Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

Issue 

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

Nativity in Black: A tribute to Black Sabbath
Various artists
Columbia Records
Reviewed by Nick Fredman

Before Metallica, before Soundgarden, before Spinal Tap even, there was Black Sabbath. With the insipid and derivative Silverchair (pallid reflections of Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots) number one on the Australian charts, it seems "grunge" has belatedly hit the mainstream here. It is an opportune time to reflect on one of the seminal giants of hard rock.

In 1970, four lads from Birmingham felt the "hippy shit" they heard around them did not reflect the decay and despair of their surroundings, and decided to reinvent rock and roll. Since then, hordes of alienated youth have sat in bedrooms, pulled cones, nodded their shaggy locks to the Sabbath sound and dreamed of escaping by becoming rock gods like Iommi, Butler, Ward and Osbourne.

As this tribute album shows, some of them at least managed to do it. The pounding drums, throbbing bass lines, crunching power chords, mocking vocals, satanic imagery and over the top theatricality of Sabbath helped spawn thousands of bands and dozens of genres.

There are, appropriately, 13 songs. The range of artists and styles is a testament to Sabbath's influence. Megadeth ("Paranoid"), Bruce Dickson and Godspeed ("Sabbath Bloody Sabbath") and Ozzy Osbourne with Therapy ("Iron Man") do fairly traditional heavy metal interpretations, while more contemporary notes are struck by Sepultura's ("Symptom of the Universe") grindcore and 1000 Homo DJ's ("Supernaut") sampling and industrial drum programming. Faith No More do a completely over the top, almost parody version of "War Pigs", and Ugly Kid Joe do a snotty-nosed grunge rendition of "N.I.B."

This CD shows the evolving genres of hard rock continue to be, as Sabbath was, a creative response to alienation under capitalism. It also shows how such potentially rebellious attitudes are often sidetracked into religion or mindless despair, and such music is continually being appropriated, commodified and repackaged by capital (the banal Silverchair being a fine example).

But Black Sabbath will always have one revolutionary function — after a hard day's exploitation at work or political activity on the streets, there's no better way to relax than cranking up the stereo, striking a guitar-hero pose, and screaming "Look into my eyes and see who I am/My name is Lucifer, please take my hand." Highly recommended.

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