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Raise no objections, put down your Deep Purple, your Judas Priest, your Metallica, your good-fucking-God-no Led Zeppelin, this album is it. Black Sabbath created metal with three songs on the debut, but Paranoid is 100% metal, every song clawing at your mind, tearing your sanity to the brink of madness, scaring the shit out of your parents.
It's not without weakness, hence the 88 (it's not even close to their BEST album), but it's their greatest. After this, they could've just sat back and ended their career, two pieces of revolutionary noise beyond all criticism under their belts. Instead, they made a good fifty more classics (songs not albums, although it seems that way sometimes) that your life would not be complete without. Thank them. Get down on your knees and worship these fumbling stoned gods of metal. Now, onto the actual content.
The band has advanced a frightening degree from record one, eschewing the outdated and awkward suite-based songs of the debut for tight, focused genius, riffs, leads, fills, and lyrics that will be burned into your brain for eternity. In all the came before, there was nothing to account for "Iron Man", that opening sledge, a non-musical scream of agony and rage that spiritually fathered extreme metal. Can you imagine listening to those first thirty seconds in 1970, with only a few noisy Cream concerts and insufferably dull Zeppelin plodders to prepare you? And after that, what a song! Black Sabbath gives us TWO monstrous riffs that every aspiring guitarist must learn, and a fearsome break, lessened only by the fact that it is somewhat similar to that of "Black Sabbath" and "War Pigs". If there was ever a riff designed to liquefy the brains of the impressionable youths, it’s the opening howl of “Iron Man”.
Speaking of "War Pigs", it's got a great bid for greatest heavy metal song ever. It's epic, almost progressive in scope, those wide-yawning spaces filled only by an impassioned Ozzy giving us the first metal protest song, oh lord yeah! And oh lawd, testify to the mad air drumming godliness of those Bill Ward fills, like nothing on earth ‘til Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” a good dozen years hence. Brilliant jammy break too, Iommi soloing like mad while that perfect rhythm section scowls and lopes along underneath. Plus, it's Side 1, Track 1 of metal's crowning album, making it quite the standard bearer through the accumulating ages of rust and disgust.
"Paranoid" is galloping proto-speed, as UltraBoris pointed out not the high metal science of "Highway Star", but looked upon favourably by metal heads everywhere. That starting gun of a riff, fading into the maddeningly sing-songy melody is the stuff of metal legend. I mean damn, I know every word of that song, like some sort of mantra or rap to the metal cause; more specifically to the cause of metal, which must’ve been the result of brain damage. It's burned into my brain. Gotta love that bubbly bass tone and behaved drumming, plus one of Iommi's more fun lead breaks.
"Planet Caravan" (given an able, if uninspired, cover by Pantera in later years) is a mellow 'trippy' number, feeling like a cool balm on your pressure cooked brain before "Iron Man" gives you another scalding. Illegible singing by Ozzy, subterranean drumming and guitar, this song is all about bass. Good, unique, track, and perhaps an indicator of Sabbath's future experimentation on later songs like "Spiral Architect" and the Technical Ecstasy record.
Alas, "Electric Funeral" is just weaksauce, a plodding and limp-wristed metaphor for nuclear war. Still, an able update of the doomy power demonstrated on "Black Sabbath". Ozzy's voice is much too faded out and electronic though.
"Hand of Doom" is brilliant, Geezer Butler giving the track its name with his unholy bass work, Bill Ward afire with alchemical genius in that fast break, Ozzy Osbourne really top-flight despite the barebones lyrics he's working with. Tony is of course Tony, but he's actually made somewhat peripheral here by the power of the rest of this band.
"Rat Salad", is a fair instrumental, nothing really special save for more percussion pyrotechnics. [To the person who said this track ripped off "Moby Dick", this came out first pal]
Finally, "Fairies Wear Boots", a lumbering stoner metal classic, the final gem on an album full of them. The lyrics are hilarious, either as a 'harrowing' tale of the stoner who cried wolf (or fairy in this case), or as a biting send-up of the English skinhead movement. Either way, chunky riffery and a nice almost staccato rhythm, particularly when it starts picking up towards the end. This is one of those tracks that makes you appreciate the Ozzy years. I mean, can you imagine Ronnie James Dio singing this? If you can, try to stop laughing/crying. It's another big piece of the metal puzzle, but if lacks the depth of the other crunchy classics on here in some way, really a bit too loose and ill-constructed.
Stand-Outs: "War Pigs", "Hand of Doom", "Iron Man"