The next wave of the Black Sabbath remaster series has arrived from Warner Brothers/Rhino, completing the reissues of all the albums released with the original line-up of Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward. Vol. 4 came out in 1972, and followed the immensely successful Master of Reality. Produced by the band, Vol. 4 saw the mighty Sabbath experimenting with new sounds and textures, a trend that would continue even more on their next few albums, showing a different side to the band, and resulting in what this writer considers their greatest achievement.
Kicking off with the lengthy "Wheels of Confusion", the band immediately attacks the listener with some of the new sounds they have been working on. Heavy, but slightly progressive with its multiple parts and textures, "Wheels of Confusion" is a landmark track for the band, the new remaster revealing a wealth of drum bits from Ward never before heard on the original CD release (which was muddy at best), as well as plenty of backing guitar colorings from Iommi. "Tomorrow's Dream" is a barnburner of a heavy rock number, complete with Iommi's lumbering riffs and Ozzy's high pitched wail, while the band goes for the soft, ominous ballad swerve on the Mellotron driven "Changes", still a haunting listening experience 44 years later. "FX" delivers brief yet chilling effects, giving way to the crushing "Supernaut", another crushing heavy doom number with one of Iommi's best riffs (and the booklet mentions one of Frank Zappa's all-time favorite songs!) The homage to the bands then favorite drug of choice cocaine comes next, the classic "Snowblind", another heavy hitter yet highly melodic with great riffs and vocal melodies, ending with a stunning blast of lead guitar solos courtesy of the Master. Doom doesn't get any better than "Cornucopia", as Iommi & Butler create a wall of sludge driven by Ward's dynamic drumming, instantly influencing a generation of young acts looking to get in on the heavy rock & metal genre. The band dive into folk with both "Laguna Sunrise" and "St. Vitus' Dance", the latter meshing those rootsy tones with heavy metal thunder for a memorable experience. Of course, one of the bands heaviest songs ever closes out the album, the monstrous "Under the Sun", another doom classic, led by Iommi's brutal riffs, Butler's booming bass, and Ozzy's apocalyptic bark.
This new remaster delivers the clarity this album has sorely needed on CD, though don't go expecting perfection but it is a vast improvement. The packaging is first rate, including all the original artwork, photographs, an insightful essay on the album with interview snippets from the band, and additional photos, including a few great live shots. These new remasters are available at really great prices, so all you Black Sabbath fans will certainly want to scoop these up, though be warned there's no bonus material on any of them unlike the reissues of the first three albums earlier in 2016.
See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!
1) Wheels of Confusion
2) Tomorrow's Dream
8) Laguna Sunrise
9) St. Vitus' Dance
10) Under the Sun