Black Box: the Complete Original Black Sabbath (1970-1978) (Rhino)
Reviewed by Michael Chamy, Fri., May 7, 2004
Black SabbathBlack Box: The Complete Original Black Sabbath (1970-1978) (Warner Bros./Rhino) On a rainy, windswept night at the dawn of the Seventies, there was some bad mojo rising. Out of the bowels of the Earth came a dark, slithering riff, setting the table for Ozzy Osbourne's burnt offering to the unholy beast. It was the original "Black Sabbath," a track that spawned heavy metal, and with it, a generation of teenage mayhem and rebellion. The 8-CD Black Box compiles the entire Seventies Ozzy era, packaging all eight albums with original cover art, an 80-page book, and bonus DVD with four vintage vids. Black Sabbath was the first spawn, retaining rock's bluesy roots, but boiling it down to its menacing, bonged-out core. Tacked on is "Evil Woman," the band's first single, from early 1970. Paranoid followed, and with it, all-timers "War Pigs," "Iron Man," and "Paranoid," which just may be the birth of the punk rock sound. Master of Reality ('71) added another wing to this mansion of dark destruction. The riffs glide off guitarist Tony Iommi's calluses effortlessly throughout this first triad, tapping into the great mystical beyond and emerging with one distinctive riff after another. Sabbath's greatest gift was their ability to shift gears at the drop of a hat, with drama and panache. Vol. 4 ('72) was the ultimate realization of this, with Geezer Butler's clippity-clap bass accentuating the genius of drummer Bill Ward, who, like the Stones' Charlie Watts, was the band's jazz-informed secret weapon. "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" and its mad permutations of riff may have been the band's pinnacle, but its titular album was where cracks began to show, new directions yielding mixed results. Sabotage ('75) was even more drug-damaged, yet hypnotically irresistible, and spawning "Symptom of the Universe," essentially the birth of thrash metal. The final LPs here, Technical Ecstasy ('76) and Never Say Die! ('78) are uneven, yet mostly solid mainstream rock (especially Ecstasy) that foreshadows Ozzy's later path. Consider busing your soul down to the pawn shop for this Black Box.