The influence the Sabbies have had in metal and rock music for more than forty years now is as evident just as it is undeniable. Furthermore, according to Mr. Type O Negative, Peter Steele himself – and I’m quoting here -, “Black Sabbath are responsible for all metal, hardcore and gothic music out there”, and that’s saying a lot. I totally agree, by the by. Being so, it’s interesting if not baffling how their fans are into 4 or 5 of their releases only, and that’s just in case they don’t belong to the group of fuckos who only play “Paranoid” every now and then to remind their hipster buddies “Dude, that was the first heavy metal song. Sabbath rules…” Anyway. Take “Born again” for instance (recorded the very year I was born, by the way), which on the paper appears as one of those HUGE moments in the history of metal and rock. I mean not daily a band has the chance to combine the talents of Ian Gillan, on of the most gifted 70s hard-rock singers, Mr. Tommy “Riff” Iommi and Mr. Geezer Butler themselves godfathers of extreme music around the world. Why the idiotic media at the time disregarded and even mocked this jewel giving it names such as Deep Black or Purple Sabbath is far beyond my comprehension.
9. Even though both Sabbath and Purple sort of fit into the same musical genre, the approach each act had to it was almost opposite. While Sabbath were totally into minimalistic sometimes sharp, sometimes crushing, but always groovy riffs plus eerie vocals, Purple guys would rather go for virtuosity, stoned atmospheres, long trippy songs and heavy but exquisite vocals. Combining both styles resulted in an almost experimental form of 70s heavy rock… recorded in the early 80s. If I were to describe “Born again”‘s sound by attempting to define a sub-genre it fits, I would say it’s heavy doomy stoner rock or something, all finely flavored by Mr. Gillan’s amazing work, which gives to the record a unique and elegant touch of real old school. Now, the tag experimental has been used pretentiously by progressive and technical bands, but in this case I think it’s got more to do with the intentional overuse of simpleton lilting riffs, always sticking to mesmerizing ostinato patterns. Also, Tony Iommi stuck to his tightest chops this time, and made each section endure long periods, so that the songs sound like hellish hypnotic engines.
8. Not that it excels, but taking the decade it was recorded and released into account, as well as considering the type of music this is, it’s quite decent. Everything’s clearly audible, there’s little else to say.
9. Once I read in a quite famous metal magazine I shan’t mention here that “Sabbath’s style was unique despite the lack of proficiency of Iommi…” Bullshit. Tommi’s performance is sloppy, that’s fo’sure, yet that’s part of his style, which has nothing to do with today’s obsession with perfection – pointless precision and velocity in most cases if you ask me – plus, I’d love to see any contemporary technical guitar player doing any better, especially with their fingertips gone. When it comes to “Born again”, good ol’Tommi brilliantly managed to integrate his peculiar style to something that appropriately fit the whole fusion concept of the album. The guitar solos are not that memorable though. We all know soloing has never been his area of expertise. Fuck it, that magazine was Hell Awaits.
9. Ian Gillan used to be one of the greatest heavy singers ever, no matter my colleagues disagree. This record is another proof of that. He sings consistently and dynamically according to each song, and he’s more than capable of theatricalizing quite convincingly like in “Disturbing the priest”, a song in which he also shows off his falsetto skills. Also, Gillan is responsible for one of the catchiest Sabbath choruses ever: the one sung in “Zero the hero”. The whole song is a jewel, goddammit! No wonder why even Barnes couldn’t resist covering it. In the end, it’s such a pity Ian just collaborated on this Sabbath record… Are you aware of WhoCares?
9. The same he’s always done, Geezer knows his role. He knows it, but we’re lucky enough he ignores it all the fucken time, meaning yes he can and does accompany songs providing a solid ground, however he can and does face up to Iommi’s chops with his own. Butler isn’t into showing off either, so you could call his lines somewhat discreet if you like though. That constant battle between guitar and bass is one of the features making Sabbath sound so special. This work’s not an exception.
6. Average. I ain’t a fan of Bill Ward. Never was. Since he hasn’t been included in latest Sabbath reunion, everybody claims he’s da drummer. In my opinion his work here is appropriate, and that’s all there is to it. Yes, he does OK, and yes, any other drummer could have done equally good or even better. Who’s the best friend of a musician? His drummer!
8. Average the Sabbath way. They’re fun and catchy, although not that profound or anything. Good and irreverent enough: “Good life is contradiction because of the crucifixion…”
9. Not having ever had the chance to hold a physical copy of this in my paws, I’m only to judge it’s frontal cover. The legend speaks of Ian Gillan throwing up when he first saw the raw and bizarre graphic treatment they gave to the picture of this cute little baby. Obviously, he wasn’t used to the ways of such an obscure and even evil imagery in a band. Of course, Gillan wasn’t the only conservative cunt who felt frankly offended by it. Then again, when it comes to the godfathers of metal, the more controversial, the better.
5. Sabbath switch logos in almost every release. Sometimes they’re cool and sometimes they’re shitty. This one happened to be shitty.
Make no mistake, “Born again” is the most underrated release by the Sabbies. It truly was a re-birth of the most influential heavy sound ever, and it stands alone as their most experimental work; at the same time it’s a display of pure and traditional hard-rock meeting doom and heavy metal. As it often happens with great works, it’s a little too short though.