Aug 312012

It’s time to celebrate another metal anniversary. Tomorrow, September 1, 40 years will have passed since the official release of Black Sabbath’s fourth album. Hard to believe: Forty. Fucking. Years.

As I’ve done in the past, I’m stealing from my fellow metal blogger Full Metal Attorney, who is a lot more on the ball watching the calendar for events like this than yours truly. He discusses the significance of this album on his own site today, proclaiming it the pinnacle of Black Sabbath’s career, surpassing each of the band’s first three albums — Black Sabbath (1970), Paranoid (1970), and Master of Reality (1971).

FMA attributes the album’s excellence mainly to Tommy Iommi’s riffs, especially on “Supernaut”, “Wheels of Confusion”, “Cornucopia”, “Snowblind”, and the song he calls “the heaviest Sabbath song of all”, “Under the Sun”. But he also praises the performances of the rest of Sabbath — Geezer Butler, Bill Ward, and of course Ozzy.

As FMA himself acknowledges in the article, lots of people would disagree with him putting Vol. 4 above Paranoid and Master of Reality. He chalks that up to the presence of the weird experimental track “FX,” the relatively long acoustic instrumental “Laguna Sunrise,” and the piano/synth ballad “Changes” — but he asserts that these quirky, imperfect songs are precisely what has made the album so memorable after 40 years, in addition to all of the album’s phenomenal successes.

It’s been a long time since I listened to the first four Sabbath albums, and so I’m certainly not prepared to argue the critical merits and demerits of them, or to rank them on a scale of excellence. No doubt, Vol. 4 is an amazing album (and yeah, the riffs and soloing in “Supernaut” are fucken amazing), but for me, track-for-track, it’s not the most memorable. For me, that honor goes to Paranoid. In part, I suspect that’s because I associate it in my memory with other things happening in my life at the time I first heard it (that, and the fact that I played it non-stop for weeks after I got it). But in part it’s also because of the undying power of songs like “War Pigs”, “Paranoid”, and “Iron Man”.

Some people reading this post may be old enough to have experienced Sabbath’s first four albums when they were originally released, but probably not many. I’m sure lots of readers have never listened to all four straight through, instead being familiar only with certain landmark tracks from one or more of them. But I’m still curious about what folks think about FMA’s claim that Vol. 4 is the greatest Sabbath album ever. And in an effort to get some discussion started, let me throw out these additional questions, too:

Where were you in your own metal journey when you first heard Sabbath?  Did it come early or late or somewhere in the metal of your education as a metalhead? And did the music make an impact on you? Do you agree with FMA that “Under the Sun” is the heaviest Sabbath song of all? And finally, which album (or songs) have proven to be the most memorable ones to you?

Of course, be sure to read all of FMA’s article about Vol. 4 rather than taking my summary at face value. You can find it HERE. Now, some music from Vol. 4:




  11 Responses to “BLACK SABBATH VOL. 4 TURNS 40”

  1. The best Ozzy Sabbath album is Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. It’s not even close. I think Vol. 4 is my least favorite actually.

  2. I also added a poll to my site (open for two weeks) so people can vote on their favorite Ozzy-era Sabbath album.

  3. I got properly into Sabbath late on, this year infact. Pretty much bypassed them and went straight for the death metal. Master of Reality is my favourite.

  4. For me Master Of Reality just shades it over Vol. 4. although Vol 4 was my first Sabbath album. Snowblind is my favourite track on the whole album and one hell of a riff!

    Quick side note: I bought Vol 4 sometime in 1981 and around the same time the BBC a tv series of John Wyndham’s classic ‘The Day of the Triffids’ and the sound effects used for the approaching triffids sounded a lot like some of the noises in ‘FX’ Needless to say this track used to put the wind up me as an impressionable 12 year old!

  5. I think I would have to agree with FMA here. Of course the first three albums are absolutely fantastic, all good songs and awesome riffs and everything. And I happen to really like Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabatage more than most people seem to. But as an entire album, I think Vol.4 really stands out from the crowd. Most of it is crushingly heavy, even compared to the rest of the band’s catalog. Especially “Under the Sun,” yes I’ll agree there too. And when it gets lighter — well, the album also has the band’s best instrumental piece of all time.

    I know the first two Sabbath albums I owned (on CD) were “Paranoid” and “Black Sabbath” — I got them both around the same time (like age 13 or 14 or something), right now I honestly can’t remember which of them came first. I’m pretty sure they both came from my parents, either for Christmas or my birthday or something. But it wasn’t too long after that when I picked up a copy of Vol.4… I had heard all or most of the first two albums (on the radio and/or from friends who owned copies), but I think at the time I got Vol.4, the only song I’d actually heard was “Supernaut”, and it was the 1000 Homo DJs version. So this was the first Sabbath album that was completely new material (to me), and I was just amazed by it when I heard it.

    To this day, I’d be hard-pressed to pick an actual ‘favorite’ album, I’d probably change my answer from day to day. But as for the band’s ‘best’ album, I’d almost certainly go with this one. (Although I might lean towards Master of Reality too, depending on my mood). Eh, whatever.

  6. 1. Master of Reality 2. Paranoid….all other albums = rehashed shit!!!!

  7. When I was young I first liked bands like limp bizkit and Korn, then I decide by chance to explore the first three sabbath albums starting with Master of Reality, oh and mob rules, but that’s a different story, it changed my life. After that I could only find sabbath bloody sabbath. I was desperate to figure out the link between Master and SBS, so I spent the better part of a year finding volume four, eventually importing it to my local record shop. After that I listened to it constantly and started to get a picture of how Sabbath changed from the pure hardrock/metal approach of Master to SBS. The search was well worth it because volume four is that long missing gem for people who think they know black sabbath. More metal then metal and with that prog-rock edge that allowed a whole different set of people to become influenced. Depending on what you like more, blues based or prog based, you can decide if masters or volume 4 is the best.

  8. I think Master of Reality is better than Vol. 4, and Paranoid better than that. But they all pale in comparison to THE BEST Sabbath album, Mob Rules. That is a fact (for me at least)

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.