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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.