Three-quarters (3/4) of Black Sabbath have reunited for a new album -- 13 -- that's already been their first #1 album in the U.S. Proving if you stick around long enough, everyone will claim they were always a fan!
But in the early 1970s, there weren't as many people claiming to enjoy this fascinatingly monotonous thud of single-minded intensity. No, most critics were allergic to them and the band's fans were often considered the dull end of the knife. Yet, slowly, over the years, each generation dug them more than the previous one and new bands were inspired by the Sabbath sound and legacy. (Though I'm inclined to think it took much longer for pure-Sabbath-inspired bands to appear. Judas Priest were closer to the prototype for most metal bands of the 1970s-1980s.)
These days, you can always check out Brooklyn's NAAM if you'd like a shot at modern Sabbath in use -- or you can always head back for the real thing.
Let's rate those Sabbath albums!
10) 13: I'm giving this one the '10 spot' for being the newest one. I can't quite make a judgment on it. A listen to "Damaged Soul" says this version of the band has staying power and that Rick Rubin is on the right track. The ridiculously loud and slammed mastering job ensures the album is nearly impossible to listen to all the way through without needing to give your ears a break. There's that and some of the songs aren't so hot.
9) Mob Rules: More cracks in the Sabbath armor. Vinny Appice takes over for Bill Ward. Ronnie James Dio tries to strike gold or to discover it twice and settles for half a great album. Which would be considerably better than anything the group would do for the next 32 years.
8) Technical Ecstasy: Once Sabbath made a conscious attempt to move away from the satanic stuff, they lost the iconic imagery and ended up sounding a bit like a confused prog-rock band who lacked the chops to do something pompous and overblown and had to settle for letting the drummer sing a piano ballad on "It's Alright." Don't laugh. It worked for KISS.
7) Heaven and Hell: Ozzy was gone. Bill Ward would be next to leave. Ronnie James Dio steps in and writes an album with the new boys and they sound refreshed. At the time, it was heresy to even suggest you might like a Sabbath album without Ozzy and therefore most metal dudes switched allegiances to Ozzy and his "Blizzard of Ozz" for their next two records, before everything went to hell, musically speaking, for everyone involved.
6) Vol. 4: This album's gone on to become a classic, with modern bands covering many of the songs included herein. Nearly every song captures that deathly Sabbath vibe where it sounds like the songs weren't recorded until well past midnight. The ballad "Changes" is what happens when someone sits at a piano when the sessions have been going on too long. Better to stick with "Supernaut" and "Snowblind" where the riffs flow like champagne.
5) Sabbath Bloody Sabbath: Where Vol. 4 had remained tethered to the original Sabbath attack, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath threw in a few keyboards, even Moog work from Yes' Rick Wakeman and an orchestra conducted by Will Malone, who has provided orchestras to rock stars when asked politely.
4) Sabotage: Some might say I'm overrating this one. But I think if one comes to this album with open ears, it becomes quickly apparent that the fellas wrote some songs here! "Hole In the Sky," "Symptom of the Universe" and "Am I Going Insane (Radio)" are among the heavier tunes that stick to their hooks, while "Megalomania" at nearly ten minutes and "The Writ" at almost nine show you Sabbath are better than anyone at padding an album with guitars.
3) Paranoid: You could call this a three-way-tie for first, as far as I'm concerned (and it's my list, so I qualify as concerned). It's impossible for me to tear these three albums from one another. They sound as if they belong together and were separated at birth. Maybe not every Sabbath fan knows "Planet Caravan" or "Rat Salad," but find me a person who doesn't know "War Pigs," "Paranoid" and "Iron Man" and I'll find you someone who was home-schooled by jerks!
2) Black Sabbath: The first album has a formless quality that gives it a slight edge here. "Black Sabbath," the song, sums up the group in one six-minute slo-mo beater. "Wasp - Behind the Wall of Sleep - Bassically - N.I.B." -- forms a ten-minute block that makes even a bass solo sound palatable. The Aynsley Dunbar cover "Warning" stretched over the second side was again superior filler. Imagine what might have happened if they'd been given a second day to record this.
1) Master of Reality: Here we are. At the end of this three-way-tie for first. Maybe I give this one the final nod since it's the one that most obviously influenced stoner rock and doom metal and all kinds of dubious sub-genres. Or maybe it's because most pressings of the album claim there are only eight songs on the entire album and two of those are brief instrumentals, bringing the entire workload to six full-band tunes. More bands should be influenced by that!