SUPERNAUT: Inside the Black Sabbath VOL. 4 Super Deluxe Edition

Monday, February 8, 2021

It was on September 25, 1972, when Black Sabbath released the band's fourth album, Vol. 4. It's the LP that found the group exploring new sounds and textures, often due to the copious amount of drugs being ingested during the recording sessions. It's a record that's been cited by some of rock's biggest and brightest as the album that brought them over to the dark side.

"I discovered Black Sabbath by digging through my older brother's record collection. I couldn't believe it. It was like, 'Whoa! Heavy as sh-t,'" Metallica's James Hetfield told Classic Rock. "Sabbath was everything that the Sixties weren't. Their music was so cool because it was completely anti-hippie."

Listening to it now, Vol. 4 is an incredibly wild and varied ride for such an influential hard rock classic. Grinding dirge classics like "Wheels of Confusion" and straight-ahead riff attacks such as "Supernaut" give way to the tender(!) ballad, "Changes," and the emotive acoustic guitar-driven instrumental, "Laguna Sunrise."

Available on 4 CDs or 5 LPs, this super deluxe edition of Vol. 4 will feature a wealth of unreleased bonus material. A total of 17 alternate versions and outtakes will be unleashed from the vault - all newly remixed from the original multi-track tapes by acclaimed engineer Steven Wilson. The package will also feature a recreation of Sabbath's March 1973 live set on their tour of England - with all tracks newly mixed as well, and three being released for the first time.

All versions of the box also come with a booklet of liner notes featuring quotes from all four band members, rare photos and even a poster featuring unused album artwork with the originally intended title, Snowblind. Hear the new remaster of "Tomorrow's Dream" below.

In honor of this momentous occasion, let's look back at Black Sabbath's Vol. 4 with four big facts.

1. The band did so much cocaine while recording Vol. 4 that the drug got a credit in the liner notes.
Black Sabbath was coked out during the recording sessions that the group was set on naming the album Snowblind before cooler (and not so high) heads prevailed. "In spite of all the arsing around, musically those few weeks in Bel Air were the strongest we'd ever been," singer Ozzy Osbourne said in his autobiography, I Am Ozzy. "Eventually we started to wonder where the f-ck all the coke was coming from ... that coke was the whitest, purest, strongest stuff you could ever imagine. One sniff, and you were king of the universe. It would be almost impossible to exaggerate how much coke we did in that house ... at one point we were getting through so much of the stuff, we had to have it delivered twice a day." According to guitarist Tony Iommi, "We were young blokes, doing what young blokes do. I was doing coke left, right and center, and quaaludes, and God knows what else. We used to have [cocaine] flown in by private plane." The way bassist Geezer Butler (barely) remembers it, Black Sabbath spent $75,000 on cocaine while making Vol. 4. The price tag the band rang up recording the record: $60,000. A good $15k less than the bill for the group's enormous powder habits. It was so bad that Osbourne had a full-fledged freakout at the movies while watching The French Connection, about the bust of a heroin-smuggling ring. It was all too real for the coked-up singer: "By the time the credits rolled, I was hyperventilating." Looking deep into the original liner notes of the album, there is a thank you to "the great COKE-cola."

2. Black Sabbath almost killed Bill Ward in his sleep while playing a prank.
Put a bunch of wild British rock stars out of their minds on cocaine in a Los Angeles mansion, and it's not long before the pranks begin. "We were staying at John DuPont’s house in Los Angeles, the bloke who owned DuPont paint products," guitarist Tony Iommi told Guardian about the night they stumbled drummer Bill Ward passed out and naked. "We found all this paint in the garage, and were all pissed, so thought it would be fun to paint Bill gold from head to toe. He started having convulsions. The ambulance people gave us a right bollocking: 'You idiots! You could have killed him.' They gave him adrenaline and we had to use paint stripper to get it off. He looked like a beetroot by the end."

3. Vol. 4 is the album that made Lester Bangs a Black Sabbath fan.
Notorious for slamming Black Sabbath right out of the gate with a scathing review of the band's first album, the legendary writer saw the light after dropping the needle on Vol. 4: " Despite the blitzkrieg nature of their sound, Black Sabbath are moralists. Like Bob Dylan, like William Burroughs, like most artists trying to deal with a serious present situation in an honest way. They are not on the same level of profundity, perhaps; they are certainly much less articulate, subject to the ephemerality of rock, but they are a band with a conscience who have looked around them and taken it upon themselves to reflect the chaos in a way that they see as positive. By now they’ve taken some tentative steps toward offering alternatives," he penned in CREEM magazine. "We have seen the Stooges take on the night ferociously and go tumbling into the maw, and Alice Cooper is currently exploiting it for all it's worth, turning it into a circus. But there's only one band that's dealt with it honestly on terms meaningful to vast portions of the audience, not only grappling with it in a mythic structure that's both personal and powerful but actually managing to prosper as well. And that band is Black Sabbath."

4. In hindsight, Tony Iommi thinks Black Sabbath was doing too much when they made Vol. 4.
"L.A. was a real distraction for us, and that album ended up sounding a bit strange," guitarist Tony Iommi said to Guitar World. "The experimental stage we had begun with Master of Reality continued with Vol. 4, and we were trying to widen our sound and break out of the bag everyone had put us into." Iommi went even further to Classic Rock: "Vol.4 was such a complete change, we felt we had jumped an album, really. It didn’t follow suit, because we had tried to go too far. We had reached the limit as far as we wanted to go."

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