Vol 4
BLACK SABBATH

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Album · 1972

Tracklist

1. Wheels Of Confusion / The Straightener (8:02)
2. Tomorrow's Dream (3:13)
3. Changes (4:45)
4. FX (1:43)
5. Supernaut (4:39)
6. Snowblind (5:34)
7. Cornucopia (3:54)
8. Laguna Sunrise (2:56)
9. St. Vitus' Dance (2:29)
10. Under The Sun / Every Day Comes And Goes (5:51)

Total Time 43:10

Line-up/Musicians

- Ozzy Osbourne / vocals
- Tony Iommi / guitars, piano, mellotron
- Geezer Butler / bass, mellotron
- Bill Ward / drums, percussion

About this release

25 September 1972
Vertigo

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

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Vol. 4Vol. 4
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BLACK SABBATH VOL 4 reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

The Crow
Vol. 4 is an album of a band going through changes (and dealing with sever drug abuse) But they managed to create another milestone for hard rock and heavy music!

This fourth effort is a bit less heavy than Master of Reality and it has a muddier and darker production. I really don't know if this dirty sound was deliberate or not, but it had a capital importance through the years. After 45 after its release, we can check that Vol. 4 and its special and distinctive sound inspired bands like Kyuss, The Obsessed, Sleep, Cathedral and many more.

The album starts with Wheel of Confusion, which contained a rather complex riff and structure if compared to previous records. It is a long song, which shows a worthy attempt to reach new levels for the band. Tomorrow's Dream confirms the dirty and sloughy sound of the album, with a typical Sabbath riff and great verses.

Changes is a weird attempt to create an intimate song, and despite not being really memorable, it has the best vocal interpretation from Ozzy. It can even sing in this song! In addition, the mellotron is pretty good. Sadly, FX is just forgettable. An experimental piece of trash that last 1'43'' too long.

Supernaut retrieves the energy with another powerful riff and a great psychedelic interlude with great drums. Snow Blind brings back the style of Master of Reality and it talks about the drug abuse that the band was suffering at this time. A classic with impressive keyboards towards the end! And Cornucopia is another hit which starts with a doom rhythm and continue with a melody with rock and roll influences but filtered with the ultra-heavy and dirty guitars from Iommi.

Laguna Sunrise is a beautiful surprise, because it demonstrates that this band was able to create competent orchestral arrangements and it shows a wider musical range. The good keyboard work of this song and others from this album give a good advance of what the band would do in Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.

St. Vitus Dance is maybe not so memorable, but it is a short and funny track, which mixes wisely heavy riffs with blues-rock influences. Moreover, Under the Sun / Every Day Comes and Goes is another classic from this album. The energetic and powerful ending that this album deserves.

Conclusion: Vol. 4 is one of my Sabbath's favorites. It is not so groundbreaking as the first two albums and not so damn good as Master of Reality, but apart from FX it's almost a flawless album, which shows a band succeeding in their attempt to expand their sound with keyboards and orchestral arrangements. In addition, it has a dirty and muddy production, which professed a capital influenced through the years, especially for Stoner Metal bands.

However, if you are searching the more Heavy Metal side of Black Sabbath, I recommend you to start with albums like Sabbath Bloody Sabbath or Heaven and Hell.

My rating: ****

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com
voila_la_scorie
"Volume 4" was the second Black Sabbath album to join my cassette collection, back in 1983, and it happened as a matter of economy. I was 12, had recently become hooked on heavy metal, and had only a weekly paper route supplying me with $25 a month, most of which my mother insisted I save in a bank account. Cassettes in those days were on average $8.99, and "Volume 4" was priced at only $6.99. My first Black Sabbath album was "Mob Rules" and so for me this album had a very different sound to it, especially in the vocals (chronologically speaking, it should be the other way around). I was used to Ronnie Dio singing and had only heard from a friend that Ozzy had started the band, which I took to mean that he had gotten the guys together and said, "You guys will make a great band". I was 12, remember.

This album was a big step for Black Sabbath. They had been making each album heavier than the last and now found themselves at a very important point in popular music history. The heavy guitar sound that grew into popularity in 69/70 was starting to undergo a transformation. Many bands were going more commercial, or more funky, or more in a roots rock direction and meanwhile hard rock was really coming to the fore. Still others were catching the prog wave as progressive rock had reached its zenith. Black Sabbath approached their fourth album with new directions in mind. Though the signature heavy riffs were in place for songs like "Wheels of Confusion" and "Under the Sun", there were other ideas that made it to the vinyl. Ozzy had a piano ballad with Mellotron (or were they real strings?), Iommi had a classical guitar instrumental piece with strings, too. In fact, no fewer than three tracks include strings or Mellotron. Then there was the effects piece called simply and aptly "FX". On another personal note, "Born Again" was my third Black Sabbath album, so with "FX", "E5150" and "Stonehenge" I was under the impression that every Sabbath album had such a track. "Supernaut" features a (is that calypso?) percussion solo, and "St. Vitus' Dance" sounds like country metal. Those last two songs are also danceable, unlike the serious tones of "Snowblind", a song about cocaine.

The cocaine factor played a heavy role in the making of the album. The band had gone off to California and landed in a veritable river of the stuff. They had it delivered by the soapbox according to one member in an old interview, and Iommi once reflected that the band just lied around crashed out and waiting for Iommi to get them motivated with a musical idea. It's hard to imagine these accomplished and talented musicians lying about like junkies trying to find a new way to butter toast, but the resulting music shows that the band was very willing to move into new territory. Many of the tracks feature songs or instrumental sections within songs. After the first or second chorus, a new riff, rhythm, and melody will come in before going back to the original musical theme of the song. Bill Ward's drumming still had its jazz roots showing through in places, but he also contributed some trickier, non-standard beats and maintained his usual fills.

What makes this album so interesting for me is mostly the slightly more complex song structuring and variations in a single track. "Under the Sun" is heavy and ponderous at first but the middle section called "Every Day Comes and Goes" is a hurried song with some short and speedy drum solos to connect the gaps in the rest of the music. I've always loved "Wheels of Confusion" with its mellow rock introduction and slow simple riff which then gives way to a slightly spacey instrumental section that leads to a very heavy riff, a frantically busy part that then drops back to the simple heavy riff again. The song wraps up with an instrumental entitled "The Straightener", which has a nice melody accompanied by heavy riffs and a lead guitar duet thanks to overdubbing. "Tomorrow's Dream" and "Snowblind" also feature additional parts in the middle of the song.

Though this album's singles don't stand up to those from the other first five albums, I've always enjoyed "Volume 4". Perhaps the band learned from their adventures which ways were the best to pursue. I feel "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" and "Sabotage" didn't pack as much variety as "Vol. 4" though that might be a good thing for most Sabbath fans. And while I'm okay to skip "Changes" and "FX", I usually enjoy listening to the rest of the album.
Conor Fynes
'Volume Four' - Black Sabbath (7/10)

Each album that Black Sabbath released up to the point of "Volume Four" had showcased some sort of development. After all, most great bands are rarely satisfied with staying in the same place for so long, and it would be natural for these Birmingham gents to want to explore their 'heavy metal' invention in different ways. Although the diversified approach of "Master of Reality" surprised me when compared to what came before it, "Volume Four" is an even greater leap forward for the band, at least stylistically speaking. Here, the progenitors of heavy metal are embracing the progressive rock movement that was reaching its peak around 1972; if not accepting it with open arms, then at least acknowledging it with a nod and a wave. For all of the new possibilities that Sabbath open for themselves here however, I cannot help but miss the heaviness of their earlier work.

Although I do not hide my love for progressive rock, much of the reason that albums like Black Sabbath's debut and their masterpiece "Paranoid" appealed to me so much was due to Tony Iommi's mastery of the almighty riff. Not only that, but his guitar tone was heavy and thick, even by today's standards. While "Volume Four" has not entirely lost these traits, it's clear from the uncharacteristically mellowed intro to "Wheels of Confusion" that Black Sabbath are trying to do something different with their music, for better and worse. While "Volume Four" may not be as heavy as what came before, the incorporation of prog rock and American psychedelia is an exciting change of pace. The eight minute rocker "Wheels of Confusion" and beautiful mellotron-laden "Changes" are major tips of the hat to prog, which was reaching its artistic peak that year with albums like Yes' "Close To The Edge" and Genesis' "Foxtrot". Among the other unconventional pieces on the album is a listless sound experiment in "FX", and "Laguna Sunrise", an acoustic piece accompanied by full-blown string orchestration that could easily score the happy ending to a Spaghetti Western film.

"Supernaut" has Tony Iommi evoke the spirit of Jimi Hendrix with a playful central riff that ranks among the band's best. "Snowblind" is a rocking fan favourite involving the band's love of the Businessman's drug. Although the instrumentation generally feels less defined and powerful than it did on earlier albums, Ozzy Osbourne gives one of the best vocal performances of his career here, his distinctive voice complimented with a trembling vibrato and greater range than previously expressed. The result is an album that often feels more like hard rock than metal in the traditional sense. The songwriting is layered with keyboards, and tricks that the band innovated on "Master of Reality" have been developed further here. Although this is the most musically sophisticated album the band had made yet, it lacks the same atmospheric intensity I felt so profoundly with their early work. Although they have sacrificed an aspect of their sound on "Volume Four", Black Sabbath's newfound progressive outlook on their music would open a world of new possibilities for them.
The Angry Scotsman
After releasing 3 albums in a year and half, as well as extensive touring and drug use, Black Sabbath was starting to break down and this was manifested in the music.

Don't get me wrong, it's a fine album (and could've been better as I'll explain) but it sounds unfocused and just simply isn't as strong as their previous 3 albums.

The classic Sabbath sound is still present: sludgy, stoned out guitars, playing at mid tempo, but there are also some departures. The song "Changes" is an entirely piano and mellotron ballad. It's not really a bad song, but it doesn't do anything for me either. The is followed by "FX" some weird, space rock type noisy segue. I actually don't mind it, but again really doesn't do much for the album.

"Laguna Sunrise" is a warm, acoustic instrumental that is actually quite nice and does make for a good segue. I always give a band kudos for at least experimenting, even if some don't work out, but there is a larger problem with this album: the production.

It just sounds weak. The guitars are thin, the bass lacks that Sabbath punch, the drums have no power. Even Ozzy's wail is lackluster. You hear the music and that's just it...where's the bludgeoning!? This album lacks power, and the sound does detract a bit from the music. Most likely due to the fact Sabbath spent half the budget on drugs.

On top of that, the band sounds a bit uninspired. Songs like "Tomorrows Dream" and "Snowblind" are largely boring and some of the songwriting is just bland. It's not all bad though.

The opener "Wheels of Confusion" is awesome, starts with a crying bluesy guitar intro, followed by great riffing and a bit of a progressive song structure. Mellotron in the background adds some extra texture. Great song, with a really great second half complete with wild solos.

"Supernaut" is packed with more sweet riffs and solos, and a pretty cool percussion break in the middle. "Cornucopia" is a pretty good song with some nice sections but also drifts a bit at times, while "St. Vitus Dance" is a short but sweet song with a more upbeat guitar melody and feel.

This is contrasted with the finale "Under the Sun" a true doom metal dirge that does pick up at times, and with an interesting song structure, awesome song.

Volume 4 is a good album that suffers from poor production and some mundane songwriting. A more powerful sound quality really would help tons, the thin guitars especially kill. Decent album nonetheless.

Three and a Half Stars
Warthur
Just as their first two albums defined the parameters of doom metal, and Tony Iommi's downtuned guitar sound on Master of Reality yielded the seeds of sludge metal, Black Sabbath's fourth album sees them redefining heavy rock yet again. This time, though the sludge sound is still present here and there (as on Tomorrow's Dream) and there's the occasional slow, doomy section (as on Snowblind), the sound of the album is a bit more commercial. It'd be easy to mistake this as Sabbath selling out and moving to the mainstream - except at this point in time heavy metal didn't have a mainstream.

Instead, with up-tempo, feel-good songs like Tomorrow's Dream or Supernaut, Sabbath define a new, accessible style of metal which would become a touchstone of middle-of-the-road bands for years afterwards, but in 1972 came like a bolt from the blue and still stands up to its imitators even today. It's by far from perfect; in particular, the first half of the album is marred by Changes and FX. Changes is a sappy piano ballad to which the band apply amateurish mellotron in an apparent attempt to justify their presence on the Vertigo label (which was supposedly a progressive rock label rather than being a home of hard rock). Even if you set aside the horrible Kelly Osbourne rendition from a few years back, the fact is that the song stinks - the musical backing is simplistic and repetitive, the lyrics are laughable, and in general it simply isn't the sort of music you want to hear when you're listening to a Black Sabbath album. FX is even worse, a laughable stab at musique concrete clearly thrown on as filler - needlessly, since if FX and Changes had been taken off the album would have been around 37 minutes long, which at the time was a perfectly acceptable length.

It's marred by two really lousy songs, and it isn't quite as interesting or groundbreaking as the three albums that preceded it, but on balance Volume Four is another great Black Sabbath album which deserves to be in your collection if you loved what came before it. But I'd still recommend any of the previous three over this one.
bonnek
By the time of their 4th album, Sabbath were still going strong, but there were signs the band needed to settle down a while and catch a breath after continuously releasing masterpieces.

Most songs are still really good but something must have gone wrong when recording this album, certainly compared to the powerhouse that was Master of Reality.

There are some serious issues with the sound and recording quality of this album. It got better on recent reissues but generally the album suffers from a thin sound that is too crisp and sharp. The guitar doesn’t have enough body nor power, the drums sound as if recorded in a bathroom and there’s like no bass, too much cymbals and too loud vocals.

There’s also a remarkable difference in acoustics between certain songs, as if they were recorded over different sessions. Tomorrow’s Dream for example sounds perfect as if it was recorded during the Master of Reality sessions but most other tracks like Supernaut are an acoustic nightmare. Only mid frequencies here.

Well I guess I’m wasting your time. It’s an excellent collection of songs but not as essential as some of their other albums.
Pekka
Even though the band thanked the "great COKE-cola company of Los Angeles" in the album's sleeve notes, it's been said by one or more band members that around the making of Vol 4 the booze and drugs stopped being fun and inner turmoil was starting to rise.

I noted in my review of Master of Reality, that despite the versatility of the material, the album manages to convey a sense of focus. That's not the case with this album, even though the majority of songs are of the familiar kind. The reason for this is mostly in the song Changes, which with its piano and mellotron is a big departure from their previous ballads that shared the dark somber mood of the heavier numbers. Of course it's not a happy song, though the opening lines "I feel unhappy / I feel so sad" may not be the most original depiction of sorrow.

But as mentioned, apart from a useless noise bit called FX and another beautiful instrumental Laguna Sunrise, most of the album is dedicated again to the heavier pounding. Tomorrow's Dream, Supernaut and Snowblind are true classics, and Cornucopia has some of Sabbath's heaviest riffs and some tricky rhythms, but the lighter rocker St. Vitus Dance might be early Sab at their most expendable. Opening number Wheels of Confusion on the other hand is an underrated piece of work with a great instrumental section and one extraordinarily powerful riff towards the end just before Ozzy comes back to the mic.

The closer Under the Sun would benefit from better production, as the slow opening riffs are tailor made for good thundering assault, but the sound of the album is a slight step back from the previous production, guitars ringing a bit too hollow to let the heavy riffs shine like they should. Hearing the studio version of Cornucopia for the first time was a great disappointment, as I'd heard the song first as the massive live rendition found on Live at Last/Past Lives. Just like St. Vitus Dance, Under the Sun also has its share of weak riffs, but is somewhat redeemed by a great, long outro also serving as a platform for multi-tracked soloing.

A let down after two masterpieces, but nevertheless an excellent album with many classic moments.
Time Signature
Changes...

Genre: heavy rock / heavy metal / doom metal

After having been on a roll of groundbreaking records, Black Sabbath's "Vol. 4.", while still a great album, and unique, having the typical Sabbath sound and Iommi trademark riffage stamped all over it, is less engaging than the preceding albums. That does not mean that "Vol. 4." is a bad album, which contains a number of strong songs, but it also seems that the band were growing tired at this point.

There are plenty of heavy riffs as the intro and main riffs of "Wheels of Confusion", which in general contains a plethora of cool hard rocking guitar riffs, as does the stoner "Tomorrow's Dream". "Changes" is a cheesy piano-based ballad, which may have worked better with another vocalist. "Supernaut" is another stoner rock tune whose driving Iommi riffs are as headbanging-inspiring as anything, and then it contains a nice little percussion-driven bridge. "Snowblind" is a quite heavy track, but its main track ,and while it's a good song, to be sure, it doesn't quite reach the level of heavy classics like "Iron Man", "Black Sabbath", "Electric Funeral" and the like, "Cornucopia" is a very dark tune which blends doom-laden slow riffs with uptempo boogie-driven riffs, and, while it is not as well known as "Snowblind" it is a more engaging and captivating song, I think. "St. Vitus Dance" strikes me as being a bit ordinary compared to a lot of the other material on the record, while "Under The Sun / Every Day Comes And Goes" is a heavy doomy rock song, with uptempo parts, which has not been given the attention it deserves.

As with the preceding album, "Vol. 4" has an extremely dirty guitar sound which suits the heavy and dark hard rock style of Black Sabbath.

Members reviews

ProgMetaller2112
With Vol. 4, Sabbath made somewhat of a change(but a welcomed one for me).There is some piano work(Changes) on here(the likes of which was not really used previously) as well a weird guitar experiment instrumental from Tony(Fx).Of course, we still also had the rockers(Wheels of Confusion, Tomorrow's Dream, Supernaut and others).Tony really came up with some really great riffs on this(The Riff Master, enough said).These songs are as infectious as the previous ones(probably even more so in my opinion).Apparently this album(here on MMA)seems to not get enough love with its 3.95 rating(or something like that,I think personally think that this deserves a 4 star rating but that's me being picky and somewhat selfish) but I happen to think that this was probably Sabbath's best and most diverse release to this point. Yet again another Classic Sabbath album. Even though this album is not really considered to be an essential release by some people. I happen to think that this album is every bit essential as their previous albums!!!I like it very much. Highly recommended in my opinion
SouthSideoftheSky
An album somewhat lost under the wheels of confusion!

While the previous three albums had taken Black Sabbath further and further away from their Blues roots, they reverted somewhat to their earlier, more Blues-based sound with this album and injected more straightforward Hard Rock in the process. While I consider the previous Master Of Reality album a complete masterpiece, Volume Four is not more than a merely good album to my ears. Like on Paranoid the band here feel as if they do not quite know in what direction they are heading, making the end result uneven and somewhat lost under the wheels of confusion.

Too much of Wheels Of Confusion are filled up with Psychedelic style jamming instead of having a real structured arrangement. Unlike the excellent and very innovative material on Master Of Reality, Volume Four didn't really push any musical boundaries. Master Of Reality perfected the style the band had originated and was more of a pure Heavy Metal album with many progressive aspects, Volume Four is more of bluesy Hard Rock album with no real direction. Tomorrow's Dream, Supernaut, Snowblind and Corncopia are all good, but it sounds like they are going through the motions on these tracks. The only slightly interesting thing here is the percussion solo on Supernaut, but even this pales in comparison with the interesting an atmospheric percussion on Children Of the Grave. Snowblind is a bit better with a few more tempo changes and more riffs, but again it is not up to par with anything from Master Of Reality or the first two albums for that matter.

Changes is a nice piano and vocal based ballad with lots of Mellotron! This is actually one of the better tracks here, in my opinion. Partly because it was different from anything they had done before. FX is a pretty pointless experimentation with sound that would fit better on a Pink Floyd album. Laguna Sunrise is an acoustic guitar piece whose very presence offers a breath of freshness. However, it is perhaps too long repetitive to be really great. The brilliance of the guitar instrumentals on Master Of Reality consisted partly in that they were so short, creating a strong sense of urgency.

St. Vitus Dance is more of a Rock 'N' Roll song. Under The Sun features really inspired tempo changes and an ultra heavy riff. Easily my favourite track on this album.

This album is not the best place to start with Black Sabbath. Thankfully, the band would once again get back on track and create a couple of masterpieces in Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage.

Volume Four is good, but not really essential for all Metal collections.

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