This is possibly the most under-rated of all Sabbath albums. It was made at a painful time for the band, Ozzy split with the group half way through the album but came back to complete it.
The product of all this angst is a diverse album unified only but the distinctively metallic sound of Iommi’s guitar (you’ll have to listen to the album to see what I mean). Sabbath still rocked, with tracks like Never Say Die, Johnny Blade and Shock Wave about as full-on any in the early catalogue. Running alongside this are what can best be described as metal fusion (only about 14 years before the then-ground breaking Images and Words, by Dream Theater.) There are some amazing funk bass riffs in Junior’s Eyes; some blues influence in Swinging the Chain; progressive leanings in Hard Road, and some I-don’t-know-what big band experimentation in the aptly named Breakout. All this with no perceptible depreciation in quality – in fact this is probably the most consistently good of all the early albums (I can’t really think of a dud besides Shock Wave).
My personal favourite though has to be Johnny Blade: pure 24 carat 70s hard rock. Opening with some wonderful interplay between synth, drums and guitar, it then rocks into all out metal. When you add to this some cold yet haunting lyrics from a mature song writer and a, frankly, unbettered guitar solo finale from Tony Iommi you’ve got something pretty special. It’s never off my Sabbath playlist.
This album really needs to be rediscovered by Sabbath fans.
This is the last album of the Ozzy era. Just over a year later, Sabbath would release a new album, Heaven and Hell, fronted by the diminutive (in height only) Ronnie James Dio.