Black Sabbath - The Ultimate Collection album review

Two-CD, 31-track companion to Sabbath’s The End tour.

Black Sabbath The Ultimate Collection album cover

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This isn’t the first Black Sabbath compilation. In fact it’s at least their eleventh. But it’s a good one, even if it can hardly be described as a career summary, as it focuses on the band’s first eight albums.

There are six tracks from that epochal 1970 debut (if you include Wicked World – and you must), six from Paranoid, five from Master Of Reality, three apiece from Vol 4, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Sabotage and Technical Ecstasy and two from Never Say Die! Sabbath fans will notice that that covers the waterfront regarding Ozzy Osbourne’s time with the band (before 2013’s 13). But nothing from Forbidden or Born Again? You’ll live.

Besides, that leaves, what, two to three hours of some of the best – that is to say oppressively dark, turgid and slow – metal ever. When Ozzy shouts: “Alright now!” at the start of Sweet Leaf, it’s funny because rather than prefacing a heavy metal gallop, it presages some of the sludgiest bromide blues known to man, even if it does incorporate a frenzied middle eight in which drummer Bill Ward and guitarist Tony Iommi briefly chase Deep Purple’s Highway Star, just to prove they could do the fast stuff if they wanted. Then it’s back to slothful business as usual. Let’s face it, when you’re creating the soundtrack to lying in bed, stoned, waiting for the apocalypse, what’s the rush?

Paul Lester

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.