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My first metal album, without question my favorite, and unarguably one of the best ever recorded. This is the album that broke heavy metal through to a wider audience, and proved that it actually had something to say as a musical genre. In 8 songs, Black Sabbath told the story of heavy metal from beginning to end, and it is a story that will never be forgotten.
First of all, any album with “War Pigs” on it is automatically the greatest metal album ever. Ozzy’s vocals on this song compete only with his own on Black Sabbath’s self titled song. Musicians far outside of metal have covered this song, including Phish. Come again? Yeah you heard me the first time. Phish. During its verse, the song employs the hands-down-simplest guitar riff ever (but it works so good!), and Ozzy Osbourne’s brilliant ascending-then-descending melody remains unmatched in the annals of metal. The song definitely has some anti-war stuff going on, although I’m not quite sure which war (Viet Nam maybe? I’m no history buff). And god damn, the droning, almost psychedelic guitar segment that dominates the last half of the song is just… jaw dropping. Well I don’t know about you, but my jaw drops when I hear it. I’ll admit the ending is kind of silly, though. “Buuudiiidiiibuuudiidiibuudubidubidiididuudfuufi!” That’s what it sounds like, kind of.
The album’s biggest radio hit was “Paranoid,” and apparently it was written in about 20 minutes, when they realized they had some extra studio time to kill. For me, this song works perfectly as a concise pop song and a metal anthem. The chorus is instrumental… I can just imagine if a later metal band wrote this song, the chorus would be “Yeeeahhh! I’m paaaaranoooiiid!” in a power metal scream. Which would be awesome, actually. But this song is perfect as it is, 3 minutes of pure metal goodness.
“Planet Caravan” is strange; it has only clean guitar, bass, and bongos. And vocals of course, which are processed through some sort of modifier. The lyrics in this song are awesomely trippy, and they totally make the song. The atmosphere of the instrumentation is incredible. Once I was listening to it with my friend who doesn’t like metal, and he was like “This track is awesome.” Or something like that. The guitar solo in the end is so calm and graceful, it’s a jazzy type of thing. Bongos!
And well, of course, there’s “Iron Man.” What some have called the greatest and most memorable guitar riff of all time, it is endlessly parodied (but still hasn’t lost its purity and raw power). This was probably the heaviest rock song that had come out at the time (1970), and I bet people were like, “Whooaaa!” Oh man, the Way Iommi switches from chords to single notes in the verse. This song is a particular standout for Iommi actually. The extended solo section at the end is some of his best work ever. Listening to this song makes you imagine this big iron dude. Walking. Loudly.
Waa-waa-wa-wa-waaaoohhh – This song has wah pedal in it. And it ROCKS. The main guitar riff is very evil, probably the most evil sounding song on the album. This is the traditional slow crawling Black Sabbath riff, that they tried endlessly to recreate, but never could. “Like electric funeral pyre!!” Ozzy was a genius (I said WAS). Some cool tom drumming from Bill Ward here. The song picks up in the middle, and gets real fast and cool. Not that it wasn’t cool before. But now it’s ultra cool. And of course the classic moment when he’s all like, “Electric fun-ral! Electric fun-ral!” Aw man, that rocks. And I always thought the ending fadeout sounds especially evil and restrained. It sounds like a beast that wants to fucking tear your eyes out, but there’s a cage holding it back. Geezer Butler’s harmony in this part is simply… chilling.
“Hand of Doom” is classic because it switches between a mellow, quiet verse and a violent, electric chorus. The quiet part has an awesome drum beat. And then the LOUD PART shows clearly that Bill Ward was no chump. And Ozzy’s all like, “Now it’s killing yoouuu!” This song seems to be about heroin, Black Sabbath was all about the drugs. The middle fast part has one of the best guitar riffs on the album, I think. Oh man it rocks so hard, I can’t even describe it! I just think it’s amazing how every riff on the whole record is one of the best riffs you’ve ever heard. It’s like, you think they’re done cranking out awesome guitar riffs, and then HERE COME SOME MORE! One of my favorite parts of the song is when he goes “You need someone to help you take the needle in, yeah!” and then Iommi goes off into this Eastern-sounding solo. This song is probably the best display on the album of Sabbath’s ability to change dynamics on the spot, and make it sound convincing.
Aaaah, “Rat Salad,” Black Sabbath’s answer to Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick,” which came out earlier the same year. Well it is an instrumental which starts out with some sick riffs (is this surprising anymore?), and then goes into a rather long drum solo (this was the 70’s, folks). Actually I hate to say it, but comparing the recorded versions of the solos in Salad and Moby, Bill Ward beats John Bonham. However, one watch of the How the West Was Won DVD and you’ll see that Bonham was indeed better. Sorry, Bill. This song still rocks my socks though.
The trippiest, absolutely coolest guitar sequence opens “Fairies Wear Boots.” Oh man, where does he come UP with this shit? Some cool drumming from Ward as usual leads into yet another sick mid-paced solo by Iommi. The lyrics in this song are incredibly strange. In the story, Ozzy is tripping on acid so hard that he sees dancing fairies wearing boots, along with some other strange sights. So then he goes to the doctor, and the doctor says “Smokin’ and trippin’ is all that you do… Yeeeaaaahhhhhh!” This is simultaneously the coolest and most hilarious lyric in all of heavy metal. Iommi’s solo in the middle has some sick bends and it is one of the best on the record, in my humblest of opinions. This song is absolutely perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing.
I hesitate giving anything a score of 100%, but I just HAD to. Because Paranoid is the greatest heavy metal record of all time, the only metal album that REALLY matters in the grand scheme of things. I wouldn’t give Master of Puppets 100%, nor would I bestow that honor upon The Number of the Beast. It’s just that this is the one album that says – Black Sabbath is nobody’s bitch.