Certain Songs #63: Black Sabbath – “Symptom of the Universe”


Album: Sabotage
Year: 1975

While Paranoid is generally considered the greatest Black Sabbath album, and Master of Reality is often cited as the most inflential, my favorite Sabbath album has long been their 6th album, the eternally underrated Sabotage.  And my favorite track on Sabotage – quite possibly my favorite Sabbath song ever – is “Symptom of the Universe.”

Anchored by maybe the last of the classic early Iommi riffs (filled to the brim by Geezer Butler’s bass, natch), “Symptom of the Universe” comes chugging out of the gate even faster than “Paranoid,” with plenty of space for Bill Ward to remind contemporaries like Ian Paice (and warn newbies like Neal Peart) that he knows his way around a drum fill. And Ozzy has never sounded better as he’s screaming “a symptom of the universe is written in your eyes!!”

Pure speed. Pure power. Pure Sabbath.  

But then, after one of those Iommi guitar solos that sounds like angry hornets suddenly attacking from out of the sunshine – the song suddenly changes into an acoustic guitar jam not unlike the one at the end of the Rolling Stones “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.” Nary an electric guitar is heard again, instead, it’s 666 overdubbed acoustic Tony Iommis all playing off of each other

In no way, shape or form should this ending work after the proto thrash metal that started the song, and yet it does, working as a chill room for anybody overwhelmed by the first part of the song.

No speed. Hidden power. Pure Sabbath.

Video for “Symptom of the Universe”

My Certain Songs Spotify Playlist:

Every “Certain Song” Ever

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