Volume 4

Black Sabbath

Warner Brothers Records, 1972


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Something tells me that some Black Sabbath fans are gonna be pissed at me. I can hear them asking now: "Why have you kept choosing Sabbath albums from the Ozzy Osbourne days? Why is everything pre-1976?"

Simple answer: Random pull. When I walk the aisles of the Pierce Archives (where I'm taking a bath in the staff NCAA pool), I look for titles that I might not have listened to in some time. And honestly, it's been a long time since I pulled out my copy of Volume 4, the band's 1972 effort, for enjoyment.

And as much as I've crowed about albums like Paranoid and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, this album ranks right up there as one of Black Sabbath's best. It is here that the experimentation can first be heard, and Tony Iommi's guitar playing really starts to shape up as one of hard rock/heavy metal's leading names. (Prior to this album, I had always thought that Iommi was more comfortable as a rhythm guitarist, but his leads do show some amazing maturity - maturity which wasn't there just two albums before on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Paranoid.)

Volume 4 includes some all-time favorites in Black Sabbath's catalog. "Tomorrow's Dream" is a powerful statement from Iommi and crew, one which seems to feature a stronger rhythm backbone for bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward and allows them to really shine. Osbourne's vocals are as strong as ever, especially seen on the ballad - yes, a ballad - "Changes". (I have no idea who is playing the piano on this track - the CD's liner notes are sketchy at best.)

But how far ahead of its time was this album? Put it this way - a few years ago, an alternative band (I think it was 1,000 Homo DJs with Trent Reznor singing) covered "Supernaut," and simply shredded my friggin' ears - incredible! Who woulda thunk it - alternative bands going to a heavy metal stalwart for inspiration? The original track is still as powerful as it was 26 years ago, and is one I still enjoy banging the ol' noggin to. Same thing goes for "Snowblind," a song which either warns of or glorifies cocaine, I still am undecided which.

The experimentation goes past the ballad that "Changes" is - "FX" almost sounds like Iommi is hitting his pick against his SG's pickup while using a delay pedal. It's kind of cool, but is also a bit pointless. The acoustic guitar wonder "Laguna Sunrise" is further evidence of how good a guitar player Iommi really is.

Some tracks on Volume 4 have yet to be discovered for the gems they are, like the two-song set "Wheels Of Confusion / The Straightener". Iommi puts his band and guitar through quite a workout in just eight minutes, and is a nice slab of sonic meat just waiting to be devoured a la "Supernaut". (Trent, you willin' to put a techno spin on this one?)

Volume 4 is one Black Sabbath album that seems to have been forgotten in the shadow of the best-of set We Sold Our Souls For Rock 'N' Roll - damn shame, 'cause this is one that has been neglected for far too long. Part of the true glory days of Black Sabbath, this is an album that deserves getting a second chance from rock fans old and new.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-



© 1998 Christopher Thelen 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.