As Deep Purple smokes Toronto tonite, the Black Sabbath reunion seems to have hit a snag, what with Iommi’s health issues and Bill Ward’s contract dispute. Perhaps they could draft some Purple people as replacements? After all, it wouldn’t be the first time…
After firing their second singer, Ronnie James Dio (RIP), Black Sabbath was on the lookout for a new mouthpiece in 1983. Though he first turned them down, Ian Gillan, who had left Deep Purple to pursue a solo career, eventually accepted over a couple pints at The Bear pub in Oxford. Incidentally, the band also welcomed back a newly-sober Bill Ward for this record. Go figure!
The album opens with aggressive synth rocker “Trashed,” on which Gillan unleashes a trademark scream a few seconds in. This is Black Sabbath gone new wave right here, a static chug with unnecessary keyboard flourishes adding another layer of cheese. Make no mistake; they’re a decade removed from Vol 4 at this point.
Instrumental interlude “Stonehenge” is notable only in that it inspired the legendary scene from Spinal Tap. Apparently, the Sabs actually used a Stonehenge monument on this tour. Man, I would’ve loved to see that!
“Disturbing the Priest,” much like the Purple classic “Smoke on the Water,” is a tune inspired by the recording process—apparently there was a nearby church that wanted them to turn down their amps or something. Mind you, this isn’t really reflected in the lyrics, which still sound pretty evil despite the canned 80’s backbeat. Iommi also contributes a pretty sinister chorus riff, considering the circumstances…
“Zero the Hero” is this album’s saving grace, the closest thing to a classic on here. Cannibal Corpse actually covered this tune 10 years later on the Hammer Smashed Face single (apparently Chris Barnes swears by Born Again), as did a Calgarian band called Kybosh in the new millennium. I actually own all three versions, heh. Some people say that Slash stole the chugga-chugga heard in “Paradise City” from Iommi’s fretwork on this tune. Not sure I believe that, but there’s no question that this is a pretty badass track, regardless.
“Digital Bitch” opens Side B with its catchy, infectious chorus that’ll now be stuck in my head for the next few days. Rumour has it that the subject of this song is none other than Sharon Osbourne. On his website, Gillan says “I remember exactly who inspired this story, but the only thing I can reveal about her identity is that neither she, nor her father, had anything to do with computers.”
The title track can also be found buried on the B side. A slower, mellower number after the fast-paced fury of “Digital Bitch,” this one’s a power ballad in true 80’s fashion—and not a bad one, at that! “Hot Line” (say what?), on the other hand, slithers along like a second-rate Motorhead slow one. Speaking of thievery, this almost sounds like it was yanked from “Cat Scratch Fever.” Just sayin’. Album closer “Keep it Warm” opens with a decent doomy riff, though it turns into another ballad, this one not as good as its predecessor.
Although most critics found the music on Born Again to be about as appealing as its album cover, it shot straight up to Number 4 in the UK, while also charting in the States. Mind you, it’s probably the lone Sabbath record that’s never been issued on CD over here, making it a decent find for vinyl hunters. (I got mine for 10 bucks!) Unfortunately, for all its historical significance, it’s simply not that great an album, no matter what Chris Barnes thinks.