The story is almost worthy of the Onion: it turns out that Black Sabbath, the legendary outfit which practically invented heavy metal, was really a bunch of impostors who stole their early material. Iconic pieces such as "Iron Man" really came from a brilliant forward-thinking jazz combo which disappeared in the late '60s before they could make their stamp on the world, and the first of their long-lost albums only surfaced with the release of Jazz Sabbath (Blacklake) in 2020. With its hitherto unknown companion piece also freed from the vaults, the world can finally hear the full truth.
It isn't too hard to think that the whole thing really happened in a parallel universe not terribly far from ours. (The jazz and metal worlds have certainly had their share of discoveries no less weird.) Jazz Sabbath commits to it with prize-worthy thoroughness, from authentic-looking artwork and promo videos to an admirably believable newspaper and magazine trail. Vol. 2's arguably biggest success, though, is that traces of Iommi, Butler, Ward and Osbourne are nowhere to be heard. These songs are just what they could have been if early hard rock had not existed, straight out of a classy nightclub and not without a hefty dose of humor.
Non-metalheads will probably at least know "Paranoid" and can happily enjoy its hearty burlesque stomp joined with a shot of rock guitar. The other pieces will be likely ones for the more devoted Black Sabbath fans to recognize, even as the melodies get hung on new hooks and slathered with cabaret horns. If it's easy to forget how much classic metal was rooted in the blues, Jazz Sabbath reminds us with slinky noir grooves or jaunty piano at every turn.
"N.I.B." steps lively with the shuffling beat of a chorus line. An airy "Beyond the Veil of Sleep" feels like a carefree hippie dream. "Black Sabbath" itself stretches from moody late-night musing to lounge-floor showstopper. Comparing these songs with other famous versions is enlightening and often hilarious, but even (or especially) without them, Vol. 2 happily stands as a fun wailing piece of blues and bop all its own.
Paranoid; Snowblind; Behind the Wall of Sleep; Sabbra Cadabra; Symptom of the Universe; N.I.B.;