|Review: Black Sabbath - Born Again|
Label: Warner Bros. Records
Year released: 1983
Review online: March 14, 2021
Reviewed by: MetalMike
Rated 4/5 (80%) (10 Votes)
Years ago, I reviewed all the Ozzy and Dio studio albums from Black Sabbath. Those two eras marked the end of the band's initial period of wide popularity. What followed were several releases, featuring ever-shifting line-ups, that went largely unnoticed before the band got back with Dio for 1992's Dehumanizer. People may not remember that the album following Dio's initial departure after Live Evil, an album by the name of Born Again, featured former (and future) Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan. I remember back in the day thinking it was an odd marriage and the album certainly bears that out.
Sabbath was eager to capitalize on the success of Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules and many of the same elements that characterized those records appear on Born Again. Songs like "Trashed" and "Digital Bitch" are the kind of fast, catchy songs that gave the Dio albums their unique character and separated them from the dirgey, bluesy Ozzy records (think "Neon Knights" and "Turn Up the Night"). It also featured some of the same creepy, unearthly synthesizer instrumentals courtesy of long-time collaborator Geoff Nichols ("Stonehenge", "The Dark"). Gillan, being the iconic singer he was and is, was bound to impact the direction the songs took and "Disturbing the Priest" is unlike anything Sabbath had done to this point. His signature high-pitched wails took on an almost thrash metal timbre even though the song isn't particularly fast. "Zero the Hero" combines the bluesy riffs and vocals of so many early Sabbath tunes with Nichol's keyboards to create another unique entry into the Sabbath canon. The album wraps up with some generic, throwaway tracks in "Hot Line" and "Keep it Warm." Maybe the biggest shift is the sound of the record. Where the production on the Dio albums was a warm, doomy embrace, Born Again is cold and distant, almost like a black metal album with its sterile echo. The songwriting is also casting about and comes across as a weird hybrid of Mob Rules and Deep Purple's Perfect Strangers, the latter being the next record Gillan would appear on. After Born Again was released, Gillan was reportedly displeased with many aspects, from the mix to the cover, and summarily quit to rejoin Deep Purple, which reformed the classic Mark II lineup and released one of the great hard rock albums of all time.
Born Again is the first in a string of uneven Black Sabbath albums and is itself uneven. There's no denying the talent in the band but it never gelled they way it had with Ozzy or Dio. There are some good songs, but they don't sound entirely like Black Sabbath. You get a riff here or a bass line there or vocal over here that evoke the band's glorious past but, in hindsight, it probably would have been better to change the band name altogether and proceed as a new entity. Like Technical Ecstasy or Seventh Star, Born Again is an album likely to appeal to Black Sabbath completists only.
|Other related information on the site|
|Review: Black Sabbath (reviewed by MetalMike)|
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Review: Mob Rules (reviewed by MetalMike)
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