You can only trust yourself and the first six Black Sabbath albums, the voices say. "Sabotage" is the sixth of them, released on July 28th, 1975.
The music diversity that started on "Vol. 4" (1972) and reached unique artistic heights on "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" (1973), sounds different on "Sabotage". But mentally, psychologically and business wise, "Sabotage" is the ultimate title for Black Sabbath during 1975. Music had its natural outgrowth but everything is sabotaged for them.
If there is one thing that no one can blame Black Sabbath of, it is the fact that they always composed and played the music they felt right in order to satisfy themselves. At least for their great albums. That's why they are great. But "Sabotage", despite its greatness, it is also distracted and confused and the paradox is that everything worked in favor of the artistic creation and the music. It was an angry album, it was experimental, a difficult album to make and there are parts that are also difficult to catch or seem out of order but in the end, "Sabotage" is one of those great album of the mid '70s when music was still evolving and changing. The writ was delivered.
Black Sabbath started from underground and became mainstream in just 2 years. Tony, Ozzy, Geezer and Bill, cared only for music and everything else was laid in the hands of their managers and record labels. How could they know that they would change the face of music in just a couple of years? How could they know what to do in the business part? How could they tour worldwide and record 5 albums between 1970-1973, if they also had business plans to take care of? Leaving aside the fact that probably they would screw everything on that part those years. But times change and in 1975, just few bands on the heavy side of rock could face Black Sabbath, their popularity, their concerts and their albums. There was lot of money in some bank accounts and the band members didn't have any access and didn't even know any numbers. Managers fired, managers changed, lawsuits followed, they were ripped off and money was taken away from them. Even lawyers and writs were between them during the recordings of "Sabotage". Literally. So that was the best title for this album. They were sabotaged. Even the album cover was sabotaged and wasn't even meant to be, since it was supposed to be a test photo shoot with random clothing (most of them not even theirs) and not the final cover.
By the way, after parting ways with manager Jim Simpson and later with Patrick Meehan, Black Sabbath tried managing themselves for a short while but later they signed up with Don Arden, father of Sharon Arden, that later became Sharon Osbourne...
"Sabotage" is a very special album. Tony Iommi had in mind something more of a basic rock album but the "basic rock" idea didn't really happened because despite being the main composer and riff-lord, Black Sabbath is also four different personalities, and it turned out as a diverse record without any logical flow. There is hard rock, heavy metal, progressive, crushing riffs, acoustic layers, piano, synths, a choir and the "usual" lyrical themes, everything blended in anger and mental instability. But that's the magic of "Sabotage".
Starting with a song like "Hole in the Sky", you know from the beginning that this is going to be a very special journey and Ozzy's vocal melody on the opening song is equal to the memorable great riff of Tony Iommi. "The food of love became the greed of our time, but now we're living on the profits of crime".
In the recent issue # 311 of Metal Hammer UK, "Symptom of the Universe" was voted as the greatest riff of all times. I can't tell if it is the greatest riff of all times, but for sure, if you will make a list with the 100 greatest riffs ever, at least 20 of them must come by the Great Lefty. And all of them in the first 50 positions. "Symptom of the Universe" is ahead of its time and a very influential song. Perhaps it is one of those few tracks that inspired thrash metal during early '80s, since it is largely mentioned by many extreme metal musicians. It is definitely one of the most iconic heavy metal songs of the '70s and besides THE riff and Ozzy's aggresive performance, another highlight is Bill Ward's drum fills. "Take my hand my child of love come step inside my tears, swim the magic ocean I've been crying all those years".
"Megalomania" is a progressive statement on delusions, obsession and paranoia. In the end, happiness comes from the depths of sorrow. Ozzy is overdubbed and sounds like he is singing along with the voices in his mind. Lyrically, Geezer Butler probably sums up the mental status of Black Sabbath after few years of unstoppable touring, five groundbreaking records, extreme drug and alcohol abuses, burnout and their social distortion. "How could this poison be the dream of my soul. How did my fantasies take complete control".
"Thrill of it All" is dominated with riffs and massive guitar themes by Iommi and there is a special arrangment with a beautiful middle part. Ozzy's vocals sound very melodic and this performance is a hint for his early solo career in 1980-1981. "If my songs become my freedom and my freedom turns to gold, then I'll ask the final question if the answer could be sold".
"Supertzar" works in a mysterious way. It could be a great cinematic theme but sounds out of order in the album or somehow "unfinished", like Iommi had something bigger in his mind and just didn't complete it. However, it gives an extra credit in the album's weirdness and diversity. For years it was used as a recorded intro in Black Sabbath shows and there is a funny story where Ozzy entered the studio while the choir was there and when he saw all those people, he walked out because he thought he was in the wrong studio.
"Am I Going Insane (Radio)" is one of the few Sabbath songs completely written by Ozzy and its lyrics represent his state of mind. "So I'm telling all you people, listen while I sing again. If I don't sound very cheerful, I think that I am a schizophrene". Ozzy asks people if he is going insane, but he actually already knows the answer. And there might be multiple answers, from various voices. "Sabotage" is definitely the most Ozzy-driven Sabbath album. His aura is everywhere.
However, Ozzy's lyrics on "The Writ" are straight to the point, bring you back to reality and are totally different from Butler's lyrics, that was the main lyricist of the band. "The Writ" is against managers and record labels and that's the best way to close this record, with one of the most underrated Sabbath songs. "What kind of people do you think we are? Another joker who's a rock n' roll star for you, just for you".
Some copies of "Sabotage" included at the end of "The Writ" a half-minute outro joke song called "Blow on a Jug", performed by Ozzy Osbourne and Bill Ward.
There is a rumor that "Am I Going Insane (Radio)" was written by Ozzy for a solo album and actually it really fits next to another similar composition he wrote on synthesizer ("Who Are You?" from "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath"), so the rumor might be true, if we will add to this the fact that he wanted Black Sabbath to stay heavy as they were on "Master of Reality" and that was one of his differences with Iommi those years and the change of Sabbath's style.
"Sabotage" is strange and beautiful. "Sabotage" is a great Sabbath album. "Sabotage" is a great '70s album. Black Sabbath were sabotaged. But from that point and until the end of the '70s, they also sabotaged themselves and their music.
1.Hole in the Sky, 2.Don't Start (Too Late), 3.Symptom of the Universe, 4.Megalomania, 5.Thrill of it All, 6. Supertzar, 7.Am I Going Insane (Radio), 8.The Writ
Ozzy Osbourne (lead vocals), Tony Iommi (guitars, piano, syntesizer, harp), Geezer Butler (bass), Bill Ward (drums, percussion)
Produced by Black Sabbath with Mike Butcher.
Originally released by NEMS Records in UK and Warner Bros in the United States.