Mental heavy metal!
The Birth of Progressive Metal
As early as in 1970-'71 there were the musical works of a distinctive progressive character produced by Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath, feb. 1970), Deep Purple (Child in time, the fall of 1970), and Led Zeppelin (Stairway to heaven, 1971). Led Zeppelin held themselves from then on within the frames of Proto-Progressive Rock of a good quality, while Deep Purple after the "Machine Head" has began to do a simple Hard Rock with tight yet straightforward structures. To tell the truth, John Lord's disc from 1970 , recorded with a symphonic orchestra, can more or less claim for being progressive, but it was far not a "metal" work, at all. On the other hand Black Sabbath having gone through the period of Doom-Metal, a genre they intented on the first four albums, have differed significantly with their fifth "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" from the mass of bands played heavy music.
This work became the first project of real album consisted of almost all only the Prog songs in the history of Rock music, where are not a monotonous repetition ofa couple of themes (couplet-chorus-solo-...) made up a composition, but a combination of several different themes in one with the help of arrangements, and not a bare solo in the middle of the song. The abundance of the electric and electric guitars, keyboards, sparkling episodes, changing tempos and "moods" - these characteristics project the album straight into the progressive plane. An almost all keyboards parts here are done by the guitarist Tony Iommi, and not for the sake of money Rick Wakeman, already a celebrity, has came here to record the all various keyboard parts in "Sabbra Cadabra". Also Will Malone's Orchestra was involved.
In the next part of the Prog-line of Black Sabbath "Sabotage" we'll find much more motives inherented to Symphonic Prog rather than Metal, with a possible exception of the first track. The multitude of splending acoustic episodes, the presence of the above Malone's Orchestra, and an excellent choir, well thought out arrangements presented to listeners the new heights in the band's music.
Moving along the road of Prog-Metal, the musicians changed their sound again in "Technical Ecstasy". They pushed themselves forward from the slow Doom basis, so now the basis is formed with more speedier structures typical of the present Prog-Metal bands. That said, the compositions became fairly faster, with the number of various themes in every song increasing. The webs of the guitar solos from Iommi are twins with a grace and vitruosity, and I doubt (I foresee objections, but relisten it please) that the "best Rock guitarists" of the '70s R.Blackmore or J.Page have ever reached such a level of resoursefulness and technique. She's Gone is still regarded as one of the most beautiful Prog-ballads. The last track "Dirty Women" is the most complex and progressive on the album, just foreshadowed the forthcoming peak.
"Never Say Die" turned out to be the most commercially unsuccesfull album since their debut. Even many of old fans still didn't get into it. The reason is that it's pretty complicated for a quick perception. This genuine solitaire of Prog Metal contains tens of themes (that is, songs for a standart Hard band) in almost every composition. The music here is in constant progress, the themes are changing kaleidoscopically, often without a single repetition till the end of a song. In this album all the ingredients of Progressive Rock are found: complexity, depth of composition, excellent arrangements, regular changes of tempos and styles or combinations of those. Here Prog Metal is mixed with Symphonic Prog and Jazz-Fusion in the most graceful manner, which is a unique occurence by far the given genre.
VM (Vitaly Menshikov): October 1998