The indisputable entry that launched the heavy metal genre and thousands of bands to follow, Black Sabbath is a landmark release that should be labeled as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
When the rain drops and the bells chime leading to those first three simple notes that introduce “Black Sabbath,” the music world was rightfully stunned. Their thoughts were likely the first lyrics to come from vocalist Ozzy Osbourne: “What is this that stands before me?” The landscape of music would change forever.
While Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple were also at the forefront of bringing heavy and powerful music during the late 1960s, Black Sabbath epitomized this new sound – they were and are the definition of heavy metal. Look at that album cover! Who the hell are these guys?
Black Sabbath was originally called Earth, and many thought they were from the other side of its crust. Yet, fans were held captive to this voice, this powerful yet simplistic sound of blues-laden riffs that touched a distance and volume never explored. Many were afraid to embrace such change but history would determinately be written.
What’s most impressive about this album is its initially historic flow of the first four tracks. The harmonica that introduces “The Wizard” is arguably the strongest follow-up track for a debut in metal history. Guitarist Tony Iommi turns it up to record breaking levels, while Geezer Butler and Bill Ward deliver one of the band’s finest rhythm section performances (especially Ward). Dark-hued music with satanic, mythical, and supernatural themes pervade the five compositions, two of which are extended song suites (“Wasp,” Behind The Wall of Sleep,” Bassically,” “N.I.B.”) and a 14 minute plus medley to close the album (“A Bit of Finger,” “Sleeping Village,” “Warning.”).
The album was not well-received initially but this often happens when you change history.
What many don’t realize is Black Sabbath were very much a blues-based band in their origin. The development of these roots into a musical style never approached is as commendable an accomplishment as one could achieve.
“Black Sabbath,” “The Wizard,” and “Wicked World” are the albums signature tracks. All unique in their own right and a perfect prologue of what fans were to expect from Black Sabbath throughout the decade. A slow driving rhythm section that can change gears at a moment’s notice, a vocalist who personified their existence in every possible way, and a guitarist who was just starting to become “the riff master.”
The band would release Paranoid just seven months after this landmark debut and would proceed to produce exceptional recordings throughout the 1970s – Master of Reality (1971), Black Sabbath Vol. 4 (1972), Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973), Sabatoge (1975), and Technical Ecstasy (1976) – until the uninspiring Never Say Die! in 1978 tore the band apart.
The band reports that constant drug abuse took its toll and led to the firing of lead singer Ozzy Osbourne. He was the fall guy, but one could argue the ultimate deciding factor for Iommi to fire Ozzy and start a new was their 1978 supporting tour where opening act youngsters Van Halen blew them off the stage on a nightly basis. Yes, it was Eddie Van Halen’s fault, not Ozzy – wink. Thankfully, things work out for a reason at times.
The late Ronnie James Dio would rejuvenate the band with the exceptional Heaven and Hell release, and the band would record nine more uneven releases. Ozzy went on to achieve tremendous success as a solo artist. All in all, Black Sabbath laid the foundation for every form of metal music imaginable. Thus, Black Sabbath was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
Reviewer: Bill Pulice
IRC: Sarah Geledi
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