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Inconsistent...but revolutionary - 83%

OlympicSharpshooter, March 16th, 2004

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"