On this Sabbath Sunday, we comely inhabitants of the Sleeping Village have been dipping our toes in the dangerous waters of 80’s era Black Sabbath. As one does. In the grand scheme, the general sentiment is that if it ain't Ozzy or Dio, it ain't Sabbath. While I personally tend to agree, we are talking about Iommi, the Rifflord Most High, and as such, there are certainly some diamonds in the rough. Case in point: 1983's Born Again, the blackest of the black sabbathian sheep.
Is it fair to say I'm disappointed that Born Again was Ian Gillian's only foray with the boys? My rational is that this one-off album, despite repeatedly getting the short end of the stick--often deservedly so--actually demonstrates a lot of unactualized promise.
Take, for example, standout track "Disturbing the Priest." Eerie, provocative, menacing as hell. Easily one the most dynamic performances of Gillian's career. This album highlight is bookended by two of the more intriguing instrumental pieces concocted by Sabbath--"Stonehenge" and "The Dark" establish remarkably evocative atmospheres with a confidently sparse grace. Straight-up rocker "Hot Line" ain't half bad either; what it lacks in sophistication, it makes up for in high-energy rock n' roll ecstasy. All told, if this particular lineup stuck together for another outing or two, I'm fairly certain the flaws would have been ironed out and some semblance of a formula would have coalesced.
But the harsh reality is that Born Again is aggressively imperfect. Firstly, the up-tempo rockers feel like filler through and through. Secondly, while undeniably proficient, Gillian seldom appears comfortable. And finally, in my opinion, the album's biggest weakness isn't musical so much as lyrical. "Digital Bitch," "Trashed," and "Zero the Hero," and "Keep it Warm" are just...banal. The lyrics are laughably bad, and, for whatever reason, will forever stick in my craw. Alas.
1. Trashed 4:17
2. Stonehenge 1:58
3. Disturbing the Priest 5:49
4. The Dark .45
5. Zero the Hero 7:35
6. Digital Bitch 3:39
7. Born Again 6:34
8. Hot Line 4:53
9. Keep it Warm 5:36
BLACK SABBATH - Born Again was released 1983 from Vertigo Records and Warner Bros.
Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry