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Symptoms the Rock N Roll Dr couldn't cure
on 16 February 2011
The 'difficult' 6th album. Iommi's remit seemed to be one of change or die, which was glimpsed in their previous release, where as sustainable and consistent may have worked better. In fact that was the way it seemed from the beginning of the album as the first 3 tracks are stunning material. However the quality dips when the experimental epics are brought out.
'Hole in the Sky' is a classic throwback to Paranoid and is a great rock tune in anyone's book. It revolves around a great, rusty riff that rumbles on and on and will probably get stuck in your brain forever. 'Don't Start' is a 40 second acoustic finger-picking segway that is unobtrusive and quite lovely. And then the monster that is 'Symptom of the Universe' erupts with a dirty, foreboding, evil riff that spawned a million thrash tracks. It chugs along with wicked aplomb for 3 or 4 minutes and then turns into an almost calypso-esque track with a nice little bit of acoustic strumming. A winner and probably the best thing they wrote until Never Say Die. 'Megalomania' is 8 plus minutes long and feels like it. It is basically 2 tracks segued together and works pretty well but it is not something you'll want to revisit as, even after many listens, it remains a good track at best. It is quite slow and , dare I say, dirgey.
'The Thrill of it All' is another oddity. It's not bad as such, just not very interesting and, again, quite slow and lumpen but not in the good, old Sabbath way. 'Supertzar' however is a storming track. It's completely instrumental and has a driving riff and rhythm accompanied by a phenomenal choir. It's almost as astonishing as good classical music and stands as one of my favourite tracks, albeit in a very different way from 'Symptoms...' 'Am I Going Insane' is ok. It sounds like a single and has a nice little chorus. It's a precursor to a lot of the tracks from Never Say Die as it's quite upbeat and catchy, but not perfect (although Never Say Die is a far better album in its entirety than Sabotage). 'The Writ' tries the long, progressive thing a la 'Megolamania' and pulls it off slightly better. The tune is more recognisable and there is a natural progression between the ostensible 2 tracks that exist here. It is good. Just not great.
Worth buying for the 4 excellent tracks. But it marked the beginning of the backlash and rightly so as, while experimentation is commendable, of late bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica and to some extent Magnum, have all proved that if it aint broke don't fix it by producing some of their best material to date (debatably, granted). It took Sabbath up until now to come to the same conclusion with the excellent Heaven and Hell collaboration. Now it'd just be nice for them to get their proper name back from Ozzy, find a singer and get back to it. (edit 2011 - looks like they not only got their name back from Ozzy but Ozzy as well! Roll on 2012 and album 19).