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Appropriately released on Friday the 13th of February 1970, very few bands introduced an album that must've been at odds with the climate as Black Sabbath. Popular music had seen an incredible evolution in the previous 7-8 years - while The Beatles originally were considered rebellious innovators (and a decisive factor in Ozzy's decision to pursue a career in music), they'd become lame pussies by the late sixties, when rock 'n' roll had developed a more mature, often political discourse and people like Keith Moon, Roky Erickson, Frank Zappa, the Velvet Underground and many others had made clear that rock 'n' roll music wasn't only delivered by next door's boys. But Black Sabbath! Such an ominous sound! Still blues, but heavier than anything before. Led Zeppelin had already introduced the blistering attack of "Communication Breakdown" and the proto-metal vibe of "Dazed and Confused," but this was grimier, more serious and stubbornly one-dimensional.
While it's obvious the band wasn't yet the well-oiled mammoth of two-three years later, the majority of the songs here work surprisingly well. Even though it's quite corny, the title track still stands as a milestone in heavy metal history. I remember hearing a Black Sabbath compilation when I was 12-13 or so and that song did strike me as something particularly malevolent. It still does, despite its uhm… moronic flavour. Very rarely has a black mass been described this effectively. The lumbering rhythm section, playing as if they're wearing metal clothing, Iommi squeezing devilish sounds out of his guitar and Ozzy's unique wailing on top of it, churning out theatrical lines like "What is this that stands before me? Figure in black which points at me?"
Actually, the vocals on this album are easily the most amateurish ones he's done (even though he always did some "awkward" things - just singing along to the guitar melody being the biggest offender), yet they have a rawness in them he'd rarely achieve on later albums, when his high-pitched nagging paved the way for shriek-meisters like Rob Halford, King Diamond and lots of Germans. Here he almost sounds like David Lee Roth's helpless little brother. Anyway, if you don't dig the ridiculously pumping attack after his golden "Oh no, no, please God help me!," you just don't like music or should limit yourself to Sting's albums. And then there's of course that acceleration and climax to the end, the part that taught kids to bang their heads.
Like all great metal, "Black Sabbath" is heavy, provocative and admittedly a bit stupid, but done properly, it's a shit-load of fun. Arguing that this level is kept up for an entire album would be silly - nothing here is quite as effective - but certainly the album's first half is quite excellent. The harmonica that kicks off "The Wizard" sounds quite out of place, but once the entire band adds their sonic mayhem, you're off for a weirdly structured anthem. Iommi and Butler basically deliver the monolithic goods, but Ward's jazz-inflected drumming and Ozzy's amateurish charm (the "Never talking, just keeps talking"-part is particularly "nice") lift it to greater heights. "N.I.B.", preceded by an interesting 40-second bass solo ("Bassically"), also fits in that list of dumb & heavy rockers, but this time the band actually manages to infuse the song with a sense of grace ("Your love for meeeee has just goooot tooo beeeee reeeaaaaaal") and some of Iommi's coolest soloing. I also have a soft spot for their surprisingly accessible version of "Evil Woman," a simple and dry riff-driven rocker, but just listen to Butler's crawling bass-line and Osbourne's vocals, which are more melodic than ever, taking them almost in Pentagram-territory. "Behind the Wall of Sleep" is also pretty nifty, boasting another sinister riff and Ozzy's vocals always remind me of those in "Iron Man."
More than anything, however, the sound reminds me of the great production jobs rock albums had at the time, so organic and clear, with a fat distorted bass sound and drums you can actually feel. Unfortunately, the sonic delight can't make up for remainder of the rather mediocre second half. The acoustic intro to "Sleeping Village" is a nice diversion from the traditional heaviness, but what comes after isn't exactly the most inspired thing they've ever done - basically an excuse for Iommi's double-tracked solo there. Similarly, "The Warning" is a vehicle for a daylong solo by Iommi, which shows he could play, but not necessarily keep up the momentum for several minutes. However, the parts with the vocals ("I was warned about you baby but my feelings were a little bit too strong") are enjoyable as hell (hey!). The album sounds quite out of date nowadays (just because they don't make 'em like this anymore), but its key elements (riffs, atmosphere, etc) hold up surprisingly well. They only needed to tighten up the songwriting, turn up the amps to 12 instead of 11, make sure Iommi didn't stretch out for too long and just become one of the essential (if not the) heavy metal bands. This band kills. Though it may not be the essential metal album that everyone should own, it is definitely one that started the journey.
Black Sabbath's debut album which has been considered to be ground zero for heavy metal definitely deserves its props for being highly influential musically, as well as something different for that time period. While other bands such as Blue Cheer and Led Zeppelin have been recognized as pioneers of metal along with Sabbath; I think Sabbath were simply the heavier and more ambitious of the three, and definitely better in regards to lyrical content when compared to Zeppelin. However, I think this debut album is terribly over-rated, and those whom consider this to be the greatest metal album of all time can't possibly believe that. Especially when Black Sabbath would go on to surpass this album in terms of quality twice long before 1972 came around.
Black Sabbath has its flaws for sure but when this album gets things right it can be quite captivating. The group had some really good chemistry and the production values displays this well enough, with the instruments and vocals coming in quite clear. The doom and bluesy atmosphere can quickly grab the listener's attention. The opening track is just as perfect as everyone claims it to be. It's very atmospheric, creepy, and even mysterious as Ozzy takes his time revealing whom the threat is. The sped up climax caps off this brilliant composition of approaching doom making it by far the best and most memorable song on the album.
Another stand out happens to be NIB with its haunting lyrics grabbing me the most. This can easily be the second best written song on the album, because lyrically it reflects the darker content the album opened up with. In addition, I find it to technically be among the better with Geezer's bass complimenting Iommi's riffs all too well. Despite how out of place The Wizard feels especially immediately after following the opener, it's still a really solid banger with nice riffs and the harmonics combo to it.
I like Wicked World musically; the melodic bass adds a mesmerizing depth to it that sticks in my head; but I can't stand the ignorance in some of the lyrics. Even in that time period the holes in their argument is wide enough to fit the moon through. The final song combo A Bit of Finger/Sleeping Village/Warning, is a hard, bluesy jam session that caps things off quite nicely.
I can't deny my overall enjoyment for this album and I do acknowledge its importance, but the truth, to me anyway, is that this album is quite inconsistent at times and perhaps only half of it is really actually heavy. Plus Ozzy's tone deaf vocals have their moments of shining, while on others it feels as if Black Sabbath could have used a better singer right then. In closing, this is definitely an album that should be in every metal heads collection, old or new, however I wouldn't claim this as something that should be quickly added into the collection, at least not before their later works such as Paranoid, Master of Reality or Sabotage. Plus ignore the hype of this being the greatest ever. It's just... no, it's not true.
"Pitch black shape, with eyes of fire!" I remember when I read about this record, before I was even into Black Sabbath in general. I read about it in Ozzy Osbourne's book called "I Am Ozzy" and essentially, that's what got me into this band. I only had that book because at the time I was only into his solo career. But damn am I glad I read it. I immediately jumped on eBay and ordered a used copy of the vinyl and anticipated its arrival for a while. When I first put it on that turntable, I was overjoyed to finally hear it all as an album in entirety. So this is what would be called the first metal album! Well is it?
Musically, I wouldn't consider this the first complete heavy metal album. The reason I say that is because it simply has a lot of elements of what we would know as heavy metal, but as a whole it doesn't seem to be complete. It's mostly blues rock driven with a heavy guitar added instead of your more traditional '60s rock guitar. Every sub-genre is the same way though, so I wasn't expecting it to be fully metal anyways. It was their follow up record after this one that gave it that definite sound. This one, is mostly just blues with a heavy guitar. So try and take the guitar out of it and listen to it. You'll get scary, slow, bluesy rock music. The song on this that this is most evident is "The Wizard". This one starts off with a harmonica, and then turns into a rather groovy sounding harmonica + guitar piece, as well as a nice drum beat. Followed with a solo, then comes that part that gives it a metal sound. It suddenly turns into a minor toned, angry riff that you would hear before something bad is going to happen in a movie. It's pretty incredible I must say. Then, the lyrics come in, and they're about a mysterious wizard, in the misty, cloudy morning. It talks about spells, magic, and other spooky aspects of a wizard. I've always pictured a quiet city from the 1500s, and a depressing morning. Then, this black, hooded figure walks by without talking, just moves by and makes people wonder what it is. It's very spine chilling to think about, and all in all, this track sums up what this album seems to be in its entirety; scary, bluesy, and a little bit of heavy metal elements added to it. As a track, this one is one of the best ones on here, probably my second favorite.
Now, I think it's very fair to say that Ozzy's voice on here is rather different than what most of his stuff sounds like in anything, really. Unless, of course, if you listen to the happy "The Rebel" single that was out before this record. It's very deep, and sad sounding, rather powerful and high pitched like you will get on future albums. One of my friends that isn't into them was listening to this in the car with me one time, and he was surprised when I told him it was Ozzy. He thought that it was a black guy singing, as a matter of fact. Iommi's guitar on the other hand is outstanding as ever. I'll tell you something, for a dude with pieces of his fingers missing, he sure does a fantastic job. He has great balance between simple background riffs and stellar guitar solos. The only complaint about some of them is the placing of some of them, but I'll go into more detail about that later. As taking full responsibility for calling this metal, Tony has a very important role here. Not that Bill and Geezer don't matter, they're great too. But they're nothing beyond your standard rock and roll instruments on this. Of course, there's room for improvement everywhere. The best bass part is probably the small solo called "Bassically" that comes before what I call the best track on here, "N.I.B.". This song is beautiful in every way, and was a huge contribution to a lot of the satanic imagery in this music genre. It's classic, has great solos that never get boring, and an incredible song to just jam to. It's the only one to top "The Wizard", and it's just catchy as hell too. The last track on here that I would call a standout would have to be "Behind The Wall Of Sleep". This one is on the slower side of things, but again, the riffs really draw me in on this one as usual. It's put together so well, and Ozzy's voice probably sounds its best on here, as far as hitting the notes well and sounding articulate goes. All three of these tracks are what make this album as beautiful as it is, and it would be incomplete without any of them.
I hate to say it, but this album has plenty of room for complaints as well. Let's just get the one that I'll get the most shit for out of the way first. I don't think that the title track "Black Sabbath" is really as amazing as everyone says it is. I'm gonna break it down a little bit here. The main riff, first off. It's cool sounding, it's scary, and it's known as "The Devil's Interval" (whatever that means). But it's very slow and simple, and I get quite bored of it rather quickly. I know the whole point of it was a new sound and that history was made here, but musically, it's really not that good. Not terrible, but not that good. The lyrics are pretty sweet, I will say as a plus, and the solo at the very end is what makes it really enjoyable to me. Without that, I probably wouldn't care for the song that much at all. The other big thing with this album is the fact that some of the guitar work just seems thrown in there, if you know what I mean. Look at the song structure for the very last, fourteen minute track. It's slow, and they all seem to connect to each other. But then there will be random pauses, and out of nowhere here comes this wicked guitar solo. That's pretty good, but where's the flow? The structure? It just gets a little weird. I don't think that it fits together that well and that it should have been a little more organized. Some parts of that song are pretty great though, the best part is the intro, "Sleeping Village". It's so doomy and creepy, with a minor, simple guitar piece (also, anyone catch that twangy sound effect in the background? Nice touch there guys!), with Ozzy's quiet vocals to give it that overall atmosphere. After that though, it's just a bunch off good music mashed together in an unorganized fashion. That's a shame, because all of this could have made some banging songs by themselves if they were used right.
I guess to get from this is that side A is far better than side B. All of the standout tracks are from side A and hold all of the legendary work, if you ask me. But hey, that's just an opinion.
Let's face it, even if we don't listen to them that much, we all know who Black Sabbath are; they're the band that started everything. That's not a hyperbole, either, they literally began heavy metal music as we know it (although some would argue that it was Steppenwolf or Deep Purple who should have the honor of starting it). Despite not being completely perfect, this album, "Black Sabbath" laid the foundations for what was to become the music genre we all know and love.
When people first heard the title track in 1969, they were terrified. All it took were three ominous chords, and the stage was set, the song also having dark lyrics relating to Gothic imagery and the occult that up until now, no one ever dared use in their own songs. A new sound that made use of dark and intimidating imagery was born; a sound which had not been heard before. Before Sabbath, the hardest anyone's ever gotten was Led Zeppelin, and by our standards, it wasn't very heavy. Come to think of it, the music on this album isn't as heavy as the stuff we're used to listening to more, but at the time of its release, "Black Sabbath" was the most terrifying sound that any musician could ever achieve. It's part of the reason why the band got popular in the first place, people were afraid of those three chords int he title track, but at the same time, they were either curious, or blown away by them.
If you listen to the other songs on this album, though, they're actually just like any other classic hard rock song. The main difference between Sabbath and other bands is the wailing of Ozzy's voice. While other bands around at the time would have their vocalists growl and roar, Ozzy would simply wail and moan, suggesting a gloomy tone to the song. If the band used any other vocalist, songs like "The Wizard" would be nothing more but a Steppenwolf clone, even with the fancy fretwork of Tony Iommi. Ozzy, however, puts some flavor into the song with his unique voice, making it more original. If you listen even closer to the songs, you'll realize the band's influence wasn't so much rock, as it was blues. Some of the riffs and solos in the songs on here utilize a pentatonic scale commonly found in blues songs. The band also uses power chords, common with many bands at the time, but due to the guitars being heavier than before, songs like "N.I.B.", which feature these chords, sounded like something completely new.
Also common with some bands at the time, like Led Zeppelin, is the fact that the band tended to play some of their songs all in one go. That meant that we get quite a few songs all in one track. Although later editions of this album have the songs separated into their own track, my own copy features "Wasp", "Behind the Wall of Sleep", "Bassically", and "N.I.B." all in one track. For a person that wants to listen to the cool power chords that make up "N.I.B.", this can be a huge inconvenience. Subsequent albums released by Sabbath wouldn't have this problem, as they recorded all of their songs separately, but the songs on here are also proof of really long jam sessions that happened in the studio. I guess it's 'cos the band wanted to give it a somewhat natural flow, as if you were actually at their gig. But there are some people that just want to hear "N.I.B.", not the whole jam, okay? Fortunately, this does not pertain to some versions of the album, but on mine, it does.
Even if you're one of those people that say that Steppenwolf were the ones that laid the foundation of heavy metal just 'cos they coined the term in their song "Born to be Wild", there's no denying that Black Sabbath made metal what it is today. It also had a hand in the birth of doom metal, the subgenre that would try and recreate (or rip off) Black Sabbath's signature sound. It has some blues, and it has some rock, but "Black Sabbath" would be the album that would solidify the presence of heavy metal in the decades to come.
This is the first proper heavy metal album. Some critics try and point to the first two Led Zeppelin albums as being the origin of 'metal', or even cite Deep Purple's In Rock as a foundation stone, but they're wrong. Those albums are very good, but they are, essentially, hard rock records. An actual metal album can always be told apart, because it will have a certain weight and vibe to it that hard rock music just doesn't have.
Nowhere is this distinction better illustrated than by comparing the first song here, "Black Sabbath" with the openers from Zeppelin's early albums. In 1970, absolutely nothing else sounded like this. The eerie sound of rain and a tolling bell immediately set up a far more gothic, bleak ambiance than anything that had gone before. And then THAT riff slams in. Three simple notes, arranged sparsely, but with an enormous, core-energy power from the bass and guitar playing in unison which had not been laid down on tape before - the traditional blues roots of the song are mixed with an element of classical music's dynamics and sounds to create something a step above everything else at the time. The lyrics too immediately stand out as noticeably darker - none of the usual Zeppelin/Purple subject matter, but something filled with dread and fear. Track one, side one and heavy metal arrives and pays its calling card. The production is quite basic, however [not surprising given that the album was recorded on a small budget] and this perhaps robs the song of some of its power and heft - it's worth checking out the BBC Session track released on the 90s Ozzy solo compilation The Ozzman Cometh to hear the definitive version of this song.
The opening track really is what makes this album, and elevates it from a somewhat ordinary debut into a pioneering moment in musical history. Not to say that the other songs here are bad, but most of them can clearly be traced back to bands like Cream, Zeppelin, even the harder elements of Hendrix - they're more variations on the blues rock/hard rock template as opposed to the groundbreaking title track. Side One is fun to listen to, especially the almost bouncy rolling groove of "Behind The Wall Of Sleep" [again with some rather mysterious and interesting lyrics] and the harmonica-enhanced stomp of "The Wizard". "N.I.B." is still a regular in the Sabbath live show to this day, and boasts some harder riffing, although the production again lessens the impact of the tune.
Side 2 is more diverse, and features only three tracks [some versions of this album add a fourth, an original composition entitled "Wicked World"]. The cover song "Evil Woman" sounds noticeably more lightweight than the rest of the album, though it is catchy. The delicate acoustic interlude "Sleeping Village" though is an underrated highlight and would have been nice to have heard expanded into a full song. As such it nicely sets up an atmospheric interlude which is another indicator of how this record differs from what went before - this is no "Black Mountain Side", but rather an eerie, sombre observation. This snippet would also set the template for Sabbath to include at least one lighter acoustic spot on each one of their first six albums, as a way of breaking up the heaviness.
Finally, we have the Aynsley Dunbar cover "Warning" and this is where the album hits its major stumbling point. The actual rendition of the song itself isn't bad at all [it has quite a decent riff], but in the middle it's stretched out by Iommi doing some very long passages of soloing. Now Iommi isn't a bad solo player, but he sounds better doing it in a live setting, or if on record doing it over the top of a song, rather than stopping an entire track to just solo for minutes on end. It feels awkward, and interrupts the flow of the song. If you're a big fan of blues rock style guitar showmanship, this will probably be more enjoyable, as it is I'm forced to knock a few points off the rating here as this section gets pretty boring to listen to at times.
On a purely musical basis, this record is a solid first effort, although there are some lesser moments and the production saps it of vitality in places. Strictly speaking I think I'd give this somewhere between 75% and 80% on that basis - it's good, sure [and the cover art is excellent], but from their second record on Sabbath would refine their sound and focus and produce much more consistent albums [until the drugs affected the songwriting in the late 70s]. For my Sabbath fix, most days I tend to reach for Master Of Reality/Vol. 4/Sabotage rather than this record. However on a basis of historical importance and worth, this is easily 100%, and taking this into account I think a score somewhere in the 80%-86% range is appropriate. This is where it all starts - heavy metal arrives on this record, with the title track, and music would never be the same again.
Without going too much into history, Black Sabbath's self-titled debut album was released during the hippie movement. Peace, love and drugs ruled; also in music, and were a way to escape from the much darker reality. Black Sabbath, though, created a different type of music. Instead of cowering of fear when faced with the world's more sinister topics, they thrived on it and created what is now an album that pretty much started this wonderful genre of hard rock music called heavy metal.
I would indeed be lying if I said that the four Brummies didn't use drugs to create music. They absolutely did, and more so than many bands at the time, but what they did differently was the fact that they took on the darker subjects instead of escaping them. To be fair, more of the actual real-life problems were more apparent on later records such as 'Paranoid', while 'Black Sabbath' is a more fantasy-based album with dark, shadowy entities and wizards (the title track and "The Wizard).
Black Sabbath obviously hadn't found "their sound" yet by the time their debut album was released. The music here isn't heavy metal as we know it, but rather a mix of their musical backgrounds i.e. blues and hard rock. But to say that the songs on this album aren't heavy would be a wretched lie. The doomy and eerie intro/main riff in the opening song (title-track) was so game-changing in the art that is music at the time, and to this day remains a blueprint to any type of metal out there. A classic tune to say the least. "The Wizard" is also a heavy one. Compared to "Black Sabbath", "The Wizard" is much more upbeat and wild. Hell, Ozzy even plays an amazing harmonica on top of the magnificent riffage of Iommi and tight rhythm section handled by Butler on bass and Ward on drums. Heavy, bluesy, catchy, perfect. The album continues in a similar vein with "Behind the Wall of Sleep" and the great N.I.B. after a brief bass-solo by Butler. Black Sabbath round the album off with two cover tunes "Evil Woman" and "Warning" and a somewhat mellow Sabbath tune called "Sleeping Village". The first cover song "Evil Woman" is a decent rock song, but the latter one "Warning" being a tasty diddy! Iommi simply slays on this song with some tremendous guitar-work. In between those is "Sleeping Village"; a song that isn't too memorable compared to the rest of the album, but at the same time isn't bad at all.
As far as individual performances go, they're top notch. Ozzy, while never the best singer out there, has a voice and style, as well as a stage presence, that fits Black Sabbath's music perfectly. Iommi's innovative axe-work deserves huge credit. From the eerie melodies of the title-track, the heavy and memorable riffs from "The Wizard" and the amazing improvisations on "Warning" show how great of a guitarist he is. Butler's basslines are solid and just as important to the music as Iommi's riffs. Drummer Ward is the unsung hero here, though. His jazz-trained drumming is a vital ingredient to Black Sabbath's music and raises the bar even further.
There aren't exactly any weak spots to point out on this album. "Evil Woman" and "Sleeping Village" are perhaps the weaker songs on the album. Not bad, just not as great and memorable as the others (most notably "Black Sabbath", "The Wizard" and "N.I.B.).
A bluesy hard rock album with a touch of sinister occultism is a way to describe 'Black Sabbath'. Without a shadow of doubt one of the most important albums released in rock history, but perhaps overshadowed (and understandably so) by later Sabbath albums such as 'Paranoid' and 'Master of Reality'.
On a dull, rainy day, you stare out your bedroom window at the grey, run-down church sitting in the midst of an equally-decimated cemetery, when you suddenly spot a dark shadow. As you stare at it, you notice it's staring right back at you and slowly starts to creep towards you. Then, the church-bell starts ringing, before an almighty crash of thunder knocks you down flat on the floor... If you imagine this, you get the idea of where you're heading when you hear the spooky intro to this wonderful album.
So it all began in that early performance of Polka Tulk Blues Company in a Carlisle ball, the band started as a 6-piece but ended up with 4 on stage, getting rid of their slide guitarist and saxophonist. They called themselves Earth, but some other band already owned that name, so Geezer suggested the famous one after watching the 1963 Mario Bava movie I Tre Volti Della Paura featuring Boris Karloff. “This is the night of the nightmare! ...When a headless corpse rides the cold night wind…when a woman’s soul inhabits the body of a buzzing fly! Black Sabbath, the most gruesome day in the calendar of The Undead” - that’s what the movie poster said, an ideal introduction as well for the unusual dark imagery of the group that made a big contrast with the 1969 cheesy flower power. That year they met Joe Smith and signed with Warner Bros. It took 2 days for them to record the debut, which was released on Friday the 13th.
The unforgettable opening homonym title track is the clearest reflection of the band’s unique sound and identity. Maybe it doesn’t include the most solid riffs or the most skilled configuration. In factm it’s so easy and stripped down from complexity totally, constructed by that basic Iommi obscure line, the mighty tritone interval along with Ozzy’s unnervingly tortured voice singing something completely contrary to the traditional peace, love & drugs of most rock groups around. What a big difference! Did anybody play something like that? And not only had the first epic tune make a contrast. Others such as “Behind The Wall Of Sleep” or “N.I.B.” also have a remarkably consistent sound based on truly heavy riffs, so straight and simple that they manage to design something solid and inventive. Absolutely intense powerful music for those times, yet generally quiet and slightly melodic at times as the emotional intro of “Sleeping Village” proves, so Black Sabbath ain’t lacking sophistication or versatility.
The basis of this stuff is explicitly bluesy and there’s no doubt about it when you listen to the more traditional “The Wizard” and that Crow cover “Evil Woman” and their harmonica and wind section supporting arrangements respectively. So they’re taking inspiration from varied styles, something evident on the many instrumental passages and talented improvisation of jazzy nature, some diverse licks and particularly on the most ambitious composition of the pack, and the Ansley Dunbar Retaliation cover “Warning”. Lyrics on that might get kinda melancholy and tender as the topical issues of that music genre these guys admired so much define along with Iommi & Butler’s casual lines an introduction to the lengthy, elaborated pickin’ part of Tony in the middle of the tune, an admirable exhibition of talent and skills that sounds so spontaneous. According to the Riff Master himself, “I performed the extended solo on “Warning” in only 2 takes. The first one I played was much better than the second one, but our so-called producer, who had never produced an album in his life, decided to put the second one on the record without consulting us”. Enough said!
7 memorable cuts that broke the exhausting clichés of the '60s acid psychedelic rock, offering a brand new methodology based on greater control of riffs, down-tuning and low-range vocals, and the absence of tiring difficulty and alternative lyrical themes, although the essence of Black Sabbath’s music wasn’t still absolutely defined because they still took excessive influence musically and lyrically from blues and jazz. Actually, a couple of titles here could be part of an entirely blues record and I don’t mean the covers, with guitar lines of that nature and distinctive rhythm bases that don’t embrace completely the pioneer schemes of the group. The presence of harmonicas, a horn section, and romantic words would soon get tenuous and eventually nonexistent on later releases, but here they make a bizarre combination with Iommi’s weighty, low riffing. That came as no surprise from a group whose roots were clearly bluesy, coming from a similar musical background to other late '60s hard rock icons, though they developed a much darker imagery that had nothing much to do with the cheerful message of Led Zeppelin or the abstract fantasy of the bunch of UK’s progressive league.
They made a difference in the technical aspect too, performing something simpler, determined exclusively by leading guitar riffs, denying the impossible complexity and variety of sounds, textures, and instruments of others because there are no keyboards, saxophones, or mellotrons here (yet). The pack is reduced to string, rhythm, and vocal section, setting the rules of the upcoming heavy metal genre the NWOBHM would further develop.
Tempos were also distinct, pretty heavy and quiet to fit the weight of Tony’s huge guitar parts, reaching an unexplored level of intensity and strength. Those rhythms and the whole instrumental structure of these numbers were far from complex as I mentioned. Variations of riffs aren’t that numerous or talented. Ozzy’s vocals are generally so scruffy and noisy and Ward’s drumming isn’t particularly rich or precise, but perfection wasn’t required to make good music.
This is one of the most popular debuts in the history of rock. It definitely discovered a completely new sound that featured some of the basic elements of what would later be known as heavy metal, but the splendorous unique sound of Black Sabbath would be achieved on later albums. In most of cases, it takes some records for a band to find their own style and identity. Luckily for them it didn’t take long and shortly afterwards they got rid of the exhausting bluesy/jazzy nature of these 7 compositions. However, this stuff was ahead of its time and certainly made a big impression and contrast among generic '70s inoffensive melodic rock, so this is one of those classic basic LPs you should’ve listened to at least 20 times to understand the evolution of the rock.
The legendary Black Sabbath crashed into the music scene in early 1970 with their groundbreaking debut. Pioneering a genre isn't easy, but Black Sabbath seems to pull it off with ease. Combining blues, jazz, and rock into what is now known as heavy metal. Showcasing the classic metal riffing, unique vocals, and truly phenomenal rhythm section, making this one of metal's best offerings...and I'm not just saying that because it was the first metal record, simply because it is just that good.
Guitars are supplied by none other than the legend, Tony Iommi. Delivering crushing riffs ranging from blues, rock, and even jazz. The eponymous "Black Sabbath" and "The Wizard" have great heavy opening riffs that really show what heavy metal is all about. Other riffs like "Behind the Wall of Sleep" and "Wicked World" are very bluesy and show Iommi's roots as a guitarist. Some great solos are on this record as well. "Sleeping Village" has a nice bluesy solo that climaxes greatly and brings the song nicely back to the main riff. The group's cover of Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation's "Warning" really show Iommi's improvisational skills towards the middle and end with a three minute solo. Overall his tone is great. Very heavy with a nice and smooth mid section and twangy highs that fit perfectly with the album.
The real star of this album is Bill Ward. Laying out some of the smoothest and grooviest beats, rolls and fills I've laid ears on. I'll admit, I am a sucker when it comes jazzy drum rolls and beats and let me tell you the rolls and fills on this album satisfy my jazz craving. Beats like that on "Behind of the Wall of Sleep" are catchy as fuck and hold the whole song in place well for Geezer to jam while Iommi rips up on the guitar. Some great rolls and fills are also present like on "The Wizard" and "Wicked World" that would make any jazz fan proud. Ward's kit has a very clean and natural sound to it that I admire. Along with Ward's jazz and blues background he is a great addition to the rhythm section.
Also within the rhythm section is Geezer Butler on bass. Geezer does a great job on this record, really backing up Iommi's licks and riffs with a great sense of rhythm and timings. "Behind the Wall of Sleep" has some great classic Geezer lines that are in perfect harmony with Ward's beats and Iommi's riffs. "Warning" also has a great groovy bass line that shows his true capabilities to keep a groove going and improvise around it. Other than bass lines, "N.I.B." has an awesome bass solo intro slathered in some wah-wah and a bit of distortion. The solo is pretty great and leads perfectly into the opening riff. In general Geezer's bass is very clean and very playful. He is not shy to toy with the groove or add his own thing into the songs, which really makes his bass playing unique.
On top of all of this stand Ozzy's vocals. Ozzy's voice sounds rather old as if he pulled a Benjamin Button and started with the voice we would later have at 50. It actually fits nicely in the blues infused music and sad lyrics. The lyrics are typical Sabbath stuff consisting of doom, evil, and darkness. The opening track "Black Sabbath" has a fantastic vocal role in the song. Speaking of being visited in the night by a the devil, it works so well with the music. "Wicked World" also has great lyrics. Talking about how the world is kind of fucked up as well as political criticism. In the end great vocals, actually one of few albums were Ozzy actually "sings".
Thus, metal is born. Rooted on blues, rock and jazz Black Sabbath presents the original sound of metal. Showcasing heavy riffs, dark vocals and lyrics, and a rhythm section that is tighter than a nun's cunt, this is a must for any metal fan or those looking to get into metal.
Although I would likely point the finger at King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man" as the harbinger of 'heavy' in heavy metal, there's absolutely no denying what a massive impact Black Sabbath's self-titled debut had on the formation of the genre. With that context in mind, there's no wonder why it's still considered a classic by many, forty-odd years after its release. It is a lumbering, ugly hard rock record with strong ties to the blues and the occult, and though Black Sabbath do not impress near as much here as they would with the essential "Paranoid", its historical significance alone warrants a listen.
"Paranoid" would solidify the band's take on heavy metal, but the rich distortion and 'evil' tone have been nailed from square one. At this point, I might liken Black Sabbath to Led Zeppelin's first two albums. Though rooted in the American blues style that swept through the British hard rock scene at this time, the aggression has toned up several notches. In the case of Sabbath- and arguably what most sets them apart- is their devotion to a dark atmosphere. The infamous 'tritone' is upheld from the very start; the title track "Black Sabbath" opens with an unforgettably doomy riff, and vocals to foreshadow impending damnation. The title track sets a standard for doom metal that many bands still compete with.
The distorted riffs are a constant throughout "Black Sabbath", but the songwriting feels more at home with its time period after the title track. "The Wizard" through "Sleeping Village" are all rocking tracks that make no effort to hide the heavy blues influence. Of these, "The Wizard" and "N.I.B" stand out, the former for its deep harmonica work and fantastic riffs, and the latter for its superb bass work, courtesy of Geezer Butler. "The Warning" brings Sabbath back to a more epic format, relying heavily still on bluesy riffs, but taking the structure a step further, and giving Iommi plenty of time for fiery solos that draw a parallel to Jimmy Page's lead style.
Although I loved his vocals on "Paranoid" and have been impressed by some of his performances thereafter, Ozzy Osbourne feels like the weak link on the debut. His nasal vocal tone fits the eerie atmosphere, but his voice feels unrefined and unkempt. Of course, this fits the description of the rest of Black Sabbath, but in the case of Ozzy's voice, it doesn't bode well. With the exception of the first two tracks and the catchy "Evil Woman", the vocal melodies feel tacked on without too much thought.
It's not the masterpiece that Black Sabbath would craft later the same year, but for the fact alone that they were able to revolutionize hard rock music within a single album, the debut deserves to be heard. Tony Iommi takes centerstage in everything the band does here, and though the songwriting does not feel as consistent or focused as they would for the two following records, the band's gritty sound and influence cannot be underestimated.
Reams of study and debate over whether Black Sabbath should be considered the first true 'heavy metal' album have already been ground out through the years in myriad forums. Horns have been locked, sides drawn and oppositions condemned. But while it might be impossible that we EVER pinpoint and agree upon a sole, single progenitor for the medium, the truth is that the style was born out of a number of influences, culturally and musically, which led to a band from Birmingham, England to intensity their heavy blues sound into something we now recognize as a defining, formative work of our beloved escape. Yeah, Black Sabbath might not have penned the very first 'metal' record, and who cares? But I don't think there's any argument that this was the first of such enormous significance...
Upon a cursory listen, of course, one might discern that the band's blues rock roots still shine through heavily here, and as a result the s/t debut is not one of stylistic certainty, but a balance of components akin to the evolving sounds of Deep Purple or Led Zeppelin in the same era. There are tracks here as heavy as fuck-all, and others through which the quartet delves into the psychedelic folk and rock that were a huge influence upon them personally growing up. So by no means is this album thorough in its metallic content, but then, said content is far and away what I'd deem the most memorable writing here, and of course I'm referring to their namesake "Black Sabbath" itself, which I'd consider the best and most important track on the album. Samples of rain and church bells build support for the centric, funeral brooding Iommi lick which entire sub genres of heavy rock were born from, and our introduction to Osbourne's vocals is flawless, hypnotic and most importantly: assertively blue-collar and honest.
"Black Sabbath" creeps along like every cliche out of nightmare! You can close your lids to this and imagine any serpent, spider or rodent creeping along its carrion course, or a murder of crows stirring upon the grounds of some fell cathedral. Bill Ward's percussion totally sells the simple guitar line which, while alternated between single notes, bends and chords glides through both the corporeal fat of Geezer Butler's bass lines and the foreboding doom of the lyrics. The end of the tune picks up into a fairly 'freakout' sequence of sweltering blues lead and psychedelic, wavy rhythm guitars, but it's not a bad climax, and really the only negative thing I can say about this song, one of the band's greatest, is that it sets up such a high water mark for the album that the ensuing material simply cannot reach or surmount it...
But it tries. "The Wizard" transforms from Ozzy's harmonica intro to a more swaggering form of choppy, heavy rock that wouldn't be alien to fans of Zeppelin, Cream or Hendrix, and the true star here is Geezer's punctual, fluid bass as it clings to the underside of the chords like a green slime about to drop itself on some dungeon victim. "Behind the Wall of Sleep" is trippy thanks to the contours of the grooving bass and Osbourne's slightly effected bite, while "N.I.B." sounds like the devil's own spiritual successor to something like The Kinks' "Girl You Really Got Me", only more slovenly, measure and mesmerizing. I'm also quite a huge fanbay for the track "Wicked World" which appears on the American version of the LP in place of their cover of Crow's "Evil Woman (Don't Play Your Games With Me)". The opening minutes are pretty pure blues driven Sabbath groove, with Butler taking another wet-booted stroll in the mix, but what I found most fascinating were the closing moments where the song takes on an almost early 'post-rock' appeal with the calming clean tones in the bridge, and the spacey surge of whining, ambient feedback at its close.
I'm not quite as into some of the minor clips of excess fixed into other tracks here, like the brief Geezer vehicle "Bassically", or the rather pointless "Wasp" intro to "Behind the Wall of Sleep". I also don't really find the cover tunes necessary. The 10+ minute rendition of Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation's "Warning" is not a highlight for me, but certainly I found myself transfixed to its strutting style and the great performance on the bass. But then, including covers on a debut album was just not that out of place during this period. Deep Purple used covers, and hell, even Ozzy and crew were themselves on the receiving end when Japan's Flower Travelin' Band kick started its own recording career with Sabbath covers. At least these guys chose a few that were appropriate, flush with the original material. A few that they could make 'their own'.
Ultimately, even if it never really eclipses the titular opening cut, Black Sabbath is monumental in its quality and the span of its inspiration upon hundreds of thousands of hard rock, stoner rock, doom and psychedelic metal cosmonauts for the next four decades and on into infinity. I would not say this was my favorite of their records, since Paranoid, Sabotage and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath are just too loaded to deny, but its waves of harrowing nostalgia and morbid, serious lyrical prowess are legion, and "Black Sabbath" itself is easily one of the best songs ever in the doom or 'proto' doom category, an apparition of eerie atmosphere that has kept me nervous around graves and doing a double take on every own shadow I've crossed since the day I first heard it.
The history of heavy metal starts in Birmingham on February 13, 1970 when Black Sabbath release their first eponymous album. The group is formed by the ex-butcher John “Ozzy” Osbourne on vocals, the maimed (he lost two phalanges in an accident at work) guitarist Tony Iommi, the ex-accountant interested in occult readings Terence “Geezer” Butler on bass, and the drummer Bill Ward. At the beginning, Black Sabbath was a blues/rock band called Polka Tulk (the name of Ozzy’s mother's talcum powder!), then they become Earth and it’s during this period that they write the song Black Sabbath, from which they will take their final name.
Black Sabbath is a revolutionary album with nothing similar before it, in both power and hardness of the sound and for dark and occult subjects, introduced for the first time (with the exception of the rock bands Black Widow and Coven) in the rock world. With the cover art the album expresses all its contents; in fact, we can see the untilled garden of an abandoned house in which, in a gloomy atmosphere, stands out a shape totally dressed in black. Death? A witch? A ghost? We don’t know; all is left to the imagination (or to the fear) of the listener.
The album opens in shocking way with the title track, Black Sabbath. The song starts with the gloomy sounds of a storm and of a death knell, making the listener shudder and immediately introduces him to Black Sabbath’s atmosphere. Then enter the guitar and the bass with the first metal riff in history, thus becoming legend and consecrates Iommi in the role of “guitar black messiah”. This riff, made by three simple chords, is powerful, dark, and disturbing, immediately communicating the essence of the music, of the newborn heavy metal, and of the band itself. After some repetition of the riff, suddenly enters another indelible mark of the band: the rough and ungraceful voice of the Ozzy Osbourne, who sings about a black shape moving forward toward him. Also, the lyrics of the song are something revolutionary, introducing in rock music subjects never dealt with, like horror, occultism, Satan, evil, and death. The song can be considered sort of a dialogue between Death and the character, a dialogue that can be noticed in the alternation of the main riff, referring to the slow but inexorable gait of the black shape, and the vocal parts where the riff is only background. The climax is reached with Ozzy's mad and desperate cry, “Please, God, help me!”.
The second track, The Wizard, opens in an unusual way with the sound of harmonica, a sign that Black Sabbath are not unrelated with the streak of experimentalism typical of the hard rock of their age (see Led Zeppelin). Ozzy’s harmonica, in fact, dialogues with Iommi’s guitar and contributes to the magic, but at the same time creates a disturbing atmosphere that pervades the whole song.
The third track, Behind The Wall Of Sleep, talks about sleep, dreams and nightmares, and tries to explore the hidden sides of the human soul that show themselves during sleep. To do this, the music is rhythmical and hypnotic with lyrics evoking strange and disturbing images that could be found only in nightmares.
The next song opens with a long bass solo, which rightly makes Geezer Butler one of the best bass players of his generation and shows as effectively that in the band there are not gregarious and leading characters, but every member has his own clear and marked personality. The title of the song, N.I.B., is still under discussion about its meaning. The official version given by the band says that it is referred to Bill Ward’s beard, which had the shape of a pen nib, but it is also believed to mean “Nativity In Black”. However, this song explores the genre of the love song, but of course in a totally new way according to Black Sabbath’s canons. Ozzy, in fact, sings not about a requited love, but when the woman accepts it, he reveals himself as no less than Lucifer (“My name is Lucifer and please take my hand.”). Then he explains to the loved woman that now she is totally under his power and that their love will be everlasting. N.I.B., which is rightly one of the best and most famous Black Sabbath’s songs that will be affixed in the track list of the band’s concerts, develops principally through a simple, yet terribly effective riff according to Iommi’s most typical style.
The fifth track, which was not included in the American edition, is a cover of Evil Woman, originally performed by the American blues/rock band Crow. Including at least one cover song in a studio album was very common in the 70’s (for example like Judas Priest in 1977 with Joan Baez’s cover, “Diamonds And Rust”) to easily obtain radio broadcasting, but this doesn’t happen to Black Sabbath, who will be boycotted by “official” media. However, the song, although without big differences with the original, is fully in the Black Sabbath style and can be considered the complementary opposite of N.I.B. If in the previous track Ozzy was Lucifer keeping the loved woman under his power, here it’s him who is at the mercy of this “evil woman”.
The sixth track, Sleeping Village, breaks off from the “classical” dark and Gothic atmosphere, evoking images of a quiet summer afternoon. To do this, there are enough for only four verses, which describe in a stylized, yet effective way this image, assisted by the hypnotic sound of acoustic guitar. Sleeping Village then continues as an instrumental and is directly linked to the next track, Warning, a cover by the blues/rock band Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation. This is a typically slow and rhythmical blues song with guitar and bass solos in the central part.
Black Sabbath finishes with Wicked World, not included on the European version since the 1996 reissue, but only in the American one. This track can be considered anticipation for the future of the group and in particular of their lyrics: apocalyptic visions of a suffering and decadent world. While during the 60's, the most important subject of the songs were peace and love and how the world should be, omitting how it really is. This band from Birmingham reverses the perspective, talking about the real nature of the world without dreams or utopias and only with harsh reality.
Black Sabbath is not a perfect album and it is still raw in some of parts, but this becomes insignificant if we consider the enormous unfinished influence it has on the following generations and the fact that after more than 40 years since it was published it still sounds topical and calls even new people to the metal legions. In conclusion, with Black Sabbath, heavy metal was born and the world has never been the same.
Previously a blues-rock band by the name of Earth chugging away in an era where blues-rock bands were hardly thin on the ground, and not really distinguishing themselves from their sound (heck, Iommi jumped ship briefly to play in Jethro Tull before departing to make way for Martin Barre to take that post), Black Sabbath took on a new musical direction inspired by horror fiction, tapped into the spirit of the end of the hippy era, and within a few months let loose this monster of an album, inspiring both traditional heavy metal and several other subgenres with it - doom metal and stoner metal in particular. Led Zeppelin had been active before them, and the Stooges had a raw and nasty guitar sound, but it took Iommi to teach the world what metal truly meant from the very first devastating, Earth-shattering, portentious riff on the title track. Coupled with a competent rhythm section and Osbourne's soul-in-torment wails and a new genre was born.
The title track sets the scene for the rest of the album, and the subsequent tracks are more or less all cast in the same mold; the only time the album can really be said to speed up very much is for N.I.B., and even then the song progresses with a heavy, plodding march rather than a lightning-fast speed metal gallop. The cover versions of Evil Woman and Warning are so infused with the band's own personality that you could believe (as I did for years!) that they were Sabbath originals.
The Black Sabbath debut is a territory often revisited, and very occasionally equaled, but surely never beaten in terms of sheer inspirational glory. The pace might be a bit slow for fans of speed metal and styles influenced by it, but if you can take a slow riff or two, then you need to hear this album. If you don't like this one, then you're probably not going to enjoy half the metal out there either.
No living soul in 1970 knew what hit them when, on Friday February 13th, a low-budget recording named after the group of scraggly looking musicians hit the record stores. Critics lambasted every second of this forty minute release, middle-aged folks ignored it completely and those who did hear it wanted it banned forever. However due to the controversy the album everyone thought would join the ranks of obscurity climbed the charts and became forever loved and cherished by any inspiring person who were blessed to read between it's lines.
While viewed as being overly satanic in the beginning, many began to see the importance of making music that reflected their opinions about the world for which they choose. A world where little or no light shines, mankind has little or no chance of happiness and the only profitable ones were those causing the chaos to begin with. Long before the age of it being 'acceptable' for people to run around and scream about, 'Conspiracy' or 'political corruption', was an album that was saturated in that very topic.
However what this release did do was give hope to those who sought someone who could not only share their woeful tales of hopelessness and brutality, but also give them the right to stand up and make music about it.
There really is no point in naming the best tracks on the album as they are all pure pleasure to the ears. From the opening thunderstorm of the album/bands namesake to the closing seconds whatever song is on the release you have, there is a sense of hope in the bleak atmosphere this creates. Ozzy's voice is in top-notch shape and delivers a performance for the ages, painting out the woeful tales of drugs, abuse and sorcery with his delivery. Geezer's never-ending bass underlining is prominent throughout and supplies an excellent source of groove and melody for guitarist Tony Iommi to build on, but also gives a highly respected and often copied bass solo before the best song on the album: NIB.
But the true highlights here are:
1) Bill Ward's Drums. Not just because he is a key figure in the historical importance of this album but he was truly the first drummer to sound like he did. Rather it be him hammering out tremendous heart-stopping drum fills or melodic drum patterns that fit any tempo in the songs, he delivers them with excellent accuracy and emotion. It is true to say he is one of the few drummers in no matter what style of metal who has a huge importance instead of just simply being there to support the band.
2) The Musicianship. While the material may seem primitive or frail compared to nowadays tales of metallic brutality, one could never deny the musicianship the band had at such an early age. Each song is very fine tuned and the band works so well together that each song can be considered the high-point. Even if Warning carries on forever with a guitar solo it's still easy to see how the band could do anything, they could do Gospel or Doris Day, and it would be respected.
If you have not heard this album, then you are missing out on the best of the three classic Sabbath albums and one of the best of the bands career. It's no surprise why thirty-seven years after it's entrance in music it is regarded by fans and critics(now anyways) as a legendary release. Sure it's important because it started all that we know as metal but because while almost all have tried, no one has ever come close to making a release this important and successful at the same time.
The day is Friday February 13th 1970, and on this day the first metal album graced us all, and changed the course of musical history.
At first this album was lambasted by critics, or just plain ignored, quite odd for an album the usually pops up on “greatest album” type lists. But for some people this was the musical equivalent of a breath of fresh air after a much too long Greatful Dead concert (for some, literally).
Of course this isn’t a leap from The Beatles to say, Death. This album contains pretty much blues derived music, which puts this closer to bands like Cream, or Led Zeppelin than a Judas Priest. Then what separated this from its popular counterparts? Subject matter, while some preached love to achieve peace, Sabbath wrote of the harsh realities of living in a worn torn country. They hinted at being much darker and mysterious than they really were, but in reality the biggest theme is society and life.
Being the first of its kind it is easy to understand that this is not perfect, but more radical (for its time at least). But being perfect wasn’t the point, this music was meant to bludgeon the listener into an almost hallucinatory state, while reveling in its own dazed, druggy state of consciousness.
And who could forget about the cast of characters that made this landmark album? Still amateurish 20 year olds this still has all the trademarks of classic Black Sabbath from Ozzy Osbournes a hellish shrieks, to the morbid riffs conjured up by Tony Iommi, and the thundering bass backbone provided by main lyricist Geezer Butler, with Bill Ward filling out the bad with a loose jam oriented drums. Who knew that these kids would one day become the idols of millions and the godfathers of not only a musical genre, but a culture, and this album started it all.
As for the material on this album, it’s classic. The songs blur together due to the lengthy jam quality to the music. Each riff pounds at and never lets up, until the next equally powerful riff takes over. And as for highlights, it’s all a highlight! Listen to every moment, take it all in, let in run through your veins.
Overall this is absolutely a classic groundbreaking album, and for that reason alone it should belong in your (and every metal-head’s) collection. And if that wasn’t reason enough, get this because it’s good, there’s substance throughout this album that lives strong today. Absolutely essential.
People often shelf this album in favor of the ones that followed due to the inconsistency it possesses. But to all my fellow younger metal heads out there, I will now make an analogy. The original form of democracy of Ancient Athenian Greece was hardly a perfect thing, rights were obviously not distributed fairly, and certain controversial thinkers such as Socrates were put to death by a tyrannical majority for speaking their minds. This album is the first attempt at something different, and later ones would become much more focused on both establishing the identity of metal consistently, and help differentiate it from the other genres of it's time.
At the time this album was recorded, heavy metal was considered what made the beams of buildings, and all in life was peachy in the music scene. People were smoking, tripping, and doing everything that they could to evade the true nature of the world they lived in at the time. Essentially Black Sabbath grew out of the shadow of the hippie scene, which is ironic because in actuality, the 60s movement was a very dark thing. People basically rendered themselves to the state of madness in a paralyzed fear over the fact that they existed in a material world, one with natural laws and consequences for the actions of all within it. Where Black Sabbath differed from the rock bands of the time, is that they didn’t bother trying to hide from the ugliness that had come about, but instead exposed it.
Although the more socio-political side of Black Sabbath did not come fully into effect until they’re second release, this one carries some undertones that deserve addressing. The first one is the rather evil, yet simple riff that dominates the first song. It is revealing of how Black Sabbath used the darker side of music to send out a message to the listener, and the unfortunate thing is that people did not interpret the message correctly. Far from being a song glorifying the occult, this song is actually giving a warning to all to avoid the things that it depicts. And what is the devil according to theological accounts? He is a manifestation of corruption, and the 60s were an extremely corrupt time, both philosophically and culturally. Although the lads from Birmingham probably only intended to write a scary homage to a famous Italian horror film, what they ended up accomplishing was dealing a death blow to a poisonous counter-culture, one that was identified by poisoning oneself with mind-altering drugs in order to evade their own metaphysical identity. There is nothing more evil than self-hatred, and this is one aspect of Black Sabbath’s music that is different, it doesn’t evade reality but exposes it, in a metaphorical sense on this particular album.
To be fair, Black Sabbath did their share of drug glorification, particularly in the case of “Sweet Leaf”. But one thing that they never really did, on this release or any other, was propagate the kind of escapism that the 60s counter-culture was famous for. Not escapism in the sense of track 2 on this album, “The Wizard”, which is essentially a metaphorical tale about an individual with the power to change things around him, but the self-destructive form of escapism where one fully shuts out the world and sees no place for ideals within it.
People often focus on the dark side of Sabbath, but truth be told, they were a highly balanced band that looked to the light often as well. They’re influence is universal in the world of metal, as those whom create the dark and more doom oriented side of metal look to slower tracks like the title track, musicians like myself in the power metal genre often look to the light of songs such as “The Wizard”. What it represents to me is the power of one person to push away darkness from one’s life, and afterwards he finds that his own example has brought light to others. That is the meaning behind the Power Metal genre, in my view, and hints at it’s lyrical inception can be seen in this track.
It must also be noted that this album functions musically as a manifesto for every Progressive Metal outfit in terms of structure, which is mostly evident in the last track “Warning”, as it twists and turns through a variety of musical sections. If you ever wonder where bands like Fates Warning and Queensryche got their unique approaches to song structure, this song is probably the earliest example of it. Furthermore, songs like “NIB” and “Sleeping Village” highlight the technical chops of both Geezer Butler, who was well ahead of his time in terms of the role of the bass, and Tony Iommi’s tendency to use multiple guitar tracks for his solos, something which would be heavily utilized by two guitar outfits such as Helloween, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and a host of others.
There are a couple of tracks on here that showcase a rather simple approach to rock music, that might be credited for helping to pave the way for the more mainstream side of metal, particularly the blues influenced sleaze approach of the early through mid 80s glam scene. “Evil woman” and “Behind the Wall of Sleep” function pretty much this way, although the drum alone fade out to the latter is not something commonly encountered in mainstream metal.
“Wicked World”, is lyrically my only complaint on this album, because it is too much a product of it’s time and doesn’t have any value today. While musically it is something well ahead of it’s time, particularly the crazy as hell solo that Iommi rips out, something not commonly seen except maybe on one of Jimi Hendrix’s live performances, but the words are afflicted with the same stupid protests over the successes of humanity that the hippie movement waged. I’m sorry, as I know I’m going to piss off a lot of people by saying this, but the line “They can put a man on the moon quite easy” is classic textbook ignorance. I challenge Ozzy or Geezer to go over and try to mentally comprehend the years of work it took to solve the equations necessary to formulate how to escape the earth’s atmosphere, not to mention sending a human being out there and then bring him back. Furthermore, it is important to note that NASA is often at the forefront of new cures for the diseases that are killing everyone, and also most of the places where disease is rampant are places where you don’t have modern technology.
Unfortunately there is a side to heavy metal that I do despise, and it is how the focus on the negative side of life causes one to speak with emotion divorced from reason. And this approach to lyric writing is alive and well in nearly every genre within the metal universe. In my personal opinion, it’s a holdover from the 60s generation that should be filtered out because it was part of something that metal was supposed to be rebelling against. I can’t fully fault Sabbath for having some influences from their time in their music, as these cultural flights from rational thought were nearly inescapable, but it is necessary to point out flaws as they tend to be present when a new innovation in music occurs, as in all the other fine arts.
One further thing to note is that Ozzy Osbourne, though regarded as a decent vocalist, did not realize his full vocal potential on this album. “Sleeping Village” and “Wicked World” in particular see his voice sounding extremely garbled, I had to read the lyrics sheet in order to understand some of the words on the latter track. He does a better job on the tracks where his voice is not nearly as exposed, particularly the title track and “The Wizard”.
In conclusion, this is justly dubbed the first album of heavy metal, it is the foundation of a form of music that prides itself on defying boundaries. Those of us whom continue to create music to this day look to this album as the first foundation of the first building, which rests at the center of the great city of metal. Other more towering structures have been built since, but they owe they’re existence to the formula first explored by these guys. If you are not in possession of this album, I recommend getting it now because you will not be able to fully appreciate whatever brand of metal you love without understanding where it comes from. It is a bit dated, it contains some of the negative elements of the time it came from, but it is also the shiniest of diamonds once the rough is cleared away.
In heavy metal history there aren't many breakthroughs, not many legendary bands, not many genius deeds. But those who are like this - are true black pearls. Black Sabbath IS a legend, no need to prove it, you know it, or rather simply feel it. 13th February 1970 is the date which started heavy metal. Then some guys from Birmingham started it all by playing music they liked – a heavier, darker and rawer rock with elements of jazz and blues. Or simply HEAVY METAL. I didn’t take much time to become famous. It was a real blitzkrieg.
It’s hard to write about something as classical as this album. On one hand you don’t want to desecrate the cult and on the other there is no sense in writing about something which isn’t true. One thing is sure – it’s THE first heavy metal album – and this simply makes it classical to the genre.
What puts this album above all the other ’60 and ’70 rock albums? Well, almost everything. There’s a lot of jazz and blues in it combined with truly powerful riffs. And it’s all filled with heavy, thick atmosphere, especially the title track. It doesn’t mean that most tracks are doom like. There are also more energetic and faster tracks. Most tracks are simply progressive.
Technical stuff? What can I say? Ozzy’s voice is known world wide. Guitars? Iommi did brilliantly, he has made metal riffs sound like they do now, just listen to ‘The Wizard’, smashing. Bass plays a great role (unlike most modern metal albums). It isn’t only background. It’s an integral part of the album. Billy Ward did especially well. He mastered drums perfectly; lots of energy and his compositions are very interesting and complicated.
Tracks are very good. Unfortunately some are too long (The Warning), are too simple (Evil Woman). This album simply isn’t prefect – that’s without a doubt, but some tracks are amazing. Lot’s of progression, great atmosphere, and interesting details.
To sum up. Great album, living legend, first star on the heavy metal sky. Who cares that it isn’t the brightest.
Of all the things one can credit the mighty and ever-looming influence of Black Sabbath for, an inescapable fact should also be hammered into the texts of HM history. Upon their inception, the band didn’t have squat. Their singer, Ozzy Osbourne, was from a desperately poor Birmingham, England family. Their guitarist, Tony Iommi, had learned to play despite accidentally hacking the tops of two of his fingers off in a sheet metal mishap. Their drummer, Bill Ward, soon would evince one of the more harrowing cases of alcoholism in rock history, while bassist Geezer Butler was a reluctant, but enthusiastic occult student who would learn to play his instrument only a short time before the band’s first recording dates.
And so armed with $600 and a truckload of ambition, Black Sabbath recorded their first LP and subsequently changed the face of rock music. Nothing like having it all on your side, huh? But for their part, Sabbath pushed aside the blues roots that dominated the UK rock scene of the day, and forged a sound built on a somewhat new idea: the riff. Other bands (The Kinks, The Who, and to a lesser degree The Beatles) had played with the concept of a guitar riff being the central building block of a song, but Sabbath put the weight of the entire band behind it, all instruments present firing at full power at a small but imposing collection of chords. And believe it or not, that innovation is the essential component and differentiating factor of heavy metal music, especially the more “extreme” sub-genres.
But enough theory. The album itself is remarkable as presenting a relatively young band with a quite defined sound and very deft interplay between the players. The opening alone can freeze blood in veins, as the sound of rain and a soft, distant church bell chiming set up the mood, just in time for a loud thunderclap to sound and THAT RIFF appears. Only three chords, but the chromatic order of said chords was known during the Middle Ages as “diablous in musica”. Playing it or writing music containing it could mean you’d find yourself in chains with a hooded dude aiming a branding iron at your privates. But the tune our heroes were using it for was their theme song, “Black Sabbath”, an ornery tale of demonic possession that can’t help but leave an impression (of whatever type) on any perspective listener. “The Wizard” is moderately less sinister, but still blasts some wicked (and loud) riffs, and some damn inventive (almost jazz-like) drumming from Mr. Ward. “NIB” steps up after some instrumental noodling – mostly bass fingering, and fires off another immortal, signature Sabbath riff. A mystery for some time, the song’s title was interpreted by paranoid Bible-humpers to be an acronym for “Nativity in Black”, which has nothing to do with the lyrics (more demon possession stuff), and was in fact titled “NIB” after the appearance of Ward’s beard! Only in the wacky world of metal…. Much of the album’s remainder, especially “Warning”, relies on the band’s jazz-blues base, and not for the last time in the band’s music some very swing-type time signatures appear.
All in all, Sabbath may not have invented volume, riffs, and power chords, but they did combine these ingredients into their broth to a level mostly never heard before in rock. This is not their best album, but in heavy metal history it is a Cro-Magnon man taking its primitive tools in hand for the first time for forge the future to whatever end it would lead to. Brave, innovative and loud as a bomb, the Sabbath era had undeniably dawned. On our feet, or on our knees it would flourish amongst us, unstoppable.
The first "Metal" record, end of the story. This however, makes it an extremely difficult work to review. If one doesn't praise it enough, then their credibility seems to be put into question and it's hard to objectively peer into the blueprint for all that follows. That being said I don't think it's perfect by any stretch, but I'll do my best.
This is the "archetype" for Metal music (along with the next five Sabbath offerings) so naturally there's still a few "bugs" to be worked out here; most notably the overtly bluesy elements and instrumental noodling here and there. (This is by no means crappy noodling ala Dream Theater but it still feels more like a drugged out jammed session at times) A little crackling of thunder, rain is pouring moderately hard on a gloomy looking church, and then the bell tolls...
The title track comes crawling it's way into your ears with an ominous and slow sinister movement, until the power kicks in and you are swallowed into the darkness. The whole album seems to alternate between more doomy tendencies and blues-based hard rock. Ozzy Osbourne's vocals are at the most disturbed here for sure; a drunken sounding drone that's occasionally catchy.
There's plenty of "non-metal" qualities to this album as well, like the bluesy "The Wizard" or the intro to "A Bit of Finger" (Very cool BTW) It's not hard to pick out great moments or interesting parts and it's a definitely must listen if just for a history lesson or curiousity. Some of these parts would be the classic "N.I.B." or the strangely hypnotizing middle section of "Wicked World" just to name a few examples. Another thing I must point out though is the great jazzy drumming Bill Ward lays down throughout the entire record, there's great fills everywhere that work around the very prominent bass. In short, this is an essential listen; no ifs, ands, or buts.
Afterthought: I've never heard the tune "Evil Woman" that appears on some versions so I can't make any comment about it.
Black Sabbath's debut LP is generally regarded as the first heavy metal album ever recorded, and while there will never be any definitive way to confirm whether or not that opinion is true or false, I remain in total agreement with the common concensus. To this day, the song "Black Sabbath" is in every respect the quintessential metal song, and in my opinion is still one of the only rock songs which successfully conveys an atmosphere of horror. By all accounts, it was Sabbath's express intention to make a kind of "scary" music, music which would give people the same sort of experience they looked for in horror films.
Sabbath's success resulted from having a clear conception of what they wanted to do, and from being able to creatively execute their vision through musical means. They almost single-handedly invented an entire genre in the process. I say almost, because obviously "heavy" music existed before Sabbath: acts like Cream, Hendrix, Zeppelin, The Who, were making a lot of noise and blazing paths into various frontiers; but Sabbath's first album, more than any other classic album from the same era, was more intently focused on a single idea, was more specialized and particular. Sabbath made it very apparent, right from the start, what they were all about. The album art itself is frightening, with that mysterious pale woman lurking in the foreground, half-smiling like some freshly exhumed Mona Lisa. You knew what you were getting before you got the vinyl out of the slip-cover; and if the band's name or the album art didn't convince you, the thunderstorm and the ominous bells, which open up "Black Sabbath", would. The three doom-laden notes from that song are justly famous and need no defense at this point: let it suffice to say that they effectively changed the popular music world from that point onwards.
Black Sabbath: The prototype heavy metal track, hands down. Plodding, doom-laden, darkly melodic riff, atmospheric sound effects, and, more importantly, a voice that sounds genuinely afraid. The "Oh no, no, please God help me.." is still amazingly powerful and expressive. Ozzy's voice is deeper here than it is just about anywhere else, and at times he tries for a low note that he can't quite reach; but to me these honest flubs fit the mood of the song, and help to convey a sense of anguish and terror. A faster muted riff finishes out the song, creating a sense of tension and flight, and features some Iommi soloing which demonstrates his skill with vibrato. If I were asked to choose one song which defined the term "heavy metal", I would pick this song.
The Wizard: It seems that every band had their harmonica-songs back then. Personally, I could survive in a world without harmonicas, but it's employed in a decent way in this song. The song is catchy, thanks mostly to Bill Ward's excellent drum-work, which connects a blunt but effective chordal riff. Nothing to rave about as far as the singing: Ozzy's voice breaks up a bit. Thankfully, he found a home in a higher register later on. Over-all I don't get too excited about this song.
Behind the Wall of Sleep: Great song. The title, from horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, is perfect for the atmosphere of the album. Another inventive single-note riff with a bass line that rambles all around underneath the singing parts in a way that is distinctly Geezer. More great work from Bill Ward; passable, but nonetheless inspired, singing from Ozzy, who still hasn't found his comfort zone.
N.I.B.: More people need to learn that the first-person is a literary device. Just as the song, "Black Sabbath" is just a narrative, a fictional story and not a personal testimony from one or all of the band-members, so "N.I.B." is just a story: a love song, of sorts, from the Devil's perspective. How anyone could determine that the band were devil-worshippers from the lyrics of their songs is a mystery to me, since Satan is most typically presented in a negative light, especially in forthcoming albums. In this song, however, Lucifer is seen as being dark and seductive: he has this person "under his power"; but it's just a story, a type of old-style gothic narrative, not some sneaky advocacy of evil. Musically speaking, the riff is mundane and is reminiscent of Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love"; I also don't care for Ozzy's singing right along with the riff. The slow breaks are the high parts of this track, with Ozzy giving a slightly wobbly operatic croon over descending chords. This is an early hint of the kind of things he would do brilliantly on subsequent albums.
Evil Woman/Wicked World: Depending on which version of the LP you have, either one of these two songs opens up side two. To my mind, Wicked World is by far the superior song, and "Evil Woman" is essentially a throw-away cover which never generated a great deal of interest for me. Apparently, the American version of the LP put "Wicked World" in place of "Evil Woman": "Wicked World" being originally the B-side to the "Evil Woman" single. An excellent choice, but I have no idea at the moment whether or not Sabbath authorized the change. At any rate, "Wicked World" is a Sabbath classic, with some nice single-note riffing opening up the track, faster and a bit trickier than the material up to this point. A simple but excellent cue-in fill by Bill Ward sets the pace for the mid-tempo main riff, another single-note affair which is simple yet packs a punch. Geezer flies underneath the vocal line, yet again, and if you hear this tune on a crappy system you'll miss its finer points. Ozzy is still singing in the lower-range which is present throughout the album, but climbs up dramatically (and rather skillfully) in the third line of each verse. This is the only track on the album which makes a political/social statement, and though over-simplified and non-specific, the message is a powerful response to the prevailing flower-power fluff coming out of a lot bands of that era. Though I might get hanged for saying it, I feel the lengthy Iommi solo is rather pointless and distracting. Iommi's genius was as a composer of monumentally original and powerful metal riffs, but his soloing (particularly here, with no musical backdrop) is, at this point, still rather on the rough side.
"Sleeping Village": The obligatory soft-touch. Personally, I love this pastoral miniature. The gloomy atmosphere is perfect for the album. It's also one of the very rare times you'll hear a jew's harp (or something that sounds exactly like one) in a metal song. Whether it works or is just plain goofy, is your call. Ozzy's voice is deep and shaky, but emotionally charged and effective. There is sometimes a sincerity in his voice which is all but absent in a lot of metal vocalists, past and present, and I think it's at least partly due to that sincerity that Sabbath made such a strong connection to its fans. Unlike a great deal of subsequent Sab sleepers and fillers, like "Fluff" and "Laguna Sunrise", I never skip over this song.
"Warning": Over-long blues cover, but somehow sits well with this album. Some of the more obvious flubs from Ozzy, who seems, more than ever, to be struggling in a tone he is not suited for. More solo-soloing from Iommi, sometimes inspired and interesting, sometimes not; a lengthy and apparently improvisational jazz-like jam, which is the high-part of the track for me. Over-all, the song seems a bit haphazardly pieced together. It's nonetheless listenable for its doomy atmosphere, and for Iommi's decent tone through the primary parts.
I can't imagine gathering a collection of metal albums without acquiring this historic landmark of a record. Few bands, when all is said and done, will be able to boast of putting out an LP as revolutionary and standard-setting as "Black Sabbath".
Black Sabbath, famous for their heavier form of rock and roll at the time had started their career right here with this album. After playing a few shows around england, the Sabbath unit were able to snag a record deal with warner bros. entertainment. Their first album under WB, Black Sabbath, proved to be one of the most creative efforts by the band. This album includes everything from doom metal innovating songs such as the epic "Black Sabbath", to the simple jam type songs such as "WASP"
The album begins with Black Sabbath, Black Sabbath is a slow yet powerful piece as the mood for the song becomes really dark. Unlike most rock at the time this song is quite entertaining despite it's 3 constant notes for 4 and a half minutes. Getting better as it speeds up when iommi plays one of the coolest metal riffs i've been able to hear.
The second track, The Wizard, reminds me a lot of a led zeppelin song, maybe it's the harmonica or the more classic rock type feel to the song, it's an interesting track, but seems really out of place after the darkness of a 6 minute track much like "Black Sabbath".
The third track is three songs in one, the first being a jam called "Wasp" which is much like a classic rock song done with a small addition of metal to it. The track fades right into "Behind the wall of sleep", a song that reminds me a bit of heavier form of blues. After "Behind the wall of sleep", the track goes into "Bassically", which is pretty much a drum solo and them a trippy bass solo before going into "NIB". N.I.B. continues to show the face of early heavy metal, the lyrics and riff are really catchy every time i hear the song it gets stuck in my head for a few days. A great way to end the 10 and a half minute track, but i think it does no justice for the song in itself.
Track number 4, Wicked World, Wicked World has a weird, somewhat middle eastern theme to it with the guitars, yet also strange with the other sound effects. Quickly going a simple yet powerful metal type song to jam around to. Not really a song that's catchy but a cool song to chill out with.
And then onward with the jams, because that's all the last track is, with the exception of a really cool melody that's found around the 2 minute mark and carries on for less than a minute.
Basically this album is a quite diverse jam with black sabbath. A few teenagers goofing off in the studio and writing two really good and catchy metal tracks as well as one that sounds as if paying homage to the classic rock/hard rock bands of the time in the early seventies. Not as great as later albums such as Paranoid, Master of Reality, and Sabbath, bloody sabbath, but nonetheless an important aspect to the collection of any black sabbath fan. Could have been much better, but it shows the face of early heavy metal in a form that you can't look down upon!
This is the record that is proclaimed by many, to have started Heavy Metal music. The historic importance of this album cannot even be conceived, as it is probably the most important album in the metal discography.
Righteously so, the first song is entitled “Black Sabbath.” It is a very powerful song, with a mellow, yet controlling sound. It is simple lyrically yet complex in many ways and unhurried musically but heavy as hell. With a constant sound the lyrics are being spoken more than they are being sung. The progression from the Doom Metal sound to a faster paced guitar sound is very well done and offers a pleasurable experience.
The title track is probably the most important track on the album as it defines the bands sound for years to come. The overall feel and atmosphere of the album, but especially the title track, is unquestionably something that for many years has gone unduplicated until the late 80’s with the introduction of Black Metal into the Metal world.
The album truly redefined the genre of rock music in the late 1960’s as it added a dark vibe and an “evil” side to rock & roll. Songs such as “N.I.B.” were unthinkable to be played on the radio in an era where morality was the question of wrong and right even more so than it is today. Even though the album is a gem of creativity it was a very under appreciated album. Times have passed and fans everywhere are still listening to this album, just as in 1969. It is truly a classic among Metal albums and should be owned by anyone that calls himself or herself a Metal enthusiast.
Part of this album displays the Doom Metal characteristic of early Black Sabbath albums and the other display faster paced, high-pitched guitar melodies which enhance the replay value of this album. The song “Wicked World,” which is also the underrated song from the album is an example of the faster paced trait that the band demonstrates throughout this album.
The pure historic value of this album deserves a 100% score, yet, musically; it is not a perfect album. All of the songs are remarkably done and are very memorable, yet they are not perfect. For example the fourth track gets a bit recurring after a while, not in any major way, such as Cannibal Corpse, but does get dull when almost the same riff is being played with a high pitched guitar, over and over again. The guitar solos are great, don’t get me wrong, but it does get a bit monotonous after a while. It’s not a totally bad thing, but it’s not the greatest of things either.
Overall this album is a classic among classics. There is no way that one can truly appreciate Metal music without hearing this album. Very memorable and very powerful are the best adjectives that I can use to describe this album. Black Sabbath has created something extraordinary AND YOU WILL BOW BEFORE IT!
What is this that stands before me? It can't be four guys in hippie clothes playing rock music... The opening song on this album is simply immense. There is no other word to describe it. Well, maybe I can think of some more. MONSTROUS. STUPEFYING... You get the idea. Nowhere else has so much been hidden within 3 notes (2 of which are the same note, an octave apart). Amazing. Glorious. Bill Ward clunking away at those drums, no faster than a cancerous snail, Geezer Butler tempting those soothing slow notes out of his bass. Tony Iommi roaring on his guitar, and of course... Ozzy Osbourne. "Ohhh no, no, no! Please, God help me!..." Aah, what a line. That has got to be my favorite lyric in any song, ever. When the song picks up and gets faster, it still rocks my socks. "No, no, no, please no!" leads into Tony's solo, which makes you think "The pentatonic scale has never sounded so good!" Topping it all off with a syncopated stop-start ending, and oh man! A metal classic.
The rest of the album is not up to the standards of that first song, but "The Wizard" comes close. Harmonica? Yeah that's right, harmonica, bitch. You better believe it. This song opens with some superb riffing from Iommi and Butler, and the verse section has some great drumming from Ward. And yes, he has a cowbell. You got a problem with that? The lyrics are classic Sabbath: about a wizard who has magic powers... that's pretty much it. There isn't much detail, but that's what makes it so damn awesome. Basically, Ozzy becomes the wizard with his demonic voice. Also, this song has a sick guitar solo, followed by a well, less impressive harmonica solo.
"Behind the Wall of Sleep" starts out real good, with a great atmospheric beginning in *gasp* 3/4 time! Breaking down into a sort-of-funky riff, this is classic Sabbath goodness. Ozzy, as usual, delivers his lyrics where you can't understand half of them. And even the ones you can understand, you don't actually understand. But oh man, he sounds so awesome! After another superb solo from Iommi, the verse is repeated, and yada yada yada. Unfortunately, the song starts to decompose at this point. About 30 seconds are given over to a rather boring bass solo. Now, here comes "N.I.B.", one of the most overrated Sabbath songs (or... part of a song). It starts out allright, nothing special, but they repeat it about 506 times more than they need to. Yeah I guess the story is pretty cool, about the devil seducing a woman, but whatever. Basically, I would probably like this song a hell of a lot more if it were a hell of a lot shorter. And the guitar riff? Come on. The main hook of the riff (the first 4 notes) are the same as "Sunshine of Your Love" by Cream, and well, that song was really really famous at the time. So... Black Sabbath isn't perfect, apparently. Who knew?
And then the mystery of "Wicked World." It wasn't included in the original British LP, but we Americans get to enjoy this shitty B-side instead the single at the time "Evil Woman." Instead of hearing one of the songs that made Sabbath famous, we get this bore-fest. First of all, it was obviously recorded at a different time, possibly in a different studio. Or maybe in a closet, because the sound quality sucks. Ozzy's vocals were recorded at too high an input level, or something, because they crackle. There is an interesting little guitar interlude in the middle of the song which captures Iommi at some of his best playing at this early stage of Sabbath's career. But still, this song is pretty boring. "A woman goes to work every day of the day (or something) she goes to work just to earn her pay..." I mean, COME ON.
Someone please clarify this for me... what is "A Bit of Finger"??? I don't think this song actually exists, they just put it on the label to psych us out. But anyway, "Sleeping Village" is pretty cool, going from a creepy acoustic thing to a full onslaught. I am now reminded of why I love this album so much after listening to "Wicked World." The usual awesome riffing combined with awesome drumming, well... you know. That's what Sabbath does. A couple of minutes into the song there is a cool double guitar solo that rocks my world. "Warning" gets a little boring, though. I don't think Black Sabbath can do blues. No matter what they think they are, no matter how they started out, they can't do blues. So, "Warning" gets a thumbs-down in my book. Yeah I guess the guitar work is okay, but it seriously goes on for way too long. I'm not normally one to say that a guitar solo is "too long", but this song has too many extended solo parts. Iommi was good, but not *THAT* good. I mean, there is soloing from about 8 minutes to about 13 minutes into the song. That's five god damn minutes of pentatonic scale. Remember when that scale sounded so good? Well it doesn't anymore. Also, a good chunk of this solo is unaccompanied (that's right folks, no other instruments are playing). Then at the end of the song, the band goes back into that same blues figure, which I didn't really like the first time, and 15 minutes later, I still don't really like it.
Oh well, it's a shame to end on such a bad note, because there is some pretty strong stuff on this record, not to mention that it is probably the first true "heavy metal" album (if you don't count Led Zepplin I). Most of the first 3 songs are a superbly rockin' experience, and so maybe there's some filler. They created heavy metal! I'll cut them some slack.
Well, metal ground zero right here. You'll notice my score is a bit less than most everyone elses for this(deservedly) legendary album, but I have to think a lot of those high scores are almost obligatory, praising this album to the heavens for it's stunning metal innovation, for it's foundation of the genre nearest and dearest to our blackened metal hearts.
It's certainly one of the top five sludgy slabs in metal history, and when you compare this to Led Zeppelin, oft bandied about as first metal band, you realize how silly this makes everything that came before. No matter the volume or the crunch, nobody in the 60's had this focused. sloped-brow cudgelling sound. Nobody used power chords like this, or had that ludicrously evil bass, or even the utterly focused military march of one Bill Ward. True, there were Moon and Bonham earlier, but Ward was just so damn...metal. And lets not forget Ozzy, his tonedeaf bleat wavering and wandering over the unshakeable foundation, his hopeless cries not only signalling the end of the trippy, hippie 60's but announcing that a new generation was here, and they were not happy.
Still, hard to call this the number 1, grade A, metal-personifing record. First, there are really only three metal songs here("Black Sabbath", "N.I.B", "The Wizard"), and fully half of the album is arranged into aimless jamming that owes more to electric blues than the hand of doom. Secondly, 1970 also brought us seminal cuts from Deep Purple("In Rock"), arguably Uriah Heep("Very 'Eavy Very 'Umble"), and Sabbath themselves("Paranoid") that stomp all over the majority of this record and being released within six months of the thing.
Man though, when they're metal they are undeniably so, planting the black seeds of vengeance that would give us so much skullcrushing metallic magic in the years to come. "Black Sabbath" is no less than the be-all end-all doom metal song, that poisonous riff slowly seeping into your mind, almost coagulating and smothering under it's own weight, only Ward's drumming giving it the occassional force to inch forward. On top of all this, Ozzy is perfect, showing us a dramatic side we rarely see these days, really selling a lyric that would be painfully hackneyed coming from anyone else. Instead it's practically terrifying.
"N.I.B"[a moment here. "N.I.B" does not stand for Nativity in Black. It's the word "nib" with dots between, a band in-joke relating to Bill Wards nickname at the time] is pure demon wax excellence, Geezer Butler demonstrating an off-kilter sense of humour (and crazy bass chops) with a funny little ditty about the devil falling in love. But man, that's some dramatic music under there, the band marching along at a sensible pace while still causing earthquakes, the chorus lifting up, the verses plunging, the bass almighty. And man, don't forget that "Bassically" awesome intro.[For an even more basstastic experience, be sure to check out Primus and Ozzy's cover from Nativity in Black II]
Finally on the true metal side, there's my fav song on the album, "The Wizard". Man, what an awesome riff, Tony just cranking up the crunch and dueling with that strangely out of place yet perfect harmonica. And man, Bill Ward never seems to get credit for how awesome he is. I mean, check out those totally air-drummable fills. It's genius, genius! Also of note, Sabbath beats Zeppelin to the mystic punch, "The Wizard" going all fantasy before those fucking "hammer of the gods" fanclubbers that get all the credit.
The rest of the album, it's a good listen, Iommi doing some fine soloing, "Wicked World" being a non-metallic, yet unarguably fun track. It's really hard to point out some moment you like from the suite-style track arrangements, but "Behind the Wall of Sleep" is unarguable a fine little song. Still, it's gonna get much better one album hence.
Stand-Outs: "The Wizard", "Behind the Wall of Sleep", "N.I.B"
This is the culmination of the work of four motley young men from Birmingham England. The lead singer was a dyslexic who had spent some time in jail for breaking and entering with a thin banshee-esque wail. The guitarist had lost the ends of two of his fingers, using thimbles made from a melted plastic bottle and leather straps. The bass player had switched from rhythm guitar upon hearing the music of Cream, and the drummer was apparently incapable (on his own admission) of playing a basic 4/4 rhythm. These four young men seemed not to have a hope in hell. Their initial lineup was formed from the ashes of two local bands, Mythology and Rare Breed, becoming the six-man entity The Polka Tulk Blues Band. After shedding two members, they re-named themselves Earth, and after some time when their new style started to take shape, the group rechristened themselves Black Sabbath, and promptly got a record deal, recording a single (a cover of Crow's Evil Woman) before being fobbed off onto a smaller label. The recording of this album supposedly took place in its entirety on November 11 1969. On February 13 1970, Black Sabbath's first effort was released and the world would be changed forever.
The record was something completely different to what had previously been heard anywhere. There had been numerous experiments in Hard Rock, the most notable being Cream, The Who, Deep Purple and Blue Cheer, but this was an entity unto itself. This was something even darker, heavier and more intimidating, although it had a rather loose and jammy feel to it. This album gave birth to heavy metal, with the title track itself spawning a subgenre, doom metal. Predictably showing how out of touch they were with music at the time, the critics quickly panned the album, with The Village Voice even going so far as to refer to it as "the worst of the counterculture on a plastic platter." However, the fans knew they liked it, and the album ended up going
straight into the UK Top 10, peaking atnumber 8.
John "Ozzy" Osbourne (vocals, harmonica) - Ozzy's vocal performance here isn't at all pretty. He shows here a lack of range and a throaty wail. What makes this performance so good though is the way he uses his voice to convey emotion. On the title track, he sounds genuinely fearful for his life. He also shows quite an impressive ear, being responsible for the rather catchy vocal melodies on the album. Perhaps one of the finest performances of his rather lengthy career.
Frank "Tony" Iommi (guitar) - Tony's guitar style here is metal in it's purest form, laying down riff after riff with considerable power. Most of the riffs here are quite simple, but extremely effective. His lead style is a more focused structured one, mostly centered around catchy motifs. Another one of his trademarks, double-tracked leads to give the illusion of two lead guitars, also appears here, most notably on N.I.B.
Terence "Geezer" Butler (bass) - Building on the work of fellow bassists Jack Bruce (Cream) and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), Geezer plays a rather loose pattern adding in fills, rather than just playing basic root notes. He also shows some of his talents in the small bass intro to N.I.B. (also known as Bassically). He has since become one of the most influential bass players in metal, from Steve Harris to Jason Newsted.
Bill Ward (drums) - By his own admission, Bill Ward cannot play a straight rhythm or keep time, a problem that would usually be disastrous in a band setting. However, Bill solves this problem by being fill happy, using his drums to complement Iommi's riffing. The result is an emphasis on the loose and jammy feel of the album.
Production was handled by Roger Bain, and is mixed well. The drums are evenly mixed, and the bass is quite prominent in the mix as well (given that it's Geezer, that's pretty much required). The most notable aspect is that the guitar sound is full and heavy, providing most of the power for the band (as opposed to other bands where the drums were the main power). The way that the guitar was mixed on this album is unique to almost any other band around that time. Ozzy's vocals are mixed to the front, as is his harmonica.
Black Sabbath - Quite a few metalheads have memories of putting this song on late at night for the first time and promptly being scared shitless by it. This track opens with the sound of rain and church bells ringing, before diving straight into one of the most ominous riffs ever put to record. The song quiets down a little, punctuated by tom fills from Ward, then Ozzy chips in with a rather melancholy and fearful delivery. Truly fearful stuff. Around 4:36, the song picks up with Ozzy getting more and more frightened, before he screams "NO, NO, PLEASE NO!" After that the solo section kicks in, featuring an equally scary solo from Iommi until the song ends violently. Truly hair-raising stuff.
N.I.B. - This is a cut that got them into trouble, due to the line "My name is Lucifer, please take my hand." This starts off with an impressive bass solo from Geezer, before going into a signature Iommi riff. A signature aspect of early Sabbath comes to the fore during Iommi's solo, in which Geezer and Ward are also doing something different, playing plenty of fills. This sort of thing seems totally nonsensical, but somehow it makes total sense. This also features one of Iommi's signature double-tracked leads.
Wicked World - The final cut on this album (apparently not on all versions of the originals), it opens with a hihat figure modeled on Gene Krupa (betraying Ward's jazz influence), going into a jazzy section ending with some punishing fills from Ward. The song then goes into a slow riff, then into palm-muted chugging under Ozzy's vocal lines. Ozzy's voice sounds strange on this track, sounding a lot more piercing here. That part of the song fades out, leading to a finger-picked open string figure from Iommi supported by Geezer. This leads into an a capella guitar solo a la Heartbreaker. The song then
reprises the verse before ending with the jazzy section that it started with. An excellent and varied song from Black Sabbath.
The Warning - This one, built around a 12-bar blues figure, seems to meander on quite aimlessly for 10 minutes, making for a rather uninteresting listen.
This is where it all began. It is not a perfect album (nothing is ever perfect the first time around), but this album is still revered far and wide, and is required listening for any metalhead.
Now THIS is more like it! After reviewing Ozzy's decent "Blizzard of Ozz", this album just completly blows the shit out of it. With only 5 songs (2 of which being close to/over 10 minutes), this is a fairly quick ride, but is memorable and a keeper of an album. The guitar tone is very heavy and the bass work is incredible, especially on the aptly-titled "Bassicly". Ozzy's vocals are better than most other times, with his voice sounding a bit deeper.
The album opens with Black Sabbath, the best Sabbath song ever. The evil opening riff, the calm into chaos verse and chorus and the breakdown into the outro, this is without a doubt Black Sabbath's best work. The Wizard follows, and it is nearly as good. More cool riffs with an Ozzy harmonica intro. This album does not drag like other Sabbath/Ozzy albums tend to do. The next song is a 4 part, with the mood changing with every part. The opener (forgive me, I forgot the names) is pretty short, but very sweet. The next part is equally as cool, which then goes into the bass solo and into NIB, which is another kick ass Sabbath song that everybody knows the words to. This goes into the worst song on the album, it is far to bluesy for me and the band just doesn't sound as strong. The final track is another multi-part song, and it is decent at best. Although it rocks for the first 6-7 minutes, it quickly loses steam and turns into a lame solo for what seems like 295435 hours.
Even though the last 2 tracks are not up to par with the rest of this masterpiece, the other songs more than make up for it. This CD is really cheap due to it being re-released approximatly 4 billion times, so if for some unknown reason you don't have it, GET IT.
Well kids, here it is. The first EVER heavy metal album. Sure it doesn't sound like much when compared to, say, Eternal fucking Nightmare, but still, you guys have to realise that on February 13th, 1970, when this album was released, there was really NOTHING out there that was this evil, this fucked up, this... HEAVY!
Oh yes, Tony Iommi has managed to lay down some of the most morbidly twisted riffs ever, and combined with Geezer's ideals for lyrics, we have here a true masterpiece of Pure Fucking Satan.
But, it's not perfect. Some of the song structures leave a bit to be desired, and Ozzy's voice is average at best, and just pretty damn crappy for the most part. The album really can't make up its mind sometimes if it wants to be evil or not - sometimes the lyrics are too happy, at other times it's the music. But when it gets it right... oh good lord, hold on to your Bibles, kids, Satan's coming and he don't look all too pleased.
We start off with THE song - Black Sabbath. This is definitely the highlight of the album - it starts off slowly, with a monster doom riff (to anyone else that wants to write a slow crushing riff, let's face it, the be-all end-all of slow crushing riffs has been done. No way to improve it.) and then speeds up by the end, by the "Satan's coming around the bend" part. Yes, some of the lyrics are just a little bit silly, I must admit. But the overall effect is incredible... from the slow heavy stuff, to the galloping guitar-and-bass as Vic mentioned (listen carefully in headphones, it's two different riffs on two instruments that are distorted to sound kinda similar) part, and then the final cacophany of despair. "Oh no, no nono!!!"
Next is "The Wizard", which, if you were to just look at the lyrics, you would think this were a silly power metal song. It's about wizards and dragons and little prancing elves. Well, not really. It's also pretty happy lyrics, which kind of stand in stark contrast to both the first song, and also the music of the second. Again, even the first wheels were kinda squarish - this album isn't an allout focused attack, but it is the FIRST, and you can't deny that.
We go back to being evil with "Behind the Wall of Sleep". More riffs here, including a bit of an intro. Then, "NIB" is probably the most generally famous song on this album, it's got more Satan lyrics, though the way the song is structured, it sounds just a bit upbeat. "Oh yeah!" The only really heavily morbid part is the middle part... "Your love for me has got to be real..."
Then, "Wicked World". Some versions have "Evil Woman" - mine has "Wicked World", so we will comment on that. Another song that's generally okay, with some decent riff construction - I have to keep reminding myself, this is 1970, not 1976, and that way it stands out more.
Then we have the last song - I can never remember where the songs tend to track themselves, as I have a tape copy, so I don't know where what starts and what ends... there is "A Bit of Finger/Sleeping Village/Warning" - we'll just call it that. I think I know roughly where they begin and end, but one can't be too sure, especially with the first two. The first two are mostly instrumental, sounding like a really tripped out jam session (good heavens, could you believe it probably WAS a really tripped out jam session???) - lots of riffs here being worked, with some great soloing too, but somehow it's a bit incoherent. Sorta like Priest's "Rocka Rolla" album - it's like, guys what are you DOING? Play a song already.
And the song is "Warning", which ends up being a twisted love song. Not evil in the Great Satan sense, though.
So overall, what's there to think about this? Some really great ideas are being developed here - Tony Iommi's riff construction is like nothing ever seen before, and that is the greatest contribution to heavy metal. "Guys, this is heavy metal." But it is pretty inconsistent - if you're going to be vicious and Satan, you may as well be that 100 per cent of the time... I'm not sure why it took music that long to realise it... it really wasn't until Sabotage (1975), Sad Wings of Destiny (1976) and Stained Class (1978) that we had an album that grabbed you by the balls at the beginning and didn't let you go.
But hey - a first time for everything!