The epic Vol. 4 given redux treatment by Thou, Matt Pike, Zakk Sabbath and more
After the well-done redux compilations of Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1979), and Alice In Chains’ Dirt (1992), Magnetic Eye have cemented themselves as beacons of light for revitalizing great albums by great bands, and Vol. 4 is no exception. Released in 1972, Vol. 4 swiftly became a favorite for fans of Black Sabbath and heavy metal alike, with its trademark massive riffage as well as experimentation in dynamics and songwriting that set it apart from previous records like Black Sabbath (1970) and Paranoid (1970).
The incredible Thou open up the album with “Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener,” highlighting the original’s use of improvisation and groove, albeit Thou approach the track with a far more heavy and sinister approach through raspier vocals and noisier guitar production, something not uncommon to the following track “Tomorrow’s Dream,” a brief fan favorite. Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler’s enormous guitar riffage are truly the shining stars here, as the song mainly fixates around it. The Obsessed take a crack at the tune and revamp the toned-down production into something more full-sounding, not necessarily adding too much to the track, but then again, not having much that really needed to be added in the first place.
High Reeper put their spin on the ballad “Changes,” adding some studio effects and embellishments that take the already strong vocal performance to the next level and make it stand out. “FX” offers much more to be desired considering the psychedelic guitar interlude was performed by none other than guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike of doom/stoner metal icons High on Fire and Sleep. Spirit Adrift’s version of “Supernaut,” however, is stellar, somehow making a perfect song even more perfect. The band flirts with some nuanced details, such as the dizzying dual guitar solos on the original, and they make the song their own the best they could have—come on, that riff!
Bongzilla follow in Spirit Adrift and Thou’s footsteps by adding a whole new dimension of heaviness and grime to the untouchable Black Sabbath, this time to the track “Snowblind.” Originally the title track for the album, it was switched out for a less obviously drug-influenced title. The same could be amplified and said for WHORES., who keep that same aforementioned grime on another level despite flirting with ample and equal parts of noise rock and dynamics on “Cornucopia.”
“Laguna Sunrise” and “St. Vitus Dance,” done by guitarist Tony Reed and HAUNT, respectively, follow in the footsteps of The Obsessed and Matt Pike, who have been seemingly given the short end of the song selections. The neo-classical guitar styling and interpretation of “Laguna Sunrise” is more comparable to another interlude track or a breather than a highlight, but it fits that role quite well. The very same could be said about HAUNT, who actually do manage to pull off the riff-oriented head banger “St. Vitus Dance” quite well, but aren’t given enough of a chance to really show off their prowess through such a little taste.
The finale “Under the Sun/Everyday Comes and Goes” is done by Zakk Wylde’s Black Sabbath cover band, Zakk Sabbath. Karmically, with regards to previous comments on differences in terms of production and tone, the biggest sin to be found here is the over-the-top compression. What made the original closing track so heavy, besides its Drop C# tuning, incredible drumming and bouncing stoner metal riffs, was that vintage distorted tone that boutique analog gear snobs worldwide continue to worship. Albeit Zakk Sabbath cover the song well, the band changes the riffs and drum parts ever so slightly to their benefit, and the contemporary overproduced tone is miles away from what made the original so bombastic to begin with.
In celebration of the world’s most important heavy metal band, and to the thousands of bands and bongs that worship them internationally like gospel, the almighty Black Sabbath have been reincarnated through their incredible album Vol. 4 (1972), done so by an equally incredible lineup of musicians.