It’s pretty much impossible for me to pick my favorite Black Sabbath album. They all have affected me in some way, and unlike many bands, I don’t necessarily prefer one album over the other — each one is a trip. From Black Sabbath to The End, the band has created albums so striking, they demand to be listened to in one sitting. Every song needs the one before it, and the story is not compete until the album ends. Their music is theatrical and full of feelings, making Black Sabbath one of the only bands that exemplify perfection for me.
Even though I can’t confidently say Vol. 4 is my favorite album, it was the first piece of Black Sabbath vinyl I ever purchased, which makes very special it to me. Released in 1972, the album exhibits a tonality far ahead of its time. It doesn’t sound like seventies happy-go-lucky rock and roll, yet it still has an overall effect that is freeing. It speaks to the outcasts of the generation, not the masses — resonating with those who are hurting and feeling lost. As Sabbath’s fourth studio album, the heaviness was expected, but this time through, it feels more alive. Mainly because its lyrics are far more expressive.
Vol. 4 speaks to the outcasts of the generation, not the masses — resonating with those who are hurting and feeling lost.
When I bought Vol. 4 four years ago, I had no idea how much I would need it today. At this point in my life, I’m transitioning through Changes it seems only Geezer Butler could understand. The messages boldly presented within Vol. 4 are especially raw and upfront. The same topics reprise song after song, and are never completely lost, even as the album comes to a close. Sometimes I feel alone in my thoughts and feelings, but it’s really nice to know the members of Black Sabbath were dealing with similar issues at that point of their lives.
Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Bulter, Tony Iommi and Bill Ward have all felt like me. They wrote songs and created albums collectively — for a reason. They made their music for themselves and their fans. As a comfort, they’ve excelled in expressing a supportive theme within their lyrics. We all cope with things differently, and every situation requires a different healing process. Everyone, at some time in their lives, feels like they want to disappear. Black Sabbath has related to that, but supersized it into a necessity for personal growth. The song Supernaut makes you want to escape, rather than disappear. It encourages a healthy liberation, in a rockin’ way.
My favorite part about Vol. 4 are the transitions between songs. The intensity of a song like Cornucopia, which speaks about feelings of confusion and being misunderstood, ends by fading into a beautiful lyric-less song that mimics a California sunrise. The uneven flow really takes you away and puts you in this place; a mindset of self-evaluation that’s offset by moments of pure bliss — strategically brought on by placing songs like Laguna Sunrise smack dab in the middle of a rock-filled tirade. The album transitions song to song fluidly, especially when it spins on a record player.
Throughout their entire career, Black Sabbath gave zero f*cks. They said what they wanted to say, when they wanted to say it. Tomorrow’s Dream is the ultimate moving on song. We’ve all been through an emotionally draining relationship, whether it has been with a former love, job or even with ourselves. I’ve come to learn that if someone doesn’t want to put in the time or effort to love me for who I am, mistakes and all, they are not worth my time. Sometimes you just have to sing out the lyric from this song: ‘I realize I’m much better without you’ at the top of your lungs to finally believe it.
As you can see, I am very obsessed with the lyrics that comprise the songs on Vol. 4. They detail moments of extreme sadness and despair, then turn them into hopeful realizations. Besides my fascination with the lyrical depth of this album, its instrumental heaviness is at its most powerful, especially Tony Iommi’s insane riffs and licks. What can I say, I’m a sucker for fast moving fingers (or fingertip-less fingers) on a guitar. Another one of the reasons I’m totally in awe of this album is how loud it is. You have to play it loud. Geezer Butler, the king of playing it loud, does something incredible during St Vitus Dance — he makes you dance! His bass trickery can always get me moving. The fantastic drumming style of Bill Ward keeps the band’s beat roaring in a way that is unmatachable, locking him in as my favorite drummer of all time.
Black Sabbath’s Vol. 4 is painfully powerful. Even if it wasn’t their intention to go so deep, they did, and I believe that outcome positively affected many people who’ve struggled just as I have. We’ve all been lost in the Wheels of Confusion — ‘hiding in everyday fears’ — as the song says, but what really matters is how we handle ourselves. As humans we are constantly changing and moving on from things that are not quite right, and sometimes all it takes is listening session from our favorite band to help us realize that.