very depressing sounding soft acoustic ballad with wonderful melodies and a beautiful string arrangement, but it suffers a bit because of Osbourne's vocals...it would have been much better if he had sung the song in a lower register, the way he sang "Solitude" on the Masters Of Reality album.

The final song on Technical Ecstasy is "Dirty Women", a rip roaring rocker with a whole bunch of major changes in it and just amazing guitar riffs piling on top of one another. It's probably the best song on the album, but they should have cut about a minute and a half off the ending, because it overstays its welcome a bit.

One thing that slightly bothered me however is that the lyrics overall are inferior to the albums of the past, but this is a relatively minor irritation when the music is so consistently interesting.

Well, there you have it...another classic Black Sabbath album. It might not be as powerful, dark, or angry as their "classic" period, but it more than compensates for this. If you have an open mind, chances are you'll find a lot to enjoy here, but for many of the band's fans it may be a bit too artsy in its range of styles, arrangements and experimentation, which I feel is actually the album's strength and showcases the true talent of the band which had not been seen before.

Rating: B+

User Rating: D+


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© 2001 Roland Fratzl 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.