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After having scared the living daylights out of the masses with the creepy title track and pioneering doom rock/metal song that bore their name, Black Sabbath pushed the envelope of the early 70s further still with an offering that would serve as a template for a faster and more furious brand of loud music. Ironically enough, “Paranoid” was conceived rather quickly and considered filler by Iommi and company upon being printed, but proved to be one of Sabbath’s most well remembered song. It stands in opposition to the entire format of their first album and lacks any of the jam session characteristics that defined a lot of 60s oriented rock music. It consists of a very disciplined and limited set of guitar riffs, a driving beat and bass line rather than traveling improvisatory-like work, and lyrics that left the realm of political protest and horror for the realm of mental illness.
The b-side of this famous and brief single is one of the similar songs from the band’s debut album. But in spite of its formulaic nature, “The Wizard” is extremely loose and jazzy sounding next to the soldier like discipline of “Paranoid”. Bluesy lead guitar fill ins are thrown in through out the entire song in between sung verse lines, the lead sections are placed in multiple places and have a strictly rock flavor rather than the somewhat forward looking, octave effect oriented solo on the a-side, and the harmonica theme naturally pulls the song back to an earlier era. Nonetheless, a commonality between the two leaps out at the listener when hearing how the elongated power chords attack hard and linger like a dense shadow.
Basically this is more fodder for Sabbath completists looking for something to adorn their collection with its own unique art work and history. It’s historical nature is quite massive, as to this day, many metal bands play faster and more complex versions of this song. The character of guitar sound and recording technology may have changed, but the wicked nature of that distorted, well placed, palm muted power chord never will.