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The second coming - 96%

radiohater, January 16th, 2004

Black Sabbath were on a roll after their debut hit in early 1970. They had enjoyed the success of a number 8 record in the UK and some success in Europe, reaching number 23 in Europe. However, success in the US had eluded them thusfar. The band then returned to the studio to record their followup, this time recorded in three days as opposed to the one day effort of the debut. Paranoid was released on September 18 1970, delayed a few days because of demands for another more accessible song (Paranoid), along with a request to change the title, then called War Pigs, for fear it may offend US buyers, still smarting from the Vietnam war. As a result, the name was changed, but the artwork wasn't, explaining the rather strange cover.

Not only did this record surpass the quality of their debut, it was so good that it finally got them success in the states. The feeling here is a less laid-back and more aggressive, being centered around Iommi churning out classic riff after classic riff. All members of the band have improved on their first album, and the songs are more structured and less meandering. The loose feel of the first album however is still present, just not as overtly so. The title track went straight to number four in the UK, and the album reaching number 1 in the UK and number 12 in the US, making it their most successful effort.

The Cast

John "Ozzy" Osbourne (vocals) - Ozzy's voice changes notably on this release, becoming less throaty and higher pitched. He lays down some of his best performances on this album, most notably on Hand Of Doom and War Pigs. His vocal melodies, apparently all written by Ozzy himself, are some of the catchiest of his career.

Frank "Tony" Iommi (guitars) - Tony's riffing comes into it's own, with a large amount of his most popular riffs making their appearance here. His lead style is similar to his debut, although deviating slightly, with more flurries of notes being used.However, he's at his best when he slows it down and works around memorable phrases. This is best evidenced by his jazz-influenced outro solo on Planet Caravan

Terence "Geezer" Butler (bass) - Geezer continues in the style that he forged on the first album, and doing so with more confidence. His booming bass adds extra weight to plodding cuts like Electric Funeral and Hand Of Doom, and he even briefly experiments with a pick, lending a tremolo-picked bass section to the outro of Iron Man.

Bill Ward (drums) - Bill's jazz-influenced and rather fill-happy style comes into the fore on this album. He's all over the kit on War Pigs, particularly in the all out jam in the middle, but his best work is in on Rat Salad, not only being built mostly on his violent drumming, but featuring a drum solo right in the middle. A truly electric performance from Ward.

Production was handled by Roger Bain, and is similar to the first album. The main emphasis is on Tony Iommi's guitar, with the other instruments seemingly positioned around it. Bill's kit sounds excellent, and Geezer's bass is prominent without being overbearing. Ozzy's vocals are mixed to the fore as well.

Choice Cuts

War Pigs - A seven and a half minute monster, War Pigs begins with a slow section replete with air raid sirens, before going into the verse section which sees Ozzy singing a cappella, before going into a rather loose and funky section. The lead section at the end is complete instrumental chaos, with each instrument seeming to do something completely unrelated to the
other. It should sound like a complete cacophony, and yet it avoids this completely. Excellent stuff. The outro section consists of a nice riff containing arpeggiated seventh chords, before launching into another trademark "band solo". An excellent opening cut.

Paranoid - This is the song that brought them into the big time. Not bad for a song that was reputedly written in less than five minutes at the end of the sessions. This cut features Iommi's most well known riff that powers the song from start to finish, and Bill Ward plays an uncharacteristic role as a timekeeper. There is an unusually tight feel to this song, as the loose jammy feel of the rest of the album is totally absent here.

Planet Caravan - The lightest cut here. This one sees Iommi on a clean guitar, Bill Ward on bongos and Ozzy recording his vocals through a Leslie rotating keyboard amplifier. Although easily being the lightest cut, it is their most atmospheric, as this song contains an engulfing sense of doom. Of particular note here is the exceptional outro lead of Tony Iommi. A dark,
melodic, almost jazzy lead that adds immeasurably to the atmosphere present.

Iron Man - One of Black Sabbath's most famous cuts, this starts off with a discordant guitar figure with Ozzy's heavily synthesized voice before launching directly into its signature riff which powers most of the song. There's a nice solo section in the middle as well. The outro is fueled by tremolo-picked bass from Geezer, over which Tony puts forth a guitar
line before going into one of his patented "twin-guitar" solos. Excellent work

Electric Funeral - This cut is so bleak and oppressive you can picture in your head the devastated radiation-scarred landscape that serves as the lyrical topic. This is the sort of atmosphere that doom bands have been striving to recreate for years. Powered by one of Iommi's heaviest riffs and a menacing vocal performance from Ozzy, this cut is punishing from start to finish.

Closing Comments

This is the release that brought them into a league of their own, and played a critical role in the development of metal. There are no weak cuts at all on this album, and it's so revered that it's an unwritten law to have a copy of this (and the rest of their first six). No metalhead should be without this album!