Black Sabbath – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973): Rated 5/5
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath sees the original lineup experience an experimental progressive phase. There are acoustic guitar flourishes plus the effective use of synthesizers, strings, keyboards and more complex arrangements.
But fear not, there are still lots of killer heavy metal riffs too. It’s a musical masterpiece. And essential to any heavy metal collection showcasing a influential band displaying a newfound sense of finesse and maturity.
Following Black Sabbath’s 1972–1973 world tour in support of their album, Vol. 4, the group returned to Los Angeles to begin work on its successor. Pleased with Vol. 4, the band sought to recreate the recording atmosphere, and returned to the Record Plant Studios. The band rented a house in Bel Air and began writing in the summer of 1973 but, due in part to substance abuse and fatigue, were unable to complete any songs.
The band opted to return to the UK, where they rented Clearwell Castle in The Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England, which the likes of Led Zeppelin, Mott the Hoople and Deep Purple wrote and recorded in. The medieval surroundings may have revitalised the band musically, but also left a sinister impression; in the liner notes to the 1998 live album Reunion, Iommi recalls, “We rehearsed in the armoury there and one night I was walking down the corridor with Ozzy and we saw this figure in a black cloak … We followed this figure back into the armoury and there was absolutely no one there. Whoever it was had disappeared into thin air! The people that owned the castle knew all about this ghost and they said, ‘Oh yes, that’s the ghost of so and so. We were like ‘What!?'” Adds Butler: “We rehearsed in the dungeons and it was really creepy but it had some atmosphere, it conjured up things, and stuff started coming out again”. While working in the dungeon, Iommi stumbled onto the main riff of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”, which set the tone for the new material.