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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Black Sabbath

Volume IV

Review by Gary Hill

I must have a thing for falling in love with over looked albums. Some of my favorite discs in artists' catalogs are the ones that seem to have fallen by the wayside. Such is the case of Black Sabbath Volume IV. This album never had the attention that was given to Paranoid or Master of Reality, but yet I find it to be at least as interesting an album as those. In fact, with the exception of one track, I would say ever song here is a total winner. Granted some of them don't seem all that strong in this context, that is actually a function of how strong the material here is. This album was the first disc that showed the band stretching beyond their beginnings, and it really paid off. There is some brilliant material here, and it still holds up.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener
This one jumps right in as if we came in at the midst of this bluesy grind. The band run through this for a time, then jump into a new progression that forms the basis for the verse, a slow riff. After the verse they jump into a few quick paced riff sections and changes, then jump back down to the verse segment to carry on. More fast paced jamming takes it after the verse, and then a short transitionary segment gives way to a new fast paced riff driven jam. This goes through a few changes as it moves forward, wandering into an unusual guitar solo sequence the eventually give way t a new thundering riff. As Ozzy's vocals begin to belt out the next verse, Iommi lays down layers of screaming guitar over top. They segue the cut back to its origins after this mid section to carry forward. After a while longer in this format, they drop it down before coming out into a fast paced new super crunchy and incredibly potent jam with Iommi laying down some very meaty soloing over top. This instrumental section goes through several reworkings, becoming the closing segment of this awesome song.
Tomorrow's Dream
This is a fairly straight forward Sabbath track through much of it, but it shifts gears a bit later to a mellow segment, and a fast paced riff happy jam comes out of that. They return it to the previous segment to continue. This is a solid song. It just pales in comparison to the previous one.
Changes
Piano on a Sabbath song? Not only that, but piano is the central instrument here. Piano, vocals and synthesized strings make up this melancholy ballad. As strange as it may seem for Sabbath, it works exceptionally well, and is truly a winner. This cut has not guitar, bass or drums, but still works - wow! It goes to show the versatility and willingness to experiment that the group brought into the project.
FX
Not nearly as effective an experiment, this echoey guitar excursion is weird and kind of a throwaway cut. Maybe, though, if you did enough chemical alteration of your brain it might be palatable.
Supernaut
A horse of a completely different color, a killer riff opens this one up, and the band launched into one of their most effective fast paces stomper. This one really rocks. Bill ward manages a pretty interesting percussion solo on this one. It doesn't wander far from its beginnings, but when you start this strong, why bother?
Snowblind
An opening riff/jam runs through, then a bouncing chord progression forms the verse section. The opening returns as a verse end break. After the second verse they drop the cut to an incredibly dramatic, almost hypnotic progression. Ozzy takes a chorus, and then Iommi plays one of the tastiest solos of his career. Then the track just shifts straight back to the verse segment. After another verse a fast paced new Sabbath stomp takes it for another vocal section. Then, the familiar verse structure returns. This time keyboards come over top to punctuate Ozzy's lines. Iommi lays down another smoking solo at the end of this segment while keyboards lay horn like icing overtop. This track (which tells a story of the hazards of cocaine) remains of my all time favorite Sabbath songs.
Cornucopia
A very heavy plodding segment serves as the intro here. It gives way to a more open arrangement for the first verse. At the end of this a different metal break takes it. Then another verse segment follows. This time a heavy bridge gives way to a new hard progression that moves out to a more open sparse arrangement. For a time this releases control to a fast paced rock and roll stomp, but the hard sound keeps it all metal. Ozzy takes a turn over this, then a series of changes move it back to the earlier verse section. After the heavy bridge a plodding segment ends it thunderously.
Laguna Sunrise
This acoustic guitar solo is pretty and a nice change of pace. Strings over top work pretty well here.
St. Vitus Dance
This straightforward metal cut is good, but fairly generic Sabbath fare. It just kind of pales in comparison to some of the other tracks.
Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes
An ultra heavy segment starts this, and the band play with that for a short time, then shift gears to a faster riff driven section that serves as the back drop for the first verse. This runs through in an almost galloping fashion. After the verse, Iommi takes a short solo before they move back into the second verse. Another solo at the end of that verse gives way to a frantic new section. A verse is done in that mode, then a short drum solo takes it, and they do that verse all over, but jumped up in pitch. Another drum break gives way to anther pitch change to serves as the backing for a guitar solo. They drop it back down to the original vest segment to continue. Iommi takes another short solo later, then a gong sounds, and there is a pause. Then Iommi launches the band into an incredibly tasty new section with solos ver top. This is one of the coolest riff segments the band have ever done, and seeming to realize that, they take their time reworking it, eventually making there way to the outro. What an awesome way to end a stellar, but not flawless album.
 
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