By 1975 Sabbath were a little burned out. And you can hear it on the album they recorded, with it’s experimentation and out-of-character choice of some instruments. Its release revitalized the band for a couple more years, but now, this album seems to have fallen by the wayside, with the End Tour only featuring only the riff of the title track in its setlist. But is that due to necessity or choice? Let’s find out by looking at the album closer.
The album opens to the gritty guitar tone and stellar riffing of Tony Iommi, as you would likely expect. The title track is the song, and it’s one of the only songs off the album to get much live play post-1998. It’s easy to hear why, being textbook Sabbath awesomeness. But it also shows an exemplary melding of acoustic parts with electric parts. Sabbath were experimenting with this at the time, and unlike some of the other songs on the album, they really nail it here. “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” gives way to perhaps the most underrated riff in the Sabbath catalogue (at least of the Ozzy era). This riff belongs to the song “A National Acrobat”, which is again incredibly underrated. The riff is an amazing piece of guitar work that just worms it’s way into your head, only getting better when the second guitar kicks in. The vocal melody is really good too. Anyone who thinks Ozzy just sang along with the riff has a lot to learn, and should probably listen to something other than Iron Man. But “A National Acrobat” is flawed in perhaps one of the most non-Sabbath ways. Most Sabbath songs feature two to three different riffs (eg- “Into The Void”, “Electric Funeral” and “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” itself), maximizing bang for buck. “A National Acrobat” does this, and that’s the problem, because the other riffs don’t match up to the first at all. Furthermore, unlike the previous songs mentioned, “A National Acrobat” doesn’t return to the original riff. Regardless, “A National Acrobat” isn’t a bad song, but I don’t ever really listen to it past the two and a half minute mark.
“Fluff” is next. Four minutes of pedestrian acoustic strumming, I could have easily done without this one. It brings everything to a halt, and is too repetitive. Maybe if it was shorter it would make for a nice intro to a song, a la some of their tracks on earlier albums. Thankfully the next song, “Sabra Cadabra” restores things proper. It’s an energetic song that manages to also incorporate piano and synthesizer without compromising the Sabbath sound. It was one of the first Sabbath songs I heard, but I don’t think it’s just the nostalgia talking when I say that it’s a great song. Greatness continues on the next song, with its rolling riff. “Killing Yourself to Live” features the aforementioned riff, with some neat effects to accentuate it to boot, along with another great vocal melody. 1975 was probably the peak of Sabbath’s writing quality. However this is where the truly great songs end. With three songs to go, enjoyment does take a dive. The first of the trio, “Who Are You” is probably the worst song on the album. It has a weird riff, with weird effects, and just is a bit too slow. The next song does improve on this a bit though. “Looking For Today” is not the type of song that I’d put on to listen to on it’s own, but with it’s excellent meld of soft and heavy it definitely gets enjoyed on the album itself. Lastly there is “Spiral Architect”. “Spiral Architect” is pretty good, but it is eclipsed by some off the other songs on the album. It dies make for a nice uptempo way to finish the album, and ironically, the most interesting part of it is the most non-Sabbath part; the strings. They make for a great listen in the background of the song there. I do like string, as you shall find out better in a few weeks.
As for the answer to the above question about it’s disappearance from live shows, the answer is a bit of both. Ozzy’s simply unable to sing the best songs off this album, which is a shame. The album itself is a good listen, but only half the songs I’d feel the urge to seek out and listen to on their own. At least the others aren’t bad, most of the time.
The verdict- 3.75/5