“Vol. 4 (Redux)

By Dr. Abner Mality

Pretty much all of the 70’s SABBATH albums with Ozzy can be considered classics, even “Never Say Die”. And each of them would be ripe for a “covers” album such as this one that focuses on the iconic “Vol. 4”. I’m in the camp that thinks a good cover should bring a little something different to the table instead of being a faithful copy. Here we get a bit of both…

“Wheels of Confusion” by THOU gets things off to a start. While the music is pretty faithful to the original, it’s the harsh, screeching vocals in the modern extreme metal tradition that will throw a lot of people of. Most SABBATH tunes don’t translate well with harsh vocals. THE OBSESSED, one of the best bands to be directly influenced by SABBATH, cover “Tomorrow’s Dream” with an exact and workman-like rendition that sounds exactly the way you’d think an OBSESSED cover of SABBATH would sound. HIGH REEPER definitely switches things up with an electrified stoner rock take on “Changes” that turns it into a hard grooving riff-fest instead of the somber piano ballad we’re used to.

HIGH ON FIRE frontman MATT PIKE’s contribution of “FX” pretty much consists of him diddling around with snippets of SABBATH songs, noisy guitar experimentation and improvised drum. Nothing much to it, just like the original. The red hot SPIRIT ADRIFT provide their faithful cover of “Supernaut”. It would take a really shitty band to screw up the infectious riff to this all-time classic and SPIRIT ADRIFT is not that band.

Things really start to get interesting from this point on as the bands start to experiment more. GREEN LUNG’s take on the legendary “Snowblind” is super-interesting as they throw thick layers of organ and keys on the massive superstructure of the tune. It is still recognizable, but they are putting their own stamp on it. The same is true for experimental grindcore band WHORES version of “Cornucopia”, which is by far the heaviest track here. This really grinds in an angular and monolithic way that is harsh yet grooving. A great example of a band modernizing a classic track. At the opposite end of the sonic spectrum, TONY REED turns the beautiful instrumental “Laguna Sunrise” into a lush, cinematic soundscape that sounds like it comes from another time and place.

The every-busy HAUNT take a crack at “St. Vitus’ Dance” and turn it into a strange, almost speed metal tune with a lot of twin guitar harmony and very Ozzy-like vocals. Can’t say I like it as much as the original. The album fittingly ends with a massive take on “Under The Sun” from ZAKK SABBATH, with guitar hero Zakk Wilde doing a very heavy and faithful cover of this crushing riff-fest. ZAKK takes a lot of flack, some of it deserved, but I enjoyed this cover.

The best SABBATH cover compilation remains “Nativity In Black” from the early 90’s, but this take on “Vol. 4” is certainly worth a look from open-minded SABBATH fans.