Black Sabbath’s ‘Sabotage’ Album Turns 42!
Sabotage is the sixth studio album by Black Sabbath, released on 28 July 1975. The title Sabotage was chosen because at the time the band were being sued by their former management and felt they were being “sabotaged all the way along the line and getting punched from all sides”, according to guitarist Toni Iommi. He credits those legal troubles for the album’s angry, heavier sound. In 2001, bassist Geezer Butler explained in an interview that, “We found out that we were being ripped off by our management and our record company. So, much of the time, when we weren’t onstage or in the studio, we were in lawyer’s offices trying to get out of all our contracts. We were literally in the studio, trying to record, and we’d be signing all these affidavits and everything. That’s why it’s called Sabotage – because we felt that the whole process was just being totally sabotaged by all these people ripping us off.” Geezer claimed the band suffered through 10 months of legal cases and admitted, “music became irrelevant to me. It was a relief just to write a song. And in his autobiography I Am Ozzy, singer Ozzy confirms that “writs were being delivered to us at the mixing desk” and drummer Bill Ward “was manning the phones”.
“Symptom of the Universe” has been cited by many critics as one of the earliest examples of thrash metal, which emerged in the early 80’s and of course championed by “The BIG 4”, consisting of Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer! Iommi describes the song’s dynamics in his autobiography Iron Man: “It starts with an acoustic bit. Then it goes into the up-tempo stuff to give it that dynamic, and it does have a lot of changes to it, including the jam at the end.” The final part of “Symptom of the Universe” evolved from an in-studio improvisation, created very spontaneously in a single day and the decision was made to use it in that song.
Sabotage is a mix of heavy, powerful songs and softer experimental tunes. The album opener ‘Hole in the Sky’ and the crunching ‘Symptom of the Universe’ illustrate that! For all their problems, Sabbath’s power remained undimmed on what many consider one of their finest offerings.”
The album’s front cover art has garnered mixed reactions over the years and is regarded by some as one of the worst album covers in rock history. The inverted mirror concept was conceived by Graham Wright, Bill Ward’s drum tech who was also a graphic artist. The band attended what they originally believed was a test photo shoot for the album cover, thus explaining their choice of clothing. Said Ward, “The only thing we didn’t discuss was what we’d all wear on the day of the shot. Since that shoot day, the band has survived through a tirade of clothing comments and jokes that continue to this day”. Ward, in fact, was wearing his wife’s red tights in the photo. The original plan was for each member to appear on the cover dressed in black and had been instructed to bring some stage clothes for preliminary photos, but when they arrived no black costumes had been laid out by the designers and “the original concept had been overruled.” The designers “carried on with the shoot, explaining they would superimpose the images at a later stage and that it would look great, honest. The session was unbelievably rushed, and the outcome was far from what had been originally envisioned … Ironically, the sleeve design that was intended to illustrate the idea of sabotage had instead become a victim of sabotage itself. By the time they saw it, it was too late to change.”