ALBUM OF THE DAY: BLACK SABBATH’S VOL. 4
I got into Black Sabbath — and subsequently metal — through Paranoid. This is to be expected: I was thirteen and Paranoid is the album with all the “hits” (the title track, “War Pigs,” “Fairies Wear Boots,” and that song that has criminally only been in one of the Iron Man movies). It’s generally considered by the fairweather metal enthusiast crowd (or n00bs, if you will) as the gateway Black Sabbath album, and thus gets most of the critical love thrown its way. Among actual, flesh-and-blood metalheads, their debut gets the OG respect (seeing as it kind of kickstarted the whole metal thing almost singlehandedly), Masters of Reality gets the stoner metal cred, and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath has “bloody” in the title, so right there, that’s like sixty points. Sadly and seemingly most often left out of this equation is Vol. 4 (or Snowblind, for you rock history nerds), an album that stands shoulder-to-goddamn shoulder with the rest of Sabbath’s early triumphs. And my question is: why is it so often snubbed?
Is it the fact that it was created in a Behind the Music stock-footage-of-pills-and-syringes drug clusterfuck? You certainly can’t hear that on the album, which, to my ears at least, sounds as catchy and clearheaded as the rest. Is it the presence of “Changes?” Plenty of bands before and since have included a cheesy, flaccid ballad on their otherwise excellent albums. Lack of iconic songs? I guess, but really, Vol. 4 has the songs NOT played to death by our Balding Dudes with Ponytails Overlords at classic rock radio: “Supernaut,” containing one of FRANK MOTHERFUCKING ZAPPA’S favorite riffs of all time; “St. Vitus Dance,” a song so awesome (that odd-time signature Fleetwood Mac riff that suddenly shifts right into awesome Sabbath-dom) that Wino would name a band after it; “Laguna Sunrise,” perhaps the band’s most beautiful and majestic intro, doing more in less time and with 100% fewer words than “Changes” did; the proto-black metal darkness of “Snowblind”; “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes,” helping to bookend the album with “Wheels of Confusion” in Sabbath’s epic multi-part song fashion. And I could go on with the rest of the damn album. So, why won’t you, General Consensus? I couldn’t say it’s my favorite of theirs (Paranoid’s too close to my heart and I can’t deny the scrappy brilliance of their debut), but, if anything, it’s right the fuck up there, as it should be for all of you. So go spend the rest of your day listening to it. Really, what the fuck else were you going to do?