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After creating the genre of Heavy Metal with their first album, Black Sabbath decided to move away from the quite noticeable blues and jazz elements of the first album and focus on the heavier side of things. The result was another masterpiece of heavy music, and whilst they had previously released their debut the same year there is such a noticeable leap between styles in the two albums that it is hard to believe that they were released in such short periods of time. There are still blues and jazz elements to be found littered throughout the album but for the most part they have been stripped away. The real progression found here though is how much heavier and improvised it is than it's predecessor, from the solos to the slow, heavy riffs which would later go on to form Doom Metal.
The album kicks off with War Pigs, one of Sabbath's longest songs which begins with a slow, bass driven intro with sirens in the background and suddenly stops. Ozzy Osbourne comes in with the best performance of his career and some awesome riffing starts after the first verse. Iommi shows off his soloing skills to a great extent in this song towards the end of the song. One of the finer songs of Sabbath's career.
Next up is Paranoid, which sort of reminds me of Highway Star, although slowed down a bit. Although I do agree it is overplayed I still find myself enjoying this song whenever I pop the Paranoid disc in. There's a nice effect with the vocals going on, which sound like they're ecohing.
Although I didn't like it at first, after repeated listens I rather enjoy 'Planet Caravan', for its atmosphere and lengthy jazz influenced solo. The trippy effects which are present add to the atmosphere, and although the bass is a little low in the mix it is a rather enjoyable, relaxing song. I suppose it would be good to listen to while under the influence (as some other reviewers said) but I haven't tried that as of yet.
Iron Man wakes you up from the trance which Planet Caravan put you in with some guitar noises and that famous scream of Iron Man. Despite having a killer main riff though, the song doesn't hold my attention as much as it used to, probably due to over saturation and me listening to it too many times. The solo in the middle and the end keeps me listening though, and still makes me worship at the altar of Iommi. It is also one of the more catchy songs on the album, I remember when I first heard it I could remember it until I obtained a copy for myself.
Electric Funeral has a somewhat depressing main riff which suits the lyrical themes of nuclear war. Although Ozzy's voice can get a little annoying at times, his performance is still fairly good. At around 1:50 it speeds up into a faster riff with high pitched vocals from Ozzy only to return to the previous part. Probably one of the weaker songs on the album, but then again that could be the case of listening to it too many times again.
Hand of Doom is one of the highlights of this album, and listening to it makes you realise how it created and inspired Doom Metal. It goes from a bass driven riff to a heavy chorus which then returns to the verse. It then proceeds to speed up a little into a more upbeat riff which leads into an awesome heavy part, and then into another great solo, after which it returns to the bass driven verse. The lyrical themes are about someone who died of an overdose due to not being able to control his habit. The riffs pummel you into the ground with their heaviness and the vocals go from quiet to loud perfectly.
Rat Salad is another song I initially didn't like at first, but then got to love it. Basically consisting of a riff and solo at the start it then has a long drum solo in the middle. Although I usually don't enjoy drum solos that much, this one kept my attention due to not being overlong (which to me is usually the death of drum solos). Jack the Stripper/Fairies wear boots finishes the album well with some great soloing and riffing.
This album, although containing some ridiculously overplayed songs, stands the test of time and I still find myself listening to it every week or two. I wouldn't say this is overrated in any way, and even today it remains a masterpiece of Metal. It advanced the Metal genre by a large extent, and for that reason alone it is a must have, but what really makes it stand head and shoulders about the crowd is the riffs and soloing present, as well as excellent drumming and great vocals. The fact that it was released in 1970 only further adds to the greatness of it. Essential.