Black Sabbath Vol. 4

Black Sabbath Vol. 4
Black Sabbath Vol. 4
Studio album by Black Sabbath
Released 25 September 1972
Recorded June 1972 at Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles, California
Genre Heavy metal
Length 42:38
Label Vertigo
Producer Patrick Meehan, Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath chronology
Master of Reality
Black Sabbath Vol. 4
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

Black Sabbath Vol. 4 is the fourth album by the British heavy metal band Black Sabbath, released in September 1972. The album was originally to be titled Snowblind, after one of several songs referring to cocaine use, and features several Sabbath classics, such as "Tomorrow's Dream," "Snowblind," "Supernaut" and "Changes."



In June 1972, Black Sabbath reconvened in Los Angeles, California to begin work on their fourth album at the Record Plant Studios. The recording process was plagued with problems, many due to substance abuse issues. While struggling to record the song "Cornucopia" after "sitting in the middle of the room, just doing drugs",[1] 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".[2] However, the seeds were planted for what would eventually be the demise of the classic Sabbath lineup. As 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 opined: "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."

Music and lyrics

Vol. 4 demonstrates Black Sabbath beginning to experiment with the heavy sound they had become known for. Although some songs are in their trademark style, others demonstrate a soft, orchestral approach. This is exemplified by the song "Changes". Written by Tony Iommi, it is entirely in the form of a piano ballad with mellotron. Although the band had used piano on some songs previously, it had played only a minor role in the songs.

At least two songs on the album reference the use of cocaine. The lyrics and title of "Snowblind" is an example of this. The song "Snowblind" also had to be re-recorded because the original version features Osbourne yelling the word "cocaine!" after each verse. On the officially released version, "cocaine" is whispered quite audibly after the first verse, approximately 41 seconds into the song (During live performances Osbourne would again scream the word at the top of his lungs).


The album cover features a monochrome photograph of Ozzy Osbourne with hands raised, 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 their own photo page, with the band on-stage (and photographed from behind) at the very centre. The reissues on WWA and NEMS duplicated both the gatefold sleeve and, unusually, the pages.

A subsequent version of Vol. 4 was released with different cover art under the name "Children of the Grave". This alternate version of the album contained the same tracks as the original along with a live version of "Children of the Grave" as a final bonus track.

The album's original cover art has proved iconic, and is parodied on the 1992 Peaceville Volume 4, the 1992 Volume Two EP by the band Sleep, and the 2007 album Vol. 1 by the band Church of Misery. In the liner notes of Vol. 4, Black Sabbath thank "the great COKE-Cola Company", another blatant drug reference.[3] Also during the Vol. 4 era, bassist Geezer Butler sported a sticker on his white bass that stated "Enjoy CoCaine", a parody of the slogan "Enjoy Coca-Cola."[4]

Release and reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[5]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[6]
Sputnikmusic 4/5 stars[7]

Vol. 4 was released in September 1972, and while critics of the era were again 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.[8] It reached number 13 on Billboard's pop album chart[9] and number 8 on the UK Albums Chart.[10] The song "Tomorrow's Dream" was released as a single but failed to chart.[11] Following an extensive tour of the US, the band toured Australia for the first time in 1973, and later Europe. Black Sabbath also appeared on the UK's Top of the Pops in 1973, sharing the stage with such diverse acts as Engelbert Humperdinck and Diana Ross.

The album had been reissued twice as a budget release called Children of the Grave with a live version of said song.

Kerrang! magazine listed the album at No. 48 among the "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time".[12]

In June 2000, Q magazine (6/00, p. 69) placed Vol. 4 at number 60 in its list of The 100 Greatest British Albums Ever[13] 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 an interview with Q magazine, Beck Hansen named the "Supernaut" riff as his all time favourite, equal with Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl"; Frank Zappa had also identified that song as one of his all time favorites.[14]

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Black Sabbath

No. Title Length
1. "Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener"   8:14
2. "Tomorrow's Dream"   3:12
3. "Changes"   4:46
4. "FX" (instrumental) 1:43
5. "Supernaut"   4:46
6. "Snowblind"   5:32
7. "Cornucopia"   3:55
8. "Laguna Sunrise" (instrumental) 2:53
9. "St. Vitus Dance"   2:30
10. "Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes"   5:50

Note that the song subtitles "The Straightener" and "Every Day Comes and Goes" do not appear on original North American pressings of the album and all the remastered editions.

Cover versions





"Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes"

"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".[20]

"Tomorrow's Dream"


Sales accomplishments

RIAA certification[22] (United States)

Date Designation Total Sales
6 November
Gold 500,000
13 October
Platinum 1,000,000

CRIA certification[23] (Canada)

Date Designation Total Sales
1 September
Gold 50,000
1 September
Platinum 100,000

See also


  1. ^ Rosen 1996, p. 73
  2. ^ Rosen 1996, pp. 73–74
  3. ^ Black Sabbath Vol. 4 inner LP gatefold, page 6
  4. ^ "Geezer Butler live onstage with Black Sabbath, 13 January 1973.". Retrieved 2011-08-17. 
  5. ^ Huey, Steve. "Review Black Sabbath, Vol. 4". Allmusic. Retrieved 25 August 2009. 
  6. ^ "Black Sabbath Album Guide". Retrieved 11 June 2011. 
  7. ^ Van der Lee, Matthijs. "Review Black Sabbath, Vol. 4". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 8 January 2011. 
  8. ^ Ruhlmann, William. "AMG Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  9. ^ "AllMusic Billboard albums". Retrieved 2009-01-29. 
  10. ^ "UK chart history - Black Sabbath Vol. 4". Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  11. ^ "Billboard Black Sabbath chart history". Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  12. ^ Hotten, Jon (21 January 1989). "Black Sabbath 'Vol. 4'". Kerrang!. 222. London, UK: Spotlight Publications Ltd.. 
  13. ^ "Rock List Music". Rock List Music. Retrieved 2011-08-17. 
  14. ^ Black Sabbath Vol. 4 2009 reissue booklet, page 11
  15. ^ "The Osbourne Family Album". Retrieved 2010-12-06. 
  16. ^ "Overview Alcohol Fueled Brewtality Live!!". Allmusic. Retrieved 2 November 2009. 
  17. ^ "Overview Masters of Misery-Black Sabbath: The Earache Tribute". Allmusic. Retrieved 5 November 2009. 
  18. ^ "Overview: Stash". Allmusic. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  19. ^ "Entombed Lyrics". Retrieved 9 November 2009. 
  20. ^ "Black Sabbath songs covered by medieval music band Rondellus". Retrieved 12 March 2010. 
  21. ^ "sHeavy Cover Songs". Retrieved 17 February 2011. 
  22. ^ "RIAA Gold & Platinum database". Retrieved 2009-01-29. 
  23. ^ "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 

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