Released in 1972, Black Sabbath‘s Vol. 4 didn’t just build on the band’s legacy, it altered it entirely. Full of groovy, catchy anthems and a steely guitar sound, the record saw the boys from Birmingham trading their weed-choked gloom for chart-topping rock stardom. Though the drug use and backstage antics that went into the record nearly killed Ozzy, Tony, Geezer and Bill, they also resulted in an album like no other. Today, Vol. 4 stands as a monument to Sabbath’s meteoric rise, an example of how the band became international phenoms even while sounding like the end of the world.
This week sees Rhino Records releasing a super deluxe edition of Vol. 4, featuring the fully remastered album, booklets containing rare photos and behind-the-scenes stories, and 20 previously-unreleased recordings. Stoked as we are on this new edition, we decided to count the ways in which new new boxed set is the ultimate collectors’ item for Sabbath fans around the world….
The remastered album sounds dope.
It’s not as though the original Vol. 4 doesn’t sound rad — the album is the first that Sabbath produced as a band, and adds a steely edge to their guitar tone. But the remastered version of the record available in the new super deluxe version is dynamite, clear as a bell while still retaining the clash and groan which made the original so incredible. Listeners will find themselves realizing that this might be their favorite Sabbath record.
It contains 20 unreleased tracks.
Twenty unreleased tracks! Packed with alternate versions, outtakes, and live cuts, the super deluxe edition of Vol. 4 gives listeners all the sonic goodies they could ask for. As such, it’s the kind of boxed set that fans can lose a day to, lounging around the record player and staring at the album in a cloud of smoke (you know, smoke from…your oven…because you left the chicken nuggets in there because you were so distracted by this edition of Vol. 4…yeah, that’s it, that’ll work…).
It’s a fresh look at an underrated gem.
Sabbath albums like their self-titled debut and Paranoid have really been explored to bits. But Vol. 4 is a record that, while known and loved, doesn’t hold the same cultural obsession as the band’s others. In truth, the album is one of Sabbath’s most brilliant and fascinating in part because it came about at the peak of their popularity. To hear this record is to understand Black Sabbath the rock stars.
It’s an excessive monument to an excessive album.
Of course, when we say “Black Sabbath the rock stars,” we also know that that means “Black Sabbath the insane partiers.” Vol. 4 dropped in 1972, when rock-star excess was at its most celebrated. To experience this album in such a massive, overwhelming incarnation — and to see the band’s wild eyes in the behind-the-scenes photos that come with the super deluxe editions’ booklet — it a killer portal in the bizarre world of rock’s craziest band at their absolute craziest.
Rhino’s deluxe edition of Vol. 4 comes out Friday, February 12th. It includes newly remastered audio along with 20 unreleased studio and live recordings and is available for preorder.
Words by Chris Krovatin