I think I qualify as being more than just a casual Black Sabbath fan. Not a super-fan, but still. At least for the Ozzy era. I know I’ve owned the first three albums at various points in the past, along with Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, and I was excited by underwhelmed by Headless Cross when it first came out in 1989. But I can probably sing you every song on Side A of Paranoid, which is one of the top five all-time sides of music of any rock record ever in my opinion.
Which brings me to 1983s Born Again. Why, pray tell, did I buy the demon baby record?
Well, because of the opening track. “Trashed.”
I thought “Trashed” was amazing as hell the first time I heard it on the 1984 compilation Masters of Metal, and I recently bought a Y&T record for the same exact reason. At this point I need to stop and reconsider whether I’m just better off buying that comp online so I can exorcise my hair metal demons, otherwise I’ll end up piecing the whole thing together myself buying copies of each of the albums that originally featured the tracks that made up that comp. Though in a way that would be kind of cool.
But back to Born Again. This was the only album featuring Ian Gillan, formerly of Deep Purple, on the mic. And frankly it’s been pretty widely panned for a host of reasons – the creepy-ass cover, the songs that are a bit more rock and less metal than standard Sabbath fare, and the poor recording quality. The last of these is legit – this thing is recorded low and flat. I doesn’t sound all that great, like it was made inside an oil drum. And that instrumental “Stonehenge,” well, the less said about that the better.
But there’s some cool stuff on here. I of course dig the car racing song “Trashed,” and “Zero the Hero” is a pretty solid rocker that at times gets Black Sabbath heavy. Gillan’s vocal styles are a departure for the band, nothing at all like the possessed Ozzy nor the operatic Ronnie James Dio. Gillan sings hard rock songs. That’s how he rolls. “Digital Bitch” might be the most Deep Purpl-ish tune on Born Again, one that seems to fit Gillan like a glove and has a pretty sweet guitar riff. “Hot Line” is another good driving number.
I’d agree Born Again is a bit uneven, and yes, the recording quality isn’t great. But if you stripped the Black Sabbath name off of this and went into it cold, you’d think it was a decent early 80s hard rock/metal record, and you’d be right.