For the most part, I must say I find the attempts at musical evolution on this record more successful than those on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Though I’m still wondering about what kind of band they want to be, it’s a little clearer to me here.
I haven’t listen to the previous record in longe enough I can’t swear but I feel like this record is heavier, as a whole, compared to the last one. And the softer parts strike me as more assured and less shocking than they did the last time out. There’s a lot of backstory to this record which supposedly helps explain the seeming change in sound but I’m not sure it’s necessary to understand that this record feels a little closer to the original band’s sound than the previous one.
Like the previous record, there is stuff here that feels like filler (“Don’t Start”) or that it belongs to a different band – until Ozzy starts singing anyway. Honestly, if you told me some of these tracks were from an Iommi or Ozzy solo album, I’d likely believe you.
The album leaves us with a common question with bands like Sabbath (and AC/DC, etc): can a band that dose one thing better than anyone else evolve into something else? This album’s answer is “maybe”. Sometimes it works, such as on the acoustic part of “Symptom of the Universe”. (I cannot for the life of me figure out what song it reminds me of.) Sometimes it doesn’t such as on “Thrill of It All”.
And then, on some tracks, Sabbath just sound like Sabbath, at least for a few bars, and you think “They were such a great band”, with the emphasis on ‘were’. Evolution is good when you can do it. But it’s not for everyone. (Honestly, if this record was made by the same musicians under another band name, would it be so divisive?)