Everyone at some point in their lives has found that specific awesomely terrible album. You know what I’m talking about. It’s an album that is so horrible, so corny, so cheesy, so badly produced that it’s so fucking awesome that you can’t turn away from it. It’s not like putting on a shitty album and just being like, “This album fucking sucks.” It’s putting on an album and going, “What the fuck is this? Oh my god this so fucking terrible… I LOVE IT!” Well, that very album for me is Born Again by Black Sabbath.
Black Sabbath was (and still is) a very complicated and confusing band. At 12 years old, it was all I could handle to discover that not only was Ozzy Osbourne the singer for Black Sabbath but so was Ronnie James Dio. Well, once again thanks to K-Tel, I discovered via Masters of Metal that former Deep Purple Ian Gillan also sang for Black Sabbath. On the compilation was the song “Trashed” and I just remember thinking, “What the hell is this crap?” I hated the song and that’s about as far as I went with it.
Fast forward to sometime around my junior year of high school, shall we? I was sitting at the lunch table with my 3 buddies and we were disputing albums by different bands and for some reason Born Again came up. We all talked about how corny the album cover was, how horrible of a song “Trashed” was, and how hysterically terrible it was that on that tour they actually did a cover of “Smoke on the Water.” I mean, Sabbath playing “Smoke on the Water?” That would be like Led Zeppelin doing a cover of “Walk This Way” or something. Either way, the album never even really got listened to. It would be nearly 20 years before that album would even make its way into my life.
Over the last 30 years of myself being a metal fan, I have heard it all. I heard one guy say that he’d rather roll down a hill of razorblades into a lake of alcohol than to listen to Born Again. On the other extreme, I’ve had Venom Inc vocalist/bassist Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan say, “I love that one. Loved it. Gillian with the band? Different but very cool. It’s of its own.” This is literally a case of “love it or hate it. Not even on paper does this sound like a good idea. Hey. Ronnie James Dio just quit our band. Who should we get? Let’s get Ian Gillan from Deep Purple. It may be just me but that equation just doesn’t seem to work. All that aside, I thought I would finally jump into the deep end and give Born Again an earnest, honest, open minded listen.
My first thought right out the gates when “Trashed” opens things up is that this is hands down one of the shittiest sounding records. I mean, who produced this album? A deaf guy? It literally sounds like it was recorded underwater. As bad as the production is, by the time “Disturbing the Priest” kicked in, I was less concerned with the shitty production and more taken back by the awesomely horrible lyrics. I mean, the lyrics on this album alone must have been the sole inspiration for Spinal Tap. Let’s take a look at some of these lyrics shall we?
“We’re disturbing the priest
Won’t you please come to our feast
Do we mind disturbing the priest
Not at all not at all not in the least” – Disturbing the Priest
“Your face is normal that’s the way you’re bred
And that’s the way you’re going to stay.” – Zero the Hero
“Her big fat daddy was a money machine
He made a fortune from computers
She’s got more money than I’ve ever seen
But she’s a greedy emotional looter” – Digital Bitch
“Where the heroes sit by the river
With a magic in their music as they eat raw liver” – Zero the Hero
“Keep it warm rat the place by your side
Nobody’s gonna take away our magical ride
Keep it warm for when we talk on the phone
Don’t forget will you pretty one that your man is coming home” – Keep It Warm
Yes, he actually says, “Keep it warm rat…” “With a magic in their music as they eat raw liver.” WTF? Are you laughing yet? I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried but here’s the deal, the more I listened to this album the more I found myself fucking loving it. It’s like eating a piece of sour candy. You know it’s gross and it causes you to make the most ridiculous face but you just can’t spit it out because it’s so good. That’s exactly what Born Again is for me. It’s a gnarly piece of sour candy that I just can’t spit out. It’s horribly awesome, it’s awesomely horrible, but either way, it’s fucking amazing.
In the end, Born Again is a piece of heavy metal awesomeness that you just can’t kill. It’s like the cockroach of metal. No matter how ugly, how gross, how gnarly it may be, no matter what you do to it, you can’t kill it or just when you think it’s dead, it comes back even uglier, more repulsive, and downright nasty as it was before. Born Again is an album that I absolute love to hate and trust me, I’ve been hating it over and over and over again.