Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

Less great and more difficult to grasp than the last few, what with most of the songs veering off into all kinds of different directions, this transitional offering still shows off all of this great band’s strengths.

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is difficult to describe other than to say that it’s their mellowest and most adventurous outing yet, as the band tries an acoustic guitar/piano instrumental on the appropriately titled “Fluff” (which, pretty though it is at times, definitely doesn’t warrant its 4:10 running time), breaks out big synthesizer flourishes (a very bad idea, actually) on “Who Are You?,” flicks flute passages into “Looking For Today” (which also includes a good soaring chorus from seemingly out of nowhere), and introduces lush strings on “Spiral Architect,” a bright, melodic entry that every now and then sports the Sabbath chug marching on in full force (a very good idea). The title track is a classic by any definition, again packing two songs into one by shifting the focus halfway through from a rumbling, explosive groove onto Ozzy’s wailing vocals. The underrated “A National Acrobat” has both a funky interlude and a surprisingly melodic commercial part along with their customary cool riffs, while “Sabbra Cadabra” (later covered by Metallica) kicks ass with simple lyrics and some killer guitar, though it limps to the finish line a little bit. “Killing Yourself To Live” is more atmospheric but at least as good, with more pounding riffs/rhythms and a particularly effective vocal from Ozzy, who seems to be more front and center than usual (which isn’t always a good thing given how polarizing his voice can be). Anyway, Sabbath disciples likely didn’t know what to make of this fairly diverse collection, but it has mostly weathered time well (aside from the two filler tracks), standing as a consistent gathering of tunes that daringly tried to push the envelope in directions not tried before or since. It isn’t as successful as some of their other albums, reaching righteous but rarely rarefied levels and too often opting for mood over might (rarely a good strategy where Sabbath is concerned), yet it’s still a necessary item in appreciating the evolution of these metal titans, ambitious “almosts” often telling as much of the overall story as the magnificent triumphs.

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