Analog Adventures: Sabotage
About the Artist
Black Sabbath is the prototypical heavy metal band. Formerly known as the Polka Tulk Blues Band and Earth, the band later settled on Black Sabbath. In order to become the band that we know today, many things had to line up perfectly. Perhaps the most significant event is guitarist Tony Iommi’s accident. This accident left him with out the tips of his middle and ring fingers on his fretting hands, dramatically changing his playing style. He down tuned his guitar and used a lighter string gauge which gave his playing style a distinctly ‘heavy’ sound. The rest of the original lineup – Geezer Butler, Bill Ward, and Ozzy Osbourne – came together and became one of the most influential bands in Western music history.
Their eponymous debut album rattled the music world with its occult inspired themes and use of flatted fifths. Known as the Devil’s Chord, Black Sabbath faced backlash from more conservative groups that accused them of corrupting the youth. Their subsequent albums faced similar scrutiny, Paranoid is an anti-war milestone with the timeless protest song War Pigs, and cover band classics Paranoid and Iron Man. Black Sabbath took the world by storm.
The Record Itself
Sabotage has Black Sabbath experimenting with their established sound. That’s not to say that their trademark blues inspired heavy metal sound is not present, but is expanded upon. Studio tricks have always been present on Black Sabbath records, notably through pitch shifting vocals and multilayered guitar tracks. Sabotage sees the studio being used to edit songs such as Hole in the Sky to end abruptly. Supertzar employs a full choir to accompany Iommi’s sinister guitar playing. The use of the choir helps push the band beyond a standard heavy metal act and into an artistic realm all their own.
Other songs such as Symptom of the Universe effortlessly transition from an early form of thrash metal into a jazzy acoustic guitar jam. According to many, Symptom of the Universe is the first thrash metal song. This is due to its palm muted guitar chugging, aggressive drumming, and fast tempo which are the cornerstones of thrash metal acts like Megadeth and Exodus.
The back cover of the record.
The album cover employs clever editing to give the infamous double mirror cover its illusion. The band notoriously hates this cover, believing it was rushed. The simple cardboard jacket houses a standard 140 gram record that does not feel flimsy despite its light weight. This edition is an original United States pressing and includes a mail order catalog on the sleeve for other Warner Brothers acts. This is amusing and gives a good glimpse of the music landscape of the time.
Is It Worth It?
While not their most popular record, Sabotage is perhaps their most influential record. More aggressive playing and editing elevate the band past their contemporaries, establishing Black Sabbath as the premier heavy metal act of the decade. This record is well worth the modest asking prices, ranging anywhere between $5-$30 for used copies. Being that this is a Black Sabbath record, this record is available anywhere. This is an essential addition to any record collection.
- Symptom of the Universe