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Vol. 4 (Black Sabbath album)

Vol. 4
Black Sabbath Vol. 4.png
Studio album by
Released25 September 1972
RecordedMay 1972
StudioRecord Plant, Los Angeles, California
GenreHeavy metal
ProducerBlack Sabbath, Patrick Meehan
Black Sabbath chronology
Master of Reality
Vol. 4
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Singles from Vol. 4
  1. "Tomorrow's Dream"
    Released: September 1972

Vol. 4 is the fourth studio album by English rock band Black Sabbath, released in September 1972. It was the first album by Black Sabbath not produced by Rodger Bain; guitarist Tony Iommi assumed production duties. Patrick Meehan, the band's then-manager, was listed as co-producer, though his actual involvement in the album's production was minimal.


In June 1972, Black Sabbath began work on their fourth album at the Record Plant studios in Los Angeles.

"It's the first album we've produced ourselves," observed Ozzy Osbourne. "Previously we had Rodger Bain as a producer – and, although he's very good, he didn't really feel what the band was doing. It was a matter of communication. This time, we did it with Patrick, our manager, and I think we're all very happy… It was great to work in an American studio."[1]

The recording was plagued with problems, many due to substance abuse. In the studio, the band regularly had speaker boxes full of cocaine delivered.[2]

Struggling to record "Cornucopia" after "sitting in the middle of the room, just doing drugs",[3] Bill Ward feared that he was to be fired: "I hated the song, there were some patterns that were just horrible. 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."[4] According to the book How Black Was Our Sabbath, Ward "was always a drinker, but rarely appeared drunk. Retrospectively, that might have been a danger sign. Now, his self-control was clearly slipping." Iommi claims in his autobiography that Ward almost died after a prank-gone-wrong during recording. The Bel Air mansion the band was renting belonged to John du Pont and the band found several spray cans of gold DuPont paint in a room of the house; finding Ward naked and unconscious after drinking heavily, they proceeded to cover the drummer in gold paint from head to toe.

The Vol. 4 sessions could be viewed as the point when the seeds were planted for the demise of Sabbath's classic line-up. Bassist Geezer Butler told Guitar World in 2001: "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 said: "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." To Guitar World in 1992, Iommi admitted, "L.A. was a real distraction for us, and that album ended up sounding a bit strange. The people who were involved with the record really didn't have a clue. They were all learning with us, and we didn’t know what we were doing either. The experimental stage we began 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." In the liner notes to 1998's Reunion, Iommi reflected, "By the time we got to Bel Air we were totally gone. It really was a case of wine, women and song, and we were doing more drugs than ever before." In his memoir Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath, the guitarist says, "Like Tony Montana in the movie Scarface: we'd put a big pile (of cocaine) on the table, carve it all up and then we'd all have a bit, well, quite a lot."

In his autobiography I Am Ozzy, Osbourne speaks at length about the sessions: "In spite of all the arsing around, musically those few weeks in Bel Air were the strongest we'd ever been." But he admits, "Eventually we started to wonder where the fuck 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." Osbourne also recounts the band's ongoing anxiety over the possibility of being busted, which worsened after they went to the cinema to see The French Connection (1971), about undercover New York City cops busting an international heroin-smuggling ring. "By the time the credits rolled," Osbourne recalled, "I was hyperventilating." In 2013, Butler admitted to Mojo magazine that heroin, too, had entered the picture: "We sniffed it, we never shot up ... I didn't realize how nuts things had gotten until I went home and the girl I was with didn't recognize me."


Vol. 4 saw Black Sabbath beginning to experiment with the heavy sound they had become known for. In June 2013 Mojo declared, "If booze and dope had helped fuel Sabbath's earlier albums, Vol. 4 is their cocaine ... Despite their spiraling addictions, musically Vol. 4 is another ambitious outing. The band's heavy side remains intact on the likes of 'Tomorrow's Dream', 'Cornucopia' and the seismic 'Supernaut' (a firm favorite of Frank Zappa, featuring Bill Ward's soul-inspired breakdown), but the guitar intro on 'St. Vitus Dance' possesses a jaunty, Led Zeppelin-flavoured quality, while 'Laguna Sunrise' is an evocative neo-classical Iommi instrumental." After being up all night and watching the sunrise at Laguna Beach, Iommi composed the song.[2] In the studio, an orchestra accompanied Iommi's guitar, although they refused to perform until their parts were properly written out.[2] The same orchestra performed on "Snowblind".[2]

"Snowblind" is the band's most obvious reference to cocaine, their drug of choice during this period. Snowblind was also the album's working title, but Vertigo Records executives were reluctant to release an album with such an obvious drug reference.[2] The liner notes thank "the great COKE-cola"[2] and, in his autobiography, Osbourne notes, "Snowblind was one of Black Sabbath's best-ever albums – although the record company wouldn't let us keep the title, 'cos in those days cocaine was a big deal, and they didn't want the hassle of a controversy. We didn't argue."

Although most of the album is in the band's trademark heavy style, some songs demonstrate a more sensitive approach. "Changes", for example, written by Iommi with lyrics by Butler, is a piano ballad with mellotron. Iommi taught himself to play the piano after finding one in the ballroom of the Bel-Air mansion they were renting. It was on this piano that "Changes" was composed.[2] "Tony just sat down at the piano and came up with this beautiful riff," Osbourne writes in his memoir. "I hummed a melody over the top, and Geezer wrote these heartbreaking lyrics about the break-up Bill was going through with his wife. I thought that was brilliant from the moment we recorded it."

"FX" came about unexpectedly in the studio. After smoking hashish, the crucifix hanging from Iommi's neck accidentally struck the strings of his guitar and the band took an interest in the odd sound produced.[2] An echo effect was added and the band proceeded to hit the guitar with various objects to generate odd sound effects. Iommi calls the song "a total joke".[2]

Of "Wheels of Confusion", Henry Rollins said: "It's about alienation and being lost in the wheels of confusion, which is the way I find myself a lot of the time. Sabbath could be my favourite band. It's the ultimate lonely man's rock. There's something about their music that's so painful and yet so powerful."[5]

The album, Tony Iommi told Circus's sister magazine Circus Raves, "was such a complete change – we felt we had jumped an album, really ... We had tried to go too far."[6]


Sleeve Photo

The album cover features a monochrome photograph of Ozzy Osbourne with hands raised throwing the peace sign,[7] taken during a Black Sabbath concert at Birmingham Town Hall in January 1972 by Keith Macmillan (credited as Keef).[8] The album's original release (on Vertigo in the UK, on Warner Bros. in the United States and on Nippon Phonogram in Japan) features a gatefold sleeve with a page glued into the middle. Each band member is given his own photo page, with the band on-stage at the very centre. All photos were from the aforementioned Birmingham gig.

The album's original cover art has proved iconic, and has been imitated and parodied on numerous occasions, such as on the 1992 Peaceville Volume 4 compilation album, the 1992 Volume Two EP by the band Sleep, and the 1994 Planet Caravan EP by Pantera.

The U.S. 8 track and cassette releases of the album feature alternate artwork: a yellow background with Ozzy silhouetted in black.

Release and reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[9]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 stars[10]
Rolling Stonefavourable[11]
Classic Rock3.5/5 stars[13]
Spin Alternative Record Guide8/10[14]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[15]

Vol. 4 was released in September 1972, and while most critics of the era were 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.[16] It reached number 13 on Billboard's pop album chart[17] and number 8 on the UK Albums Chart.[18] The song "Tomorrow's Dream" was released as a single but failed to chart.[19] Following an extensive tour of the United States, the band toured Australia for the first time in 1973, and later Europe.

Rock critic Lester Bangs, who had derided the band's earlier albums, applauded Vol. 4, writing in Creem, "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." Bangs also compared the band's lyrics to those of Bob Dylan and William S. Burroughs. In June 2000, Q[20] placed Vol. 4 at number 60 in its list of The 100 Greatest British Albums Ever[21] 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 his 2013 biography on the band Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe, Mick Wall insists "Under The Sun" would become the "sonic signpost" for bands that would follow Sabbath in years to come, such as Iron Maiden and Metallica. Frank Zappa has identified "Supernaut" as one of his all-time favorites.[22] (In a 1994 interview with Guitar for the Practicing Musician, Butler revealed, "I loved Zappa's lyric approach. That influenced me lyrically, definitely".) "Supernaut" was also one of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham's favorite songs.[23]

Kerrang! magazine listed the album at No. 48 among the "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time".[24] Rolling Stone ranked it 14th on their 2017 list of "100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time".[25] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[26]

Thomas Gabriel Fischer of Triptykon and previously frontman of Hellhammer and Celtic Frost cited Vol.4 as highly influential on his musical formation and stated he "learned to play guitar from that album".[27]

Track listing

All music written by Black Sabbath (Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne and Bill Ward); all lyrics by Geezer Butler. Some North American pressings have parts of the songs titled as The Straightener and Every Day Comes and Goes; the former is Wheels of Confusion's coda, while the latter is a two-minute segment that serves as Under the Sun's bridge.[28] These parts are not titled on original releases or any European release.

Side one
1."Wheels of Confusion"8:02
2."Tomorrow's Dream"3:12
4."FX" (Instrumental)1:44
Side two
7."Cornucopia"3:55 [29]
8."Laguna Sunrise" (instrumental)2:56
9."St. Vitus Dance"2:30
10."Under the Sun"5:53

Cover versions

"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".[30]
  • Doom metal band Cathedral on the tribute album Masters of Misery – The Earache Tribute.
"Tomorrow's Dream"
"Under the Sun"


Black Sabbath



Chart (1972) Peak


German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[37] 14
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[38] 7
UK Albums (OCC)[39] 5
US Billboard 200[40] 13


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[41] Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[42] Silver 60,000^
United States (RIAA)[43] Platinum 1,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

See also


  1. ^ "Sabbath – Clocking on in the States". Sounds #36. 30 September 1972.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Iommi, Tony (2011). Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0306819551.
  3. ^ Rosen 1996, p. 73
  4. ^ Rosen 1996, pp. 73–74
  5. ^ unsourced clipping, probably from Melody Maker, reproduced in Sabbath fanzine Southern Cross #12, January 1994, p6
  6. ^ Circus Raves No. 119, October 1975
  7. ^ "The Book of Seth: Black Sabbath - Vol 4". Julian Cope presents Head Heritage. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  8. ^ Grow, Kory (13 February 2020). "'That Evil Kind of Feeling': The Inside Story of Black Sabbath's Iconic Cover Art". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  9. ^ Huey, Steve. "Review Black Sabbath, Vol. 4". Allmusic. Retrieved 25 August 2009.
  10. ^ "Black Sabbath: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 6 March 2011. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  11. ^ Clark, Tom (7 December 1972). "Review Black Sabbath Vol. 4". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  12. ^ "Black Sabbath Vol. 4". Sputnikmusic. 9 February 2008. Retrieved 29 January 2020.
  13. ^ Rock, Classic (14 January 2020). "Black Sabbath - Vol. 4 Album Of The Week Club review". Loudersound. Retrieved 29 January 2020.
  14. ^ Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. ISBN 1841955515.
  15. ^ C. Strong, Martin. Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Canongate. ISBN 1852279230.
  16. ^ Ruhlmann, William. "AMG Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 14 February 2008.
  17. ^ "AllMusic Billboard albums". Retrieved 29 January 2009.
  18. ^ "UK chart history – Black Sabbath Vol. 4". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  19. ^ "Billboard Black Sabbath chart history". Retrieved 17 March 2008.
  20. ^ Q Magazine, issue No. 165, June 2000, p. 69
  21. ^ "Rock List Music". Rock List Music. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  22. ^ Black Sabbath Vol. 4 2009 reissue booklet, page 11
  23. ^ "BILL WARD Talks About Legendary BLACK SABBATH/LED ZEPPELIN Jam Session". Roadrunner Records. 31 July 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  24. ^ Hotten, Jon (21 January 1989). "Black Sabbath 'Vol. 4'". Kerrang!. 222. London, UK: Spotlight Publications Ltd.
  25. ^ Grow, Kory (21 June 2017). "100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media LLC. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
  26. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (7 February 2006). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5.
  27. ^ "Interview: Tom Gabriel Fischer". 14 April 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  28. ^ Joel McIver Black Sabbath: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath 2007 "St Vitus Dance. .. In fact, it serves as a perfect intro to 'Under The Sun', which drags into life with a weighty, down-tuned intro that is the heaviest metal that Sabbath have attempted to date. Not one but two tempo accelerations follow in the next two minutes, .... instrumental outro – often given its own independent title, this time 'Every Day Comes And Goes' – finishes the album off."
  29. ^ Original North American Warner Bros. Records pressings of Vol. 4 (catalog no. BS 2602) incorrectly list "Cornucopia"'s running time as 4:52.
  30. ^ "Black Sabbath songs covered by medieval music band Rondellus". Retrieved 12 March 2010.
  31. ^ "sHeavy Cover Songs". Archived from the original on 30 July 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  32. ^ Mariano Prunes. "Dos Bandas y un Destino: El Concierto - Arizona Baby, Los Coronas | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  33. ^ "Overview Alcohol Fueled Brewtality Live!!". Allmusic. Retrieved 2 November 2009.
  34. ^ "Overview Masters of Misery-Black Sabbath: The Earache Tribute". Allmusic. Retrieved 5 November 2009.
  35. ^ "Overview: Stash". Allmusic. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  36. ^ "Entombed Lyrics". Retrieved 9 November 2009.
  37. ^ "Longplay-Chartverfolgung at Musicline" (in German). Phononet GmbH. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
  38. ^ " – Black Sabbath – {{{album}}}". Hung Medien. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
  39. ^ "Black Sabbath | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
  40. ^ "Black Sabbath Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
  41. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Black Sabbath – Volume 4". Music Canada.
  42. ^ "British album certifications – Black Sabbath – Master of Reality". British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Master of Reality in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  43. ^ "American album certifications – Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath - Vol. 4". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 


  • Rosen, Steven (1996). The Story of Black Sabbath: Wheels of Confusion. Castle Communications. ISBN 1-86074-149-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Chow, Jason (2006). Dimery, Robert (ed.). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Quintet Publishing Limited. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)