(All Album Reviews by Sean)
I have noticed a few recent submissions of Black Sabbath reviews here. Mostly centering on Vol. 4 and beyond era Sabbath. It seems fairly fitting to be discussing them in a forum that features rock music that is a little more ambitious than the average fare played on the radio. This band might actually have a few shocks in store for you if you ever were inclined to write them off as nothing more than a metal band. The albums made after Vol. 4 all got progressively more ambitious in scope. Soon it was hard to tell this was the same band that penned such monolithic tunes as "Paranoid" and "Black Sabbath".
Starting with the bands fifth album, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, the band's arrangements started to grow more complex. A lot of timbres were added to the bands palette- classical guitar, flute, harpsicord, moog, piano and more soon took a large role in the sound of Sabbath. This carried over into the next few albums like the follow up, the excellent and eclectic Sabotage.
As if those albums were not ambitious enough (for Sabbath that is), the next two would up the ante a bit more. Some would say too much. Technical Ecstacy and this album Never Say Die! feature a more diverse, mature Sabbath. Both albums have a similar quality and range. Crunchy rockers like "Hard Road" and the title track (a tune that is eerily similar to Thin Lizzy's "The Boys are Back In Town") are mixed with riff heavy tunes with strong progressive leanings- "Junior's Eyes", "Johnny Blade", "Shock Wave". There is even a tune that is sort of a ballad, "Air Dance". It mines a similar vein as older ballads like "Changes" and "It's Alright", but is much better.
"Breakout" features a sax section seques nicely into "Swinging The Chain", a heavy tune with gutteral vocals from none other than Bill Ward. Apparently Ozzy disliked the song so much he refused to sing it. Many things on Never Say Die! were a departure for the band, yet familiar at the same time.
Many consider this album a point when the band was running out of gas. I don't agree though. It was Ozzy's last and I think he left on a high note, even if he dosen't agree. Never again would Sabbath try to incorporate so many diverse elements into their music. Never Say Die! is worth a listen if you are curious about the origins of what later mutatated into prog metal. This album will scratch the itch and show you how incorporating those two genres can occasionally work.