SlammedArticles & Opinions by Chris Pervelis
Founding member of Internal Bleeding Chris Pervelis has issues — ones that cannot be vented through his work with Internal Bleeding. These are issues, topics and stories that need to be told. Read on and come back often, as different subjects get Slammed…
In Praise of Never Say Die!
Generally, most Sabbath fans detest the album Never Say Die! Granted, it’s an uneven work, and at times it’s even disappointing, but those few moments of let down are more than made up for by some stellar tracks that deserve a closer listen.
Before embarking upon listening, a little perspective is in order:
By 1977 the band was in tatters due to a grueling 10 straight years of constant recording, touring and writing — that’s sure to take its toll on anyone. Couple that with the fact that Ozzy and the rest of the Sabs were completely strung out on drugs and you have the recipe for disaster.
Additionally, prior to recording, Ozzy left the band, as Tony Iommi recalled in Guitar world: “Right before we were supposed to record Never Say Die!, Ozzy quit the band. We never wanted him to leave, and I think he wanted to come back — but no one would tell the other how they felt. So we had to bring in another singer and write all new material.” Then two days prior to recording, Ozzy came back and refused to sing any of the songs that were written. The band ended up writing songs during the day and recording at night — talk about a stressful situation.
Finally, the band had trouble getting it together; they’d end up in the studio ready to record and realize that they were too stoned to be in complete sync with each other.
Yet with the chips stacked against them, they still somehow managed to put out an album that is, at many times, absolutely brilliant. I’m going to run down the tracks that I find most impressive and show you where you should really listen so you can find the brilliance in Never Say Die!
Never Say Die: Considering the band’s circumstances, this track is incredibly optimistic. It actually could be taken as one giant sarcastic joke, and it probably is, but underneath all the happiness lays a rhythm section that swings like mad over Iommi’s main riff. This is a direct product of two people who have been playing together for years, and it shows. Listen to Ward and Butler’s interplay closely and you’ll see what I mean — it’s tight and fierce.
Johnny Blade: Sabbath had dabbled with synthesizer work on their previous albums, but really took it to new heights in this song and incorporated them beautifully to add a dark foreboding vibe to the track. One can just picture themselves on a dark rain-soaked night in the backstreets of London, preparing to get jumped. The song works its way through that dark synthesized mood, then drops into a great doom-laden Iommi chug riff around the 2:33 mark before transitioning back into the synthesizer enhanced climax. Once again, the interplay between the musicians is fantastic.
Junior’s Eyes: Another moody piece that incorporates great nuanced interplay between the instruments. The way the bass, guitar and drums play different things, but mesh perfectly highlights this band’s undeniable talent. Ozzy’s voice is in great form here, and you can really feel the emotion in his delivery — perhaps because the song was about his father and the loss he felt.
A Hard Road: Also known as “Sabbath does bubble gum pop.” Sure, at times it sounds like it could be the Beatles or Herman’s Hermits, but you have to admire the absolute catchiness and toe tapping rhythm that drives the track. There’s some great guitar playing in there as well, as Iommi sprinkles nice embellishments onto a simple, catchy riff without ever over doing it — that’s the sign of a great guitar player.
Shock Wave: This is by far the most driving track on the album. The opening riff sets the tone with an aggressive groove and the song drives and bristles with controlled energy. Bill Ward’s slashing cymbal style is in full effect here and you have to appreciate how he plays them with a strong sense dynamics and feel. Iommi’s solo in this song is personally one of my favorites, and he coaxes an obnoxious and angry nasal sound out of his SG. The song has everything a Sab fan could want; it’s heavy, aggressive and sprinkled with a touch of doom at the end.
Air Dance: Taking a cue from “Spiral Architect” from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, this highly progressive track takes us through many moods and feelings. From the driving opening, with a great harmonized Iommi melody to the jazzy closing and solo outro, “Air Dance” proves once again that Sabbath can do many things quite well.
The rest of the songs on the album such as “Over to You” and “Swinging the Chain” have flashes of brilliance to them, but in the end fall very flat and muddled. This is where you can feel that the band is falling apart and have lost their way, but these few duds cannot be what you judge the album on. Yes, they do detract from the overall listening experience, but they should not bury the fact that there is undeniable brilliance on Never Say Die!
Chris Pervelis is the founding guitarist of Internal Bleeding. Learn more about the band by visiting their website.