Black Sabbath - Vol 4

Black Sabbath – Vol 4

86 / 100

‘Volume 4’ differed from the first three albums, with ballads and acoustic fare, but it still was Black Sabbath in all their doom laden glory.

Written by: Dangerzone

ARTIST: Black Sabbath
ALBUM: Vol 4
LABEL: Vertigo
SERIAL: 6360 071
YEAR: 1972
CD REISSUE: 1986, Castle, NELCD 6005 * 1990, Castle, CLACD 199 * plus many other reissues

LINEUP: Ozzy Osbourne – vocals * Tony Iommi – guitars * Geezer Butler – bass * Bill Ward – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Wheels Of Confusion * 02 Changes * 03 FX * 04 Supernaut * 05 Snowblind * 06 Cornucopia * 07 Laguna Sunrise * 08 St Vitus Dance * 09 Under The Sun



Having reached superstar status in the space of three years and three hugely influential albums, it’s safe to say Black Sabbath had already earned themselves a space in the annals of metal history by 1972. With such a quick rise to fame however the pressure was on to repeat the success of ‘Paranoid’ and ‘Master Of Reality’.

Already the band was dissolving into a drug and alcohol induced haze, making the creation of ‘Volume 4’ somewhat laboured. The resulting album differed from the first three albums, with the introduction of ballads and acoustic fare, but it still retained the heavy doom nature the band had become renowned for.

The Songs

‘Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener’ opens the album much like ‘Sweet Leaf’ did a year earlier, with Iommi cranking out some excruciatingly heavy riffs with the pace picked up halfway through. Somehow the latter stages of the track sound comparatively dated, coming off as typical early 70’s English hard rock, despite Iommi’s soloing. ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ is three minutes of Iommi stealing the show with more riffs and this has stood the test of time as a true Sabbath classic.

Ozzy gets sentimental with the piano based ‘Changes’, which was a radical turn of events for the band after such a short time as a band. No guitar here whatsoever and despite the tracks legendary status it makes me wonder why ‘It’s Alright’ would be savaged in 1976 for being a ‘ballad’ also. There’s no denying the impact of ‘Supernaut’ or the cocaine-influenced ‘Snowblind’, while Cornucopia’ sounds more akin to the 1970 debut, with the monstrous doom riffing of Iommi.

Things are thrown off again with the atmospheric acoustic work of ‘Laguna Sunrise’, which has more in common with some of Led Zeppelin‘s ponderous mystical fare. I think Zep may have been listening to this when they conjured up ‘The Rain Song’. Sounding upbeat is ‘St Vitus Dance’ before the brooding opening of ‘Under The Sun’, another example of why Iommi and Sabbath became so influential on metal to this day.

In Summary

1972 was a big year for British hard rock, with Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep joining Sabbath as major league draws throughout North America, with dozens of similar acts on the sidelines.

Black Sabbath to their credit established their own niche among these bands, with their unique sound becoming even more well crafted with ‘Volume 4’. While I don’t admit to being a true Sabbath loyalist, this is indeed a classic that still stands up as well today as I’m sure it did back in the murky year of 1972?

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