BLACK SABBATH — Sabotage

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BLACK SABBATH - Sabotage cover
4.19 | 103 ratings | 7 reviews
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Album · 1975

Filed under Heavy Metal
By BLACK SABBATH

Tracklist

1. Hole In The Sky (3:59)
2. Don't Start (Too Late) (0:49)
3. Symptom Of The Universe (6:28)
4. Megalomania (9:40)
5. The Thrill Of It All (5:54)
6. Supertzar (3:43)
7. Am I Going Insane (Radio) (4:15)
8. The Writ (8:10)

Total Time 43:03

Line-up/Musicians

- Ozzy Osbourne / lead vocals, synthesizer
- Tony Iommi / guitar, piano, synthesizer, organ, harp
- Geezer Butler / bass guitar, mellotron
- Bill Ward / drums, piano

About this release

28 July 1975
Nems, Vertigo, Warner

Thanks to Time Signature, Stooge, Pekka, Lynx33, Unitron for the updates

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BLACK SABBATH SABOTAGE reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

siLLy puPPy
What sounds like just like a form of wordplay on the band name BLACK SABBATH, SABOTAGE, the final album of the classic mandatory six found the quartet of Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward culminating all the heavy metal thunder one last time before the band effectively lost all momentum and quickly fell from grace. SABOTAGE is also one of the most misunderstood and least appreciated of the big six but for us diehard fans the album ranks very well near the top of the mighty SABBATH’s canon for being one of the most intricately crafted and esoterically interesting of the bunch. Graced with epic proto-prog compositions that eschew conventional songwriting with a fiery passion reinvigorated that allowed more experimental touches to seep in, SABOTAGE allowed SABBATH one last moment of musical glory before the band hit a creative brick wall. The album while seemingly random in many ways actually makes a lot more sense once the story behind it is unmasked. The tale is somewhat hinted upon with the oddball album cover that shows the band’s reflection in the mirror behind being SABOTAGED.

SABBATH had a phenomenally successful run with the first five albums but like many rock bands of the era found themselves in the spoils of riches which led to hedonistic drug abuse rituals and incessant bouts of self-indulgence. Around the time of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” the band discovered that the management had been ripping them off all along and siphoning funds like a parasitic scourge. SABOTAGE was created during the time when the litigation against former manager Patrick Meehan and others was taking place. Many of the references on the album are derived from the experiences of this period of time and despite the stress that the never-ending legal battles generated, the incident seems to have reinvigorated the fiery passion of distrust, paranoia and rage against the machine that made the first two SABBATH albums so amazingly focused. Despite all odds, the band seemed to channel all of the angst into crafting one of the most sophisticated and fine-tuned albums of its career. While SABOTAGE usually ranks last of the classic period amongst the general fanbase, the album that requires more than the average spins before digesting is actually one of the band’s highest artistic statements.

SABOTAGE is a unique mix of stylistic approaches. Not only does it contain some of the band’s heaviest moments such as the crushing “Symptom Of The Universe” which some cite as one of the first blueprints of thrash metal (another would be Queen’s “Sheer Heart Attack” the prior year) but the album also contains the bizarre “Supertzar” which while based on Iommi’s guitar riffing, employed the English Chamber Choir to ululate wordless vocalizations which eerily accompanied the heavy metal thunder. The opening “Hole In The Sky” sets an important tone of blistering heaviness that evokes the zeitgeist of earlier albums like “Paranoid” and the short acoustic guitar snippet “Don’t Start (Too Late)” which i always assumed was about taking political action was actually an inside joke that referred to tape operator David Harris who was often frustrated because they band would start playing before he was ready to begin recording. The less than a minute echoed guitar sequence reminisces of the short instrumentals on “Master Of Reality” and provides the perfect fluffer between the heavy metal bombast of “Hole In The Sky” and the soul crushing uptempo heaviness of “Symptom Of The Universe, arguably one of the band’s finest moments.

Starting with “Megalomania” the album becomes much more experimental. While heavy metal guitar riffs remain aplenty, the track which approaches the 10-minute mark displays SABBATH’s most proto-prog leanings that begins with a sinister mid-tempo slice of echoey guitar fueled paranoia that slowly morphs into a heavy metal guitar riff based powerhouse. The track not only provides the perfect canvas for Ozzy Osbourne to vent his rage and discontent but also allows his much improved vocal style to hit a new level of sophistication by exploring a wider range of octaves as well as some of the most powerfully emotive deliveries of his career. The rest of the album only builds off of the momentum. “Thrill Of It All” follows suit with another dualistic one-two punch of melodic constructs. It begins with Iommi’s guitar parts, both rhythm and lead generating a fiery metal experience that shifts into a more keyboard dominated second half which displayed the band’s much improved integration of keyboards.

After the choral metal experience of “Supertzar,” the sole single of the album “Am I Going Insane (Radio)” also proved to be one of the most hated of the band’s career right up their with “Changes” from “Vol 4.” While the “(Radio)” annex to the title insinuated an edit of some sort and the cause of much confusion, the title actually was derived from the Cockney slang term “radio-rental” which means “mental” and if like me you’re not up on your English dialects especially in the slang department it is an understandable misunderstanding. The song itself is hardly a throwaway despite its commercial appeal. By far the most accessible of the SABOTAGE track listing, it was also one of the few tracks where Ozzy wrote the lyrics, a job mostly performed by bassist Geezer Butler. While Ozzy’s lyrics usurp the guitar playing of Iommi on this one as his playing becomes subordinate, the track is quite arty in in display of heavy and soft alternate passages and Ozzy’s emotive vocal delivery and lyrical content narrated the depression that the band was in the middle of.

The biggest mindfuck of the album has to be the fact that “Am I Going Insane (Radio)” was a title of the penultimate track however it was the final track “The Writ” that actually repeated the lyrics “Am I Going Insane.” The closer wasn’t really a bona fide song of sorts but rather a melodic declaration of frustration and paranoia not experienced since the band’s earliest albums of 1970. The pop melody is the most repetitive of the album and IMHO was the ultimate statement of a band truly losing its shit before the inevitable downturn which was prolonged for an agonizing two more albums which finally resulted in Ozzy leaving the band. The track is also rather symbolic. As Ozzy repeats the lyrics like a deranged declarative chant of sorts, the album ends by sinister laughing voices mocking him as if the lawyers had the last laugh. So many ways to interpret all of this but the ambiguity of it all plus the stellar instrumental performances of SABOTAGE are what has made this one of the hardcore fan favorites. While not as immediately accessible as the first three albums, SABOTAGE was in reality the peak of SABBATH’s Ozzy-era creative prowess and for true fans where the six year party officially ended. A more careful analysis and the proper time for its magic to sink in will reveal SABBATH’s most crowning achievements made all the more remarkable by the traumatic events that surrounded it.
Conor Fynes
'Sabotage' - Black Sabbath (9/10)

Like most great bands, Black Sabbath have tweaked and changed their sound gradually, maintaining a distinctive core sound, but experimenting with the way they choose to approach it. Everything since "Master of Reality" witnessed Sabbath moving ever closer to a more mellowed, progressive sound. While I felt invigorated as a listener to hear the band transform their heavy riffs into something refined and sophisticated, I could not help but miss the grit and ugliness that made the band's first two releases so great. By the point of their fifth album "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", I could have sworn that the godfathers of heavy metal had distanced themselves from metal permanently.

Of course, a masterpiece like "Sabotage" was enough to change my mind.

I had heard alot of great things about Sabbath's sixth album before finally giving it a listen. Many fans of the band would even go as far as to tell me it was their favourite Sabbath album. Although the winning streak of excellent albums would allegedly end after this, "Sabotage" is a glorious return to the heavy metal crunch, all the way keeping their more recent prog sensibilities in mind. Although the idea of a 'return to roots' intrinsically means to take steps back and regress, the progress Black Sabbath made with sophisticated rock arrangements has not been lost. Here, the synths are subdued in exchange for a rekindled devotion to Iommi's almighty riff.

Although Ozzy Osbourne and his vocal melodies still reach for the high notes (as was the case for "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath") his vocals feel more accustomed for it. I have never considered Ozzy to be the most technically proficient vocalist, but his dynamic performance on "Sabotage" demonstrates he is capable of much more than his solo career lets on. The incredible closer and highlight "The Writ" has his vocals fit whatever mold the music warrants. The song is first filled with some classic Iommi riffage, and Osbourne's performance matches it with an intense, belting voice. Keeping in line with their progressive side however, the song then breaks into a soft, unsettling moment where Ozzy sounds almost like some of Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters' more psychotic moments on "The Wall".

"Hole In The Sky", "Symptom of the Universe" and "Thrill of it All" are all powerful, rock-oriented songs driven by Iommi's thick riff mastery. At ten minutes long, "Megalomania" is a step above most hard rock in terms of its sophistication, fitting in crunchy guitars with piano and eerie soft spots. Although less than a minute long, "Don't Start (Too Late)" is an ample demonstration of Tony Iommi's skill with acoustic guitars, a haunting piece that sounds like a rendition of something Igor Stravinsky would do. "Am I Going Insane" is the obvious choice for a radio single here, despite being led with prog-canon moogs. Ozzy's vocals are schizoid and quirky, making it one of the catchiest tracks in Sabbath's discography.

Geezer Butler once said that "Sabotage" was so titled because the band felt that they as a band were being sabotaged by other people 'ripping them off'. Perhaps this concept may be seen as a heavy metal equivalent to Floyd's cynical dissection of the music industry in "Wish You Were Here". Although it's well-known that Black Sabbath weren't getting along too well at this point, "Sabotage" is among Sabbath's best work, perhaps rivaled only with "Paranoid" as their crowning statement. It's unfortunate that things would go downhill from here for the godfathers of metal, but I can't think of a better way for Black Sabbath to wrap up their classic era.
Warthur
An awkward, transitional album from Sabbath, with the prog-metal tendencies of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath competing with two conflicting visions of the band's future. Songs such as the pounding, energetic opener Hole In the Sky or the upbeat, almost funky The Thrill of It All showcase Sabbath as an accessible, down to earth heavy rock band. Conversely, compositions like Megalomania and the closing couplet of Am I Going Insane (Radio) and The Writ find the band becoming increasingly submerged in experimentalism and studio wizardry.

In particular, Am I Going Insane lacks lead guitar entirely and substitutes in keyboard riffs, an experiment unheard-of for Sabbath at the time, whilst The Writ alternates pounding, heavier sections with synthesiser-laden acoustic segments. All the ingredients which would come together in the critically-derided Technical Ecstasy are laid out here for all to see - the increasing abandonment of the doomy sound the band built its reputation on, the growing love affair with studio gimmicks, and internal discord within the band as to exactly what a Black Sabbath album should sound like.

It's a good, listenable album, but it isn't much better than "good". And when you have five Sabbath albums leading up to this one which each consistently knock the ball out of the park, just "good" isn't enough. Sabbath fans will doubtless sooner or later find this one in their collections, but I suspect most will find it gets much less rotation than the band's first five classic albums - or their celebrated early 1980s material with Dio.
bonnek
After the big ambitions of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Sabbath found a new balance between experimental tendencies and their capital strength, writing heavy metal material. This is a far more accomplished album then Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. It even sounds spectacular!

Really, Hole In The Sky and Symptom of the Universe are amazing metal songs. Ozzy has adapted a more hoarse delivery and puts in an amazing performance, lots better then his winy snarl on the two preceding albums. Megalomania must be one of Sabbath’s longest tracks and they accomplish the mission very well. Also The Thrill of it All is superb, driven by a great riff and Ozzy doing an actual vocal melody instead of just singing along with the riff. Even the chord change halfway through is successful and gives the song a very uplifting mood. Huh? Sabbath, uplifting?

Supertzar is a slightly experimental track and Am I going Insane a surprisingly psychedelic track, as if Syd Barrett dropped in during the recordings sessions. It’s an unusual track for Sabbath and I used to hate it fervently, but actually the happy bouncy music gives a nice twist to the morbid subject material. Sabbath? Humorous?

The closing track The Writ is another winner. Real dirty blues with Ozzy still in fine form. I also like the watery bass guitar effect on the quiet parts. Even the melodrama in the second half is most convincing.

I wouldn’t recommend this album as your Sabbath starting point, but if you're looking to complete your Ozzy-fronted Sabbath catalogue then this one is right behind the first 3 albums
Pekka
For some reason Sabotage is often omitted from the list of the classic Ozzy era Sabbath albums. Whatever that reason may be, I have no idea, since this album is very much up to and above the par set by the five previous albums.

Hole in the Sky has perhaps my favourite Ozzy vocal track ever, the power of his delivery surpassing most of everything I've ever heard him do. Along with the crushing Symptom of the Universe, preceded by a short instrumental in the vein of Embryo and Orchid, they start the album with a fabulous bang, Sabbath at their fiercest best, though the latter also includes a laid-back, almost flamenco-like section with lots of layering acoustic guitars and percussion. Megalomania further illustrated the band's versatility and the growing prog influences, with vocal effects, keyboards, epic form and tempo changes. Wonderful track as well.

As was the case with their previous near-masterpiece Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, the second side of the album is a bit of a let down after the brilliant first. In the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath biography book by Joel McIver one of the bandmembers, the indentity of whom I've forgotten, confessed that he had lost all recollections of a track called The Thrill of It All, but I say he should give it a listen again, as it's a very good, if a tad shapeless piece combining some slow power chord rocking, a rather gorgeous piano-flavored midsection and an uptempo finale with synth melodies. The dark instrumental Supertzar continues the experimentalism with heavy choirs, pizzicato strings and, if I'm not mistaken, a glockenspiel accompanying the riffing Tony Iommi. Am I Going Insane (Radio) is the least effective track of the album, even though it does convey well the feeling expressed in the title. Not least in the disturbing laughter outro. Ozzy returns to his angry self on The Writ, another album highlight, apparently addressing the band's management problems.

Six great albums in just as many years, while keeping a tight touring and drug taking schedule. It would start taking its toll soon, but up to this point the band was untouchable. Another classic from the original Sabbath.
Time Signature
Metallomania...

Genre: hard rock / heavy metal

Ignoring the dates and silly cover, "Sabotage" is another great Black Sabbath classic, containing a number of classics. And, as with virtually all other early Sabbath albums, there are inklings of things to come in the world of metal on this one.

For instance, "Hole in the Sky" with its groovy blues scale based riff is a sort of precursor of the type of groove metal, and later sludge metal, that was popularized in the 90s by many thrash metal bands who tried to update their sound - "Force of Habit"-era Exodus, "I Hear Black"-era Overkill, and "Independent"-era Sacred Reich, for instance, that latter of which contains a song called "Crawling" that is very close to "Hole in the Sky".

Likewise, "Symptom of the Universe" (ignoring the nice acoustic bridge) is a type of precursor of thrash metal with its dark chucking main riff.

Other notable tracks are the dark, yet cinematically epic, "Supertzar" whose choir arrangement has a certain power metal sensibility to it, the heavier "Megalomania", and "Thrill of it All" with its catchy pre-80s metal main riff.

"Sabotage" belongs in any metal collection.

Members reviews

SouthSideoftheSky
Megalomania

I have been a major fan of Black Sabbath for a major part of my life. Sabotage is in my opinion one of Black Sabbath's very best albums. Indeed, together with Master Of Reality and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, it ranks as one of my favourite albums of all time by any band. Sabotage represents for me the very peak of Black Sabbath's progressive Heavy Metal era. It is a million miles more elaborated and adventurous than Paranoid or Vol. 4. You can really tell that they worked on this album longer than any of the other albums they did in the 70's. This is easily the most progressive Black Sabbath album.

The album opens with Hole In The Sky with a typical Iommi guitar riff, this song is then interrupted by the hyperactive acoustic guitar piece Don't Start (Too Late) and this, in turn, leads directly into Symptom Of The Universe. This song features one of Iommi's best and most memorable riffs and the drumming is frenzied here. Towards the end of this song it changes radically and a funky, acoustic part is introduced with something of a 'hippie' feel to it. I don't understand why they don't play that part of the song live, it is brilliant!

Megalomania is another great piece of music with many great tempo, and mood changes throughout its almost ten minutes running time. When you hear the beginning of this track you couldn't really imagine were it is going to end up! Sabbath once again offers great surprises.

The Thrill Of It All starts in typical Black Sabbath fashion and the beginning sounds like something from Vol. 4, a bit bluesy and not very fast paced. Then it suddenly changes into a heavy riff and the vocal melody enters. A bit further into the track it changes again, it slows down, piano and discrete synthesisers enter and the vocal melody becomes more bluesy and funky until the first part comes back. Brilliant stuff!

Supertzar is a symphonic Metal instrumental with a choir and heavy riffing to marching drums. Amazing!

Am I Going Insane (Radio) is a very good song dominated by vocals and driven by synthesizers and guitar chords, no heavy riffs in this one. This song ends with insane laughs that segue into the last track, The Writ. This is another fantastic piece of over eight minutes similar to Megalomania. There are several different riffs and melodies in this one, with slower parts among the heavier parts. Overall, the tempo is a bit slower than in the other tracks. At the very end of this track there is a very short song called Blow On A Jug which was recorded at a very low volume. If you turn the volume up loud enough you can hear it, but you really shouldn't because it adds nothing to the album.

If you don't own this classic album you should get it now. I'm in awe every time I hear this gem. It is essential listening for anyone with an interest in Heavy and/or progressive music.

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