Written by: The Administrator
On this fine Sabbath Sunday, we inksplattered inhabitants of the Sleeping Village have been dipping our toes in the dangerous and troubled 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 find the albums featuring said vocalists the most appealing, 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--perhaps the most maligned 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 from Birmingham? My rational is that this one-off album, despite repeatedly getting the short end of the stick--often deservedly so-- demonstrates a whole lot of unactualized promise.
Take, for example, standout track "Disturbing the Priest." Eerie, provocative, menacing as hell. It is 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 Black 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.
But the harsh reality is that Born Again is aggressively imperfect. Firstly, the up-tempo rockers feel like filler through and through. There's little that merits repeat listens, and in my book, replayability is a quality that unites Sabbath's best work, despite a wide range of sonic elements and aesthetics employed. Secondly, while undeniably proficient, Ian Gillian seldom appears comfortable across Born Again. No one can deny his vocal chops, but there's an awkward disjoint between his talent and his ability to fit in. And finally, 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.
Born Again is not well loved in the grand scheme, and I understand why. I have no desire to present it as a sleeper gem in their discography. I do, however, wish that we were afforded the chance to see this lineup explore a notable potential. 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.
Black Sabbath - Born Again was released 1983 from Vertigo Records and Warner Bros.
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We provide thoughtful reviews of music that wakes us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry.