Even today, I find that the music, compared to the previous records, has more class about it, more arrangements, more shine if you like and it's more adventurous. It was a leap forward. We used strings, and God knows what else; we really expanded. That's why, for me, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was the pinnacle.
On December 1st, 1973, Black Sabbath released , Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, their most ambitious and intricate album --a far cry from the plodding sludge of their earliest works. The band originally planned to record the follow-up to the coke fest, Vol. 4, in the same LA studio but, thanks to drugs and alcohol, motivation was lacking. On the verge of breaking up, Sabbath rented haunted Clearwell Castle in Gloucestershire. It wasn't long before the band saw its first ghost. As Brian Aberbeck writes in Black Sabbath: Pioneers of Heavy Metal
Whatever the explanation, Black Sabbath, the scariest band in the world, was too scared to stay overnight in Clearwell Castle.
In those creepy surroundings, Iommi came up with the "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" riff and the band was off to the races.
Rick Wakeman came in to play keyboards on "Sabbra Cadabra" .With its acoustic guitars, strings and prog rock arrangements, Sabbath suddenly found itself celebrated by critics. Gordon Fletcher of Rolling Stone wrote
Ozzy himself considers Sabbath Bloody Sabbath the band's last truly great album:
Even the artwork was spot on: it showed a bloke lying on his bed being attacked by demons in his sleep, with a skull and the number 666 above his head. I fucking loved that cover. And with the music we'd managed to strike just the right balance between our old heaviness and our new "experimental" side. On the one hand, you had tracks like "Spiral Architect" which featured a full orchestra and "Fluff", which sounded almost like The Shadows...On the other hand , there was "A National Acrobat", which was so heavy it was like being hit over the head with a lump of concrete.
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath reached number 4 on the UK charts and number 11 on the US charts and eventually went platinum when the album sold more than a million copies