When it came time for Black Sabbath to record its sixth studio album, the appropriately titled Sabotage, Ozzy Osbourne and company were justifiably pissed off. After spending five grueling years either on the road or in the recording studio making Black Sabbath into one of the biggest rock bands in the world, they made a crushing discovery: their management had been robbing them blind.
"We were in the studio for nearly 12 months," bassist Geezer Butler told Guitar World in 2011. "Around the time of (fifth studio album) Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, we'd found out that we were being ripped off by our management and our record company. So, much of the time, when we weren't onstage or in the studio, we were in lawyers' offices trying to get out of all our contracts. We were literally in the studio, trying to record, and we'd be signing all these affidavits and everything. That's why we called it Sabotage -- because we felt that the whole process was just being totally sabotaged by all these people ripping us off."
The band channeled that angst and aggression into the music, producing some of most pulverizing riffs in Black Sabbath history, including the thrash-metal inspiring "Symptom of the Universe." The track opens with a brutal riff, and by the end it's evolved into a groovy Grateful Dead-styled acoustic jam. That kind of sonic schizophrenia is found all over the album; the jaunty orchestral pop of "Am I Going Insane (Radio)" was a twisted attempt at a radio-friendly single. Following the creepy choir singing on "Supertzar," it's one of the oddest one-two punches on any Black Sabbath LP.
Loaded with enough hard rocking tracks like "Hole in the Sky" and the ominous "Megalomania" to keep diehard fans happy, Sabotage found Black Sabbath receiving some of the best reviews in the band's career. Even Rolling Stone, notorious for hating on the group, claimed that Sabotage "might be their best ever."
The album did well enough on the charts, peaking at #28 on the Billboard 200 for the week of September 27, 1975. The #1 album in America that week: Jefferson Starship's Red Octopus. Still, it was obvious that the wheels were starting to come off the Black Sabbath train. Sabotage was the first of the group's studio albums not to go platinum.