Black Sabbath - Never Say Die!
Vertigo
Hard Rock
9 songs (45:41)
Release year: 1978
Black Sabbath
Reviewed by James
Archive review

It's fair to say that almost every legendary band ends not with a bang but a whimper, and this is certainly true for Ozzy-era Black Sabbath. This incarnation of the band were as good as finished by 1978, with Ozzy having even briefly left the band a few months previously. He'd returned for the recording of Never Say Die, but the band really are running on fumes. And where Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was a band digging deep during difficult times and getting results, Never Say Die is Black Sabbath as a spent creative force, using, as they did on Technical Ecstasy, bizarre experimental excursions that feel more like papering over the cracks than any real sign of progress (the intro to Johnny Blade sounds like something from bloody Sonic The Hedgehog). Never Say Die all too often stumbles around tepid hard rock, with tediously overlong songs that seldom actually go anywhere.

Still, we get off to a solid start with the title track, possibly the only track on here that most fans actually like. It's uncharacteristically fast-paced and cheery for Sabbath, and perhaps it works solely because it's unlike much of what's on display here. It's perhaps the only truly good song on Never Say Die, even if the opening riff sounds like a sped-up The Boys Are Back In Town. The band have too many classic songs for me to really care to listen to it that much, but hey, you could stick it on a best-of and nobody would really complain. Breakout works too, but as it's a short instrumental it really contributes nothing to the album.

The rest of Never Say Die, then, falls into one of two categories. First we have promising songs let down by going on for too long and/or being far too repetitive. The shining example of this would be Junior's Eyes, featuring a stormer of a chorus, yet going on for about three minutes too long, and riding the same bass line pretty much all the way through. Air Dance is an interesting one, as although the first few minutes are quite charmingly weird, with the bizarre meandering piano lines and Tony Iommi pretending he's Carlos Santana over the whole thing, it all turns into some weird free improv thing that sounds like the song falling apart at the seems and ending before it can pull itself together. Shock Wave also starts out fairly promisingly, before heading into something so dull I couldn't tell you anything about it, despite having just listened to it as I'm writing this.

And, more alarmingly, we have genuinely inexcusable tripe that should never have been released to the public. Although A Hard Road seems to elicit a “hey, this ain't so bad” from most people, I've always found it nauseatingly dull, with what feels like the same riff repeated over and over and over for a whole six minutes, although it feels longer than the fall of Rome. Swinging The Chain is a dodgy Deep Purple rip-off, and possibly the most soggy, unremarkable closer. The song's really only of note due to the fact that drummer Bill Ward. Seriously, who ever let this man attempt falsetto screams should be publicly flogged.

Never Say Die really has nothing to sell itself to anyone except die-hard Sabbath fans, though I suppose there's always a perverse thrill from watching a once legendary band implode on record. Ozzy and the rest of the band would part ways here, and it proved to be one of their better decisions. Both parties made a return to heavy metal, and while there have been some shaky times for Sabbath they came out of still well-respected. If they'd carried making albums like this, however, well, it doesn't bear thinking about...

Killing Songs :
Never Say Die
James quoted 48 / 100
Other albums by Black Sabbath that we have reviewed:
Black Sabbath - 13 reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Black Sabbath - Classic Albums - Paranoid (DVD) reviewed by Marty and quoted no quote
Black Sabbath - Headless Cross reviewed by Adam and quoted 81 / 100
Black Sabbath - Forbidden reviewed by Khelek and quoted 65 / 100
Black Sabbath - Mob Rules reviewed by Khelek and quoted CLASSIC
To see all 22 reviews click here
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