Sabotage is the sound of indignant fury. From the opening battle cry of “Attack!” to the dying embers in a drunken piano coda: a band of brothers fighting back. As guitarist Tony Iommi drily observed: “The aggression definitely came out in the music when we played together. There is some really heavy stuff on that record.”
In part that aggression was a reaction to the relatively subtle Sabbath Bloody Sabbath made two years earlier. Mostly, though, it was driven by the band’s bitter legal battle with management, which had reached the point where lawyers entered the studio to serve writs, sabotaging sessions by forcing the band into court the next day.
If you wind up a band like Black Sabbath, things will get heavy. Witness the riotous opening pair Hole In The Sky and Symptom Of The Universe, separated by the brief flamenco interlude Don’t Start (Too Late). Or the album’s twin epics The Writ and Megalomania – which at one point has Ozzy growling “Suck me!” like Satan himself.
Even the lesser tracks – the ballsy boogie Thrill Of It All; Ozzy’s hit single attempt Am I Going Insane (Radio); and the choral Supertzar (that served as the band’s intro theme ever after) – top most tracks on subsequent albums.
The tragedy of Sabotage is that it isn’t fondly remembered by the band themselves. As bassist Geezer Butler once told me: “The songs are great, but it’s hard to listen to them again because we had such a horrible time doing it.” How cruel.
Disc 1, the original album remastered by Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham (who did the Super Deluxe versions of Paranoid and Vol 4 following work on Deep Purple and Free classics) now plays better than ever.
There are no out-takes, and the reproduction picture-sleeve single is of little merit, so the bonus carrot is the 100-minute, two-disc live album recorded on the Stateside Sabotage tour (probably at Asbury Park Convention Hall, New Jersey, on August 5, 1975).
The band, thundered along by Bill Ward on drums and occasionally utilising Jezz Woodruffe on keyboards, are magnificent. True, the vocals are strained in places and there are almost 23 minutes of jamming/soloing in the set, but this is the classic Ozzy line-up playing 10 of the biggest hitters from Sabbath’s first five albums plus Hole In The Sky, Symptom Of The Universe and Megalomania from the freshly minted Sabotage.
Today, 1975 sounds like Sabbath at their peak.