Vol. 4 (Black Sabbath album)

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Vol. 4
Black Sabbath Vol. 4.png
Studio album by Black Sabbath
Released 25 September 1972
Recorded May 1972
Studio Record Plant, Los Angeles, California
Genre Heavy metal
Length 42:38
Label Vertigo
Producer Black Sabbath, Patrick Meehan
Black Sabbath chronology
Master of Reality
Vol. 4
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Singles from Vol. 4
  1. "Tomorrow's Dream"
    Released: September 1972

Vol. 4 is the fourth studio album by English heavy metal band Black Sabbath, released in September 1972. It was the first album by Black Sabbath not produced by Rodger Bain; guitarist Tony Iommi assumed production duties. Patrick Meehan, the band's then-manager, was listed as co-producer, though his actual involvement in the album's production was minimal at best.


In June 1972, Black Sabbath began work on their fourth album at the Record Plant studios in Los Angeles. The recording process was plagued with problems, many due to substance abuse. In the studio, the band regularly had large speaker boxes full of cocaine delivered.[1] According to Sharon Osbourne's memoirs, there was also a Doberman at the mansion that had gotten into a part of the band's cocaine supply that was laced with the baby laxative mannitol and soon became ill from the effects of the altered drug.

While struggling to record the song "Cornucopia" after "sitting in the middle of the room, just doing drugs,"[2] Bill Ward feared that he was about to be fired from the band. "I hated the song, there were some patterns that were just horrible", Ward said. "I nailed it in the end, but the reaction I got was the cold shoulder from everybody. It was like 'Well, just go home, you're not being of any use right now.' I felt like I'd blown it, I was about to get fired."[3] According to the book How Black Was Our Sabbath, Bill Ward "was always a drinker, but rarely appeared drunk. Retrospectively, that might have been a danger sign. Now, his self-control was clearly slipping." Iommi claims in his autobiography that Ward almost died after a prank-gone-wrong during recording of the album. The Bel Air mansion the band was renting belonged to John du Pont and the band found several spray cans of gold DuPont paint in a room of the house; finding Ward naked and unconscious after drinking heavily, they proceeded to cover the drummer in gold paint from head to toe.

The Vol. 4 sessions could be viewed as the point in time when the seeds were planted for what would eventually be the demise of the classic Sabbath line-up. As bassist Geezer Butler told Guitar World in 2001: "Yeah, the cocaine had set in. We went out to L.A. and got into a totally different lifestyle. Half the budget went on the coke and the other half went to seeing how long we could stay in the studio ... We rented a house in Bel-Air and the debauchery up there was just unbelievable." In the same interview, Ward said: "Yes, Vol. 4 is a great album, but listening to it now, I can see it as a turning point for me, where the alcohol and drugs stopped being fun." Speaking to Guitar World in 1992, Iommi admitted, "LA was a real distraction for us, and that album ended up sounding a bit strange. The people who were involved with the record really didn't have a clue. They were all learning with us, and we didn’t know what we were doing either. The experimental stage we began with Master of Reality continued with Vol. 4, and we were trying to widen our sound and break out of the bag everyone had put us into." In the liner notes to the 1998 live album Reunion Iommi reflected, "By the time we got to Bel Air we were totally gone. It really was a case of wine, women and song, and we were doing more drugs than ever before."

In his autobiography I Am Ozzy, singer Ozzy Osbourne speaks at length about the drugged out atmosphere surrounding the sessions, stating, "In spite of all the arsing around, musically those few weeks in Bel Air were the strongest we'd ever been" but admitted "Eventually we started to wonder where the fuck all the coke was coming from ... I'm telling you: that coke was the whitest, purest, strongest stuff you could ever imagine. One sniff, and you were king of the universe." Osbourne also recounts the band's ongoing anxiety over the possibility of being busted, which only worsened after they went to the cinema to see The French Connection (1971), a William Friedkin film about two undercover New York City cops busting an international heroin-smuggling ring. "By the time the credits rolled," Osbourne recalled, "I was hyperventilating." Iommi describes the scene in his memoir Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath, "like Tony Montana in the movie Scarface: we'd put a big pile (of cocaine) on the table, carve it all up and then we'd all have a bit, well, quite a lot." In 2013, Butler admitted to Mojo magazine that heroin, too, had entered the picture: "We sniffed it, we never shot up ... I didn't realize how nuts things had gotten until I went home and the girl I was with didn't recognize me."


Vol. 4 sees Black Sabbath beginning to experiment with the heavy sound they had become known for. In June 2013 Mojo declared, "If booze and dope had helped fuel Sabbath's earlier albums, Vol. 4 is their cocaine ... Despite their spiraling addictions, musically Vol. 4 is another ambitious outing. The band's heavy side remains intact on the likes of 'Tomorrow's Dream', 'Cornucopia' and the seismic 'Supernaut' (a firm favorite of Frank Zappa, featuring Bill Ward's soul-inspired breakdown), but the guitar intro on 'St. Vitus Dance' possesses a jaunty, Led Zeppelin-flavored quality, while 'Laguna Sunrise' is an evocative neo-classical Iommi instrumental." After being up all night and watching the sunrise at Laguna Beach, Iommi composed the song.[1] In the studio, an orchestra was brought in to accompany Iommi's guitar, although the orchestra refused to perform until their parts were properly written out.[1] The same orchestra also performed on the track "Snowblind".[1]

Musically, the song "Snowblind" is the band's most blatant ode to cocaine, their drug of choice during this period. Snowblind was also the album's working title, but Vertigo Records executives were reluctant to release an album with such an obvious drug reference as its title.[1] The album's liner notes also thank "the great COKE-cola", another blatant ode to the band's cocaine use.[1] In his autobiography Osbourne notes, "For me, Snowblind was one of Black Sabbath's best-ever albums – although the record company wouldn't let us keep the title, 'cos in those days cocaine was a big deal, and they didn't want the hassle of a controversy. We didn't argue."

Although most of the album's songs are in the band's trademark heavy style, others demonstrate a more sensitive approach which the band had never attempted before. Perhaps the best example of this experimentation can be heard in the song "Changes". Written by Iommi with lyrics composed by Butler, it is entirely in the form of a piano ballad with mellotron. Iommi taught himself to play the piano after finding one in the ballroom of the Bel-Air mansion they were renting. It was on this piano that the song "Changes" was composed.[1] "With 'Changes', Tony just sat down at the piano and came up with this beautiful riff", Osbourne writes in his memoir. "I hummed a melody over the top, and Geezer wrote these heartbreaking lyrics about the break-up Bill was going through with his wife. I thought that was brilliant from the moment we recorded it."

The track "FX" came about unexpectedly in the studio. After smoking hashish, the crucifix hanging from Iommi's neck accidentally struck the strings of his guitar and the band took an interest in the odd sound produced.[1] An echo effect was added and the rest of the band proceeded to hit the guitar with various objects to generate odd sound effects. Iommi calls the song "a total joke".[1] The album, Tony Iommi told Circus's sister magazine Circus Raves, "was such a complete change – we felt we had jumped an album, really ... We had tried to go too far."[4]


Sleeve Photo

The album cover features a monochrome photograph of Ozzy Osbourne with hands raised throwing the peace sign, taken during a Black Sabbath concert. The album's original release (on Vertigo in the UK, on Warner Bros. in the US and on Nippon Phonogram in Japan) features a gatefold sleeve with a page glued into the middle. Each band member is given his own photo page, with the band on-stage at the Birmingham Town Hall[5] (and photographed from behind) at the very centre.

The album's original cover art has proved iconic, and has been imitated and parodied on numerous occasions, such as on the 1992 Peaceville Volume 4 compilation album, the 1992 Volume Two EP by the band Sleep, and the 1994 Planet Caravan EP by Pantera.

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[6]
Rolling Stone favourable[7]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3/5 stars[8]

Vol. 4 was released in September 1972, and while most critics of the era were dismissive of the album, it achieved gold status in less than a month, and was the band's fourth consecutive release to sell one million copies in the United States.[9] It reached number 13 on Billboard's pop album chart[10] and number 8 on the UK Albums Chart.[11] The song "Tomorrow's Dream" was released as a single but failed to chart.[12] Following an extensive tour of the US, the band toured Australia for the first time in 1973, and later Europe.

Rock critic Lester Bangs, who had derided the band's first two albums, applauded Vol. 4, writing in Creem, "We have seen the Stooges take on the night ferociously and go tumbling into the maw, and Alice Cooper is currently exploiting it for all it's worth, turning it into a circus. But there is only one band that has dealt with it honestly on terms meaningful to vast portions of the audience, not only grappling with it in a mythic structure that's both personal and powerful but actually managing to prosper as well. And that band is Black Sabbath." Bangs also compared the band's lyrics to those of Bob Dylan and William S. Burroughs. In June 2000, Q[13] placed Vol. 4 at number 60 in its list of The 100 Greatest British Albums Ever[14] and described the album as "the sound of drug-taking, beer-guzzling hooligans from Britain's oft-pilloried cultural armpit let loose in LA." In his 2013 biography on the band Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe, Mick Wall insists the "Under The Sun" would become the "sonic signpost" for the bands that would follow Sabbath in years to come like Iron Maiden and Metallica. Frank Zappa has identified the song "Supernaut" as one of his all time favourites.[15] (In a 1994 interview with Guitar for the Practicing Musician, Butler revealed, "I loved Zappa's lyric approach. That influenced me lyrically, definitely".) "Supernaut" was also one of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham's favourite songs by Black Sabbath.[16]

Kerrang! magazine listed the album at No. 48 among the "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time".[17]

Thomas Gabriel Fischer of Triptykon and previously frontman of Hellhammer and Celtic Frost cited Vol.4 as highly influential on his musical formation and stated he "learned to play guitar from that album".[18]

Track listing[edit]

All music written by Black Sabbath (Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne and Bill Ward); all lyrics by Geezer Butler. Note that the song subtitles "The Straightener" and "Every Day Comes and Goes" do not appear on the original North American pressings of the album or remastered editions; the former is "Wheels of Confusion"'s coda, while the latter is a two-minute segment that serves as "Under the Sun"'s bridge.[19]

The album had been reissued twice under the title Children of the Grave with a live version of that song, originally released on the Master of Reality album, included.[20]

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener" 8:02
2. "Tomorrow's Dream" 3:12
3. "Changes" 4:45
4. "FX" (Instrumental) 1:44
5. "Supernaut" 4:50
Side two
No. Title Length
6. "Snowblind" 5:33
7. "Cornucopia[21]" 3:55
8. "Laguna Sunrise" (Instrumental) 2:56
9. "St. Vitus Dance" 2:30
10. "Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes" 5:53

Cover versions[edit]

"Wheels of Confusion"
  • Estonian band Rondellus on their tribute album Sabbatum, sung by two female voices accompanied by a frame drum. Their version has lyrics translated into Latin, and the song has been retitled "Rotae Confusionis".[22]
  • Doom metal band Cathedral on the tribute album Masters of Misery – The Earache Tribute.
"Tomorrow's Dream"
"Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes"


Black Sabbath



See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Iommi, Tony (2011). Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0306819551. 
  2. ^ Rosen 1996, p. 73
  3. ^ Rosen 1996, pp. 73–74
  4. ^ Circus Raves No. 119, October 1975
  5. ^ "Iron Man - My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath" by Tonny Iommi, pg. 43
  6. ^ Huey, Steve. "Review Black Sabbath, Vol. 4". Allmusic. Retrieved 25 August 2009. 
  7. ^ Clark, Tom (7 December 1972). "Review Black Sabbath Vol. 4". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  8. ^ "Black Sabbath: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 5 June 2012. 
  9. ^ Ruhlmann, William. "AMG Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 14 February 2008. 
  10. ^ "AllMusic Billboard albums". Retrieved 29 January 2009. 
  11. ^ "UK chart history – Black Sabbath Vol. 4". Chartstats.com. Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  12. ^ "Billboard Black Sabbath chart history". Billboard.com. Retrieved 17 March 2008. 
  13. ^ Q Magazine, issue No. 165, June 2000, p. 69
  14. ^ "Rock List Music". Rock List Music. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  15. ^ Black Sabbath Vol. 4 2009 reissue booklet, page 11
  16. ^ "BILL WARD Talks About Legendary BLACK SABBATH/LED ZEPPELIN Jam Session". Blabbermouth.net. Roadrunner Records. 31 July 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  17. ^ Hotten, Jon (21 January 1989). "Black Sabbath 'Vol. 4'". Kerrang!. 222. London, UK: Spotlight Publications Ltd. 
  18. ^ "Interview: Tom Gabriel Fischer". hit-channel.com. 14 April 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  19. ^ Joel McIver Black Sabbath: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath 2007 "St Vitus Dance. .. In fact, it serves as a perfect intro to 'Under The Sun', which drags into life with a weighty, down-tuned intro that is the heaviest metal that Sabbath have attempted to date. Not one but two tempo accelerations follow in the next two minutes, .... instrumental outro – often given its own independent title, this time 'Every Day Comes And Goes' – finishes the album off."
  20. ^ "Black Sabbath - Children Of The Grave (CD)". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2016-01-14. 
  21. ^ Original North American Warner Bros. Records pressings of Vol. 4 (catalog no. BS 2602) incorrectly list "Cornucopia"'s running time as 4:52.
  22. ^ "Black Sabbath songs covered by medieval music band Rondellus". Retrieved 12 March 2010. 
  23. ^ "sHeavy Cover Songs". Retrieved 17 February 2011. 
  24. ^ Mariano Prunes. "Dos Bandas y un Destino: El Concierto - Arizona Baby,Los Coronas | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-05-18. 
  25. ^ "Overview Alcohol Fueled Brewtality Live!!". Allmusic. Retrieved 2 November 2009. 
  26. ^ "Overview Masters of Misery-Black Sabbath: The Earache Tribute". Allmusic. Retrieved 5 November 2009. 
  27. ^ "Overview: Stash". Allmusic. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  28. ^ "Entombed Lyrics". DarkLyrics.com. Retrieved 9 November 2009. 
  29. ^ "RIAA Gold & Platinum database". Retrieved 29 January 2009. 
  30. ^ "BPI certified awards". Retrieved 7 February 2009. 
  31. ^ "CRIA certified awards". Retrieved 8 February 2009. 


  • Rosen, Steven (1996). The Story of Black Sabbath: Wheels of Confusion. Castle Communications. ISBN 1-86074-149-5. 
  • Chow, Jason (2006). Dimery, Robert, ed. 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Quintet Publishing Limited. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5.