Tensions not helped by the amount of booze and drugs going around (draw your own line between this and Bill Ward forgetting his trousers and having to be photographed in his wife's tights for the album cover, itself a cock-up that was only meant to show the idea, rather than be the finished product), it's unsurprising that Sabotage feels more aggressive than Vol. 4 or Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Hole In The Sky and Symptom Of The Universe are some of the heaviest songs the band had ever done, the former bashing away on a leaden groove, while the fast, punch riff of the latter bristled with anger.
But the band continued to experiment and expand as they had brilliantly learned to as success hit and afforded them more time in the studio from Vol. 4 onward. Megalomania is a near-10-minute descent into madness that starts with a dark, moody riff, before exploding with building riffs, psychedelic swirls and tumbling keyboards to soundtrack a descent into madness. Similarly, The Writ sprawls for eight-and-a-half minutes, frequently turning corners and presenting new parts, a testament to just how big Sabbath could go given the right spark and enough time in the studio to get it all down. It's a song that also signalled the band's frustrations, with Ozzy asking, 'What kind of people do you think we are? / Another joker who's a rock and roll star for you,' and the even more direct, 'You bought and sold me with your lying words.'
On Supertzar, meanwhile, with Ozzy saying he couldn't improve on Tony Iommi's riffs by singing over them, there are no words. Instead, it's a theatrical, dramatic instrumental with a choir expanding the band's palette.
Here, remastered, it sounds even huger than ever. And on the bonus North American Tour Live ’75 discs, the power of these songs live is captured in all its steamrolling glory.
More by accident than design, Sabotage ends Black Sabbath's peerless first six-album run by being a bit of everything that got them there. Where the ambition and expansion of Vol. 4 had about it a glamorous sheen, the golden tint of perfect LA sunshine, here that same artistry is served by the grubbier fists and middle fingers of the four blokes from Aston that made their first three records. Though the two albums that would follow are in themselves acquired tastes at best, it's only highlighted by the enormous heights the band consistently hit up to that point.
The beginning of the end for the classic era? Almost certainly. But while they were on their hot streak, even as cracks started to show, Sabbath remained absolutely untouchable.
For fans of: Soundgarden, Orange Goblin, Cathedral
Sabotage – Super Deluxe is out now via BMG.