Black Sabbath- “Volume 4” (Reviews)

Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath

Ozzy Belting out Vocals to “Never Say Die” in Spokane, Wa. 1978. Photo/Art by Ben Upham.

SPOKANE 9-28-78


“Classic Metal”
December 3, 2002 By Samhot
Black Sabbath Vol. 4 was the first album where classic sludge-rockers Black Sabbath (Ozzy Osbourne-vocals, Bill Ward-drums, Geezer Butler-bass and Toni Iommi-guitar) started experimenting – which possibly foreshadowed what would be more emphasized on the following album, Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath_. I just want to make a clarification before I move on: Black Sabbath’s music is not about satanism or devil worshipping – it’s subject matter is mainly about the harsh realities of life (i.e., crime, war, drugs, mental illness and more), which is rather “dark”. Moving onto the tracks:

The album opens with “Wheels Of Confusion/The Straightener”, which is a sludgy/heavy powerhouse. This is arguably the heaviest on the album. The lyrics are reflective and sad. “Tomorrow’s Dream” is a r&b-rocker with groove. “Changes” is a beautiful piano-based ballad. The combination of Ozzy Osbourne’s emotive vocals and the sad orchestral backdrops make this a somewhat painful track to listen to at times. “FX” is a short experiment featuring eerie guitar feedback from Toni Iommi. “Supernaut” (to me) proves that music is a transcendent force without limits or boundaries. The mix of boogie, classic psychedelic r&b and metal, shows that unlikely combinations can work – which almost makes it seem like it was never “unlikely” to begin with. “Snowblind” is a slow heavy rocker. Tony Iommi does some of his best soloing on this track. The end features some orchestral backdrops (possibly from synthesizers). “Cornucopia” is probably the most ominous sounding on here (check out the opening section). The dark lyrics contribute to this aspect as well. “Laguna Sunrise” is the beautiful and evocative acoustic guitar instrumental. If anyone were to listen to this calm, sedate and airy track (without knowledge of it being Sabbath), you wouldn’t guess that this was the same band known for their dark and sludgy output – that’s talent. “St. Vitus’ Dance” is an upbeat, summery and “happy” sounding rock track – at least on a musical (excluding lyrics) level. “Under The Sun/Everyday Comes And Goes” sounds the most “Sabbath-esque” on here. The beginning is heavy and ominous. It then segues into a straightforward heavy rocker. The lyrics are deep, thought-provoking and rebellious. They address such issues as religion, personal beliefs and violence.

In short, Black Sabbath Vol. 4 is a classic metal album, which deserves to be owned by diehards, as well as those interested in Black Sabbath, or the roots of heavy metal. This would serve as a good introduction, as it features a well-crafted balance between heaviness and mild experimentation.
“Sabbath’s Dark Side Of The Moon”
March 6, 2000 By Johnny S Geddes
1972 was a watershed year for hard rock and Black Sabbath both. Luckily, the maturing group was able to spearhead the next part of the Proto-metal Revolution they’d founded with ‘Master of Reality’ in the form of this, their best work. ‘Volume Four’ was a functional, utilitarian name that was used to try and capture something whose essence could not be described with any adjective except, perhaps, ‘shifting’. Unlike any of their previous three albums, the Sabs were able to keep their distance from a formula [more or less homogenous doom rock with the occasional ‘let up’ (although their first LP is a mish-mash of blues and the beginnings of their ‘doom rock’)] and make this effort become an entire soundscape filled with moving atmospheres – the ultimate in a heterogeneous texture.

‘Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener’ – THE STORYTELLER. The whining guitar notes, basic chord structures and past tense narrative lyrics find an experimental-minded band. The shifts in tempo were something they’d become very familiar with by this time but it never had sounded this good. Instrumental ‘The Straightener’ kicks in to round out the epic. Geezer’s bass text is used as a canvas by Iommi here as he spatters riff spirals and twists all over the place. ‘Laguna Sunrise’ – THE MIND CREATES A FANTASY. Pretty number written for the beachfront where the Sabs were staying during their work on ‘Volume Four’. A very haunting superimposition of Spanish guitar over a strings backing.

‘F.X.’ – THE UNKNOWN REALM. 1 3/4 minutes of sound effects, particularly picking noises. Probably very useful if you’re doped up but much better when sober. ‘Snowblind’ – ROCK REFLECTION ON LIFESTYLE. The ‘best’ rock track of the album, ‘Snowblind’ was a single. It accurately depicts the group’s concerns at the time. Money and fame had allotted them nicer cars and nicer drugs to fool with. ‘Cornucopia’ – ROCK REFLECTION ON SOCIETY. ‘Take a life, it’s going cheap; Kill someone, no-one will weep.’ A thundering bass-driven track that’s almost uglier in structure than the post industrial nightmare described by Osbourne’s frenetic lyrics.

‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ – LOVE DISCARDED. A short rocker that scored as a greatest hit. The whole feel here is of turning away from the woes of the Present and starting a whole new existence. ‘Supernaut’ – THE SELF TRIUMPHS. ‘I’ve seen the future and I’ve left it behind.’ Ward’s frantic cymbal-bashing and Iommi’s smokingly fast riffs and overdubs augment Osbourne’s grandiose lyrical delivery perfectly. A hard, spiraling anthem. ‘Changes’ – LOVE REMOVED. A long piano/synth bit with Ozzy half-lamenting the joy of love taken away, half-asserting his understanding of the adjustment he’s making to compensate. ‘Under The Sun’ – THE MIND REACTS AGAINST REALITY. Very heavy guitar and bass work drones with the strength of the nihilistic, sometimes self-contradicting lyrics. Soon the tempo changes and both the guitars and voice become more desperate to convey their point. The songs ends on a helter-skelter of doomy rhythm and amorphous riffs. ‘St. Vitus’ Dance’ – ANTI-COMMUNICATION. This short, fast rocker bounces Osbourne’s lyrics back and forth. It’s about problems with understanding the female mind.

Altogether and in a sequence, these make up what is termed ‘Volume Four’. There is but one other ingredient necessary to facilitate a successful listening – a mind of any type and in any condition. None of the songs will grow on you; you will see them ever after in the same light under which you originally found them. The shade of that light depends on your perceptions and no two shades will ever be alike. This is an album saturated in an ebbing, ethereal fluid, one of the consequences being that the sounds recorded on ‘Volume Four’ make it quite impossible to place the whole in any single genre. This is a work that declares there are an infinite number of idiosyncratic interpretations of it available. I have given mine here: to find your own, you need to get this CD.
“Heavy riffing and variety within and between songs”
August 17, 2009
By dfle3 (Australia)
It’s not unusual for any of this band’s first three albums to get accorded the honor of “best Black Sabbath album”. Their third album, “Master of reality”, pretty much is the prototypical Sabbath album from then on. Even albums after that, up to “Sabotage”, have their fans, who view that album as the band’s best. From my point of view, “Vol.4” is down a notch in quality from “Master of reality”, but up to, and including “Sabotage”, the band have a remarkable consistency of output, quality wise.
Best song:
Changes – a slow tempo song with heartfelt lyrics. Only the piano and the synthesizer are utilized. Melodic, with Ozzy providing good presence on vocals.
Next best:
FX – an experimental instrumental track, perhaps featuring a guitar or something like that. Maybe it is also a synthesizer. Here the synthesizer sounds like it is providing incidental music for a sci-fi or horror movie.

Cornucopia – the guitar sound makes this track sound like Swamp Rock.

Supernaut – grinding guitar and has a Lenny Kravitz vibe to it (think “Are you gonna go my way”. For that matter, sometimes this song brings to mind the riffs in Pseudo Echo’s version of “Funky Town”).

Under the sun – the intro brings to mind their debut album’s vibe of Gothic Rock. Can be read as a statement of the band’s Philosophy, although, contrasting this song with their previous “After forever”, it has to be remarked that a Black Sabbath ‘philosophy’ seems more of a mask which they wear and discard for something else later…like The Sex Pistols with their superficial embrace of anarchy and, remarkably, fascism (as if those two philosophies aren’t like oil and water)! Drummer Bill Ward provides some big drum fills in this song. Outro is good too…it’s like a rock band’s version of Tubular Bells.
The rest:

Wheels of confusion – an epic 8:14 in length. Intro features a wailing blues sound and then steps into a Steppenwolf type riff (think “Born to be wild”) on both guitar and bass. Guitar has a buzzing sound to it and the vocals lack presence. A prog-rock kind of song.

Tomorrow’s dream – has a boogie rock vibe to it with tinny percussion (sort of like a cow bell). Guitars sound synthy and the vocals lack presence, again.

Snowblind – a riff song with a nice vocal shift in it, where it becomes more melodic. Lead guitar is bluesy and I think the song features the violins at the end. Has a synthesizer too.

Laguna sunrise – the second instrumental on this album. Has two acoustic guitars and what sounds like a symphony, perhaps…violins do feature in this song. A gentle, melodic track.

St.Vitus dance – has a BIG sounding riff (heavy and grating). Instruments have a greater presence in this song than other songs on this album. Think that my notes on this song suggest that the percussion on this song is like that in 60’s pop…a “She loves you” type vibe, or something of the sort.
“Black Sabbath- Vol. 4”
November 23, 2007
By Harry Brewer (S’port, La.)(VINE VOICE)
Sabbath’s fourth studio album is a masterpiece. It peaked at #13 on the charts, very respectable for a metal band without a single released from it. There’s a subtle change in direction on this album. They changed producers with this album &, for the first time, the band received production credit on an album.

The album opens with “Wheels of Confusion/The straightener”, Iommi’s riffing is among his best. Tomorrow’s Dream” is an outstanding song & among the best they ever recorded. It’s a short song by Sabbath standards. Then comes the ballad “Changes” which is the weakest song on the album. A lot of people like this song but it’s one I can do without. Then comes the instrumental “FX”, not really a song, just some noodling by Iommi, it’s interesting but nothing special. It’s under two minutes long so it doesn’t have time to get on your nerves. The next two songs are the highlights of the album, both almost unanimous favorites of Sabbath fans. “Supernaut” is a sci-fi tales that abounds with guitars & leads, it’s got a killer beat & pretty darn vocals by the Ozzman. “Snowblind” follows, it’s more moody & has a definite drug reference. Lyrically, it’s full of imagery & one of their best. Iommi has once again put together a very distinctive riff. “Cornucopia” is the last excellent song on the album. “Laguna Sunrise” (instrumental), “St. Vitus Dance” & “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes” close out the album. They’re decent enough songs but not particularly impressive.

This was an excellent effort, some might consider this their last great effort. Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath (Their next album) wasn’t quite as good but Sabotage, an underrated album, certainly comes close to equaling this effort.
“Black Sabbath – who?”
August 14, 2007
By James F. Colobus (Pittsburgh, PA United States)
In my southeastern Virginia high school back in the late 1980s, the members of Led Zeppelin were considered gods among men. If you were a white male and didn’t listen to Zeppelin, you were a pariah. No exceptions. Not that it was difficult to like Zeppelin – they were in constant rotation on WNOR and I rarely heard a song by them I disliked (`Trampled Underfoot’ being a notable exception). Discussions of Zeppelin often devolved into wistful laments that we hadn’t been born a decade earlier and been able to experience the band before John Bonham’s untimely demise resulted in their sudden dissolution. We were all quite certain that Zeppelin were the heaviest band ever and that they would remain so for time immemorial. In retrospect, it seems almost inconceivable that none of us had any idea that another band contemporaneous with Zeppelin matched, if not exceeded, them in heaviness. That band was Black Sabbath and somehow no one in my high school had heard of them.

During the early 90s when the Seattle scene rose to national prominence, bands like Soundgarden and Alice in Chains rarely missed a chance to proclaim in interviews how much their music had been influenced by Black Sabbath. At the time, I made a mental note to check out Sabbath then misplaced that note for more than 10 years. Finally, in 2004, Sabbath’s Black Box set was released and I made a major impulse buy, sating my long dormant curiosity about Sabbath with one massive purchase. The evening I found Sabbath’s first eight albums on my doorstep, I slid them one by one into my portable cd player, listening to the first four in sequence until late into the night. I was immediately struck by how much my Zeppelin-loving classmates and I would have cherished these albums 15 years earlier. Master of Reality and Vol. 4 became instant favorites and stayed in heavy rotation on my cd player for months thereafter.

Now that several years have passed since I finally became acquainted with Black Sabbath’s music, I can confidently claim Vol. 4 as my favorite of their first eight albums. Derided by many fans and critics upon its release as disappointing and disjointed due to the intense drug addictions afflicting several band members at the time, Vol. 4 remains fascinating to me even after countless listens. It begins on an epic note with `Wheels of Confusion’ which, in its sixth minute, morphs into `The Straightener’ in one of the great transitions in the history of rock music. After the dizzying highs provided by `Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener’, `Tomorrow’s Dream’ is a rather less inspiring but nevertheless strong track featuring some classic Sabbath riffage. The ballad, `Changes’, divides Sabbath fans like few other songs. If, like my friend Chris, you focus on the gorgeous melody of the chorus and ignore the simplistic lyrics, you will love this song. If, like me, however, you can’t get past the words `I’m going through changes…I’m going through changes”, you will limit yourself to admitting only a grudging admiration for the song. `FX’ is a brief bout of bizarre noodling that I am quite sure cannot be anyone’s favorite Black Sabbath song. However, it does provide a somewhat atmospheric lead-in to the paint-peeling romp `Supernaut’, a song as heavy as any in Sabbath’s catalog of `two-ton heavy thing(s)’. The highlight of a song full of highlights has to be when Bill Ward’s drum solo grades into Tony Iommi’s resumption of the song’s key riff. No words can do that moment justice – you’ll just have to hear it for yourself, preferably at high volume. Remarkably, the subsequent track, `Snowblind’ is every bit as good as `Supernaut’, only a whole lot druggier, with Ozzy repeatedly whispering `cocaine’ during the chorus. No doubt `Snowblind’ was the track most responsible for earning Vol. 4 its reputation as Sabbath’s most drug-addled album. `Cornucopia’ begins with a classic piece of Sabbath sludge before speeding up into a series of catchy riffs. `Laguna Sunrise’ is a short mellow instrumental that I can take or leave, but usually choose to listen to since it sets a nice mood for the almost hoe-down worthy `St.Vitus Dance’. In the same way it begins, Vol. 4 closes with two tracks combined into one. `Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes’ is a rant against organized religion with soaring vocals provided over riffs ranging from molasses slow to hummingbird fast. All in all, a tremendous album that was underrated when it was released and remains under-appreciated by many Black Sabbath fans to this day.

When I think of how much I would have loved Vol. 4 back in high school, I feel a twinge of regret. However, there is much consolation in the realization that I waited to experience Black Sabbath for the first time in my 30s when I could appreciate it more fully than in high school when it would have had to compete with Led Zeppelin for my attentions. It is hard to say who would have won had I known about both bands back then, though my subsequent metal-biased listening habits over the years strongly suggest that Sabbath would have stood more than a fighting chance against the mighty Zeppelin.
1970 Black Sabbath
1970 Paranoid
1971 Master of Reality
1972 Black Sabbath Vol. 4
1973 Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
1975 Sabotage
1976 Technical Ecstasy
1977 We Sold our Souls for Rock ‘N’ Roll
1978 Never Say Die
1980 Live At Last
1980 Heaven and Hell
1981 Mob Rules
1982 Live Evil
1983 Born Again
1986 Seventh Star
1987 The Eternal Idol
1989 Headless Cross
1990 Tyr
1992 Dehumanizer
1994 Cross Purposes
1995 Forbidden
1995 Cross Purposes Live
1998 Reunion
2002 Past Lives
2007 Live at Hammersmith Odeon
2013 “13”

SPOKANE 9-28-78