Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath
Warner Bros. Records
Bluesy Heavy Metal
5 songs (40'16")
Release year: 1970
Black Sabbath, Warner Bros. Records
Reviewed by Adam
I am fairly certain that most fans in this day and age would have a hard time picturing heavy metal forefathers Black Sabbath as a young band searching for an identity, but that is precisely what they were on the release of their 1970 self-titled debut album. They actually started out as a heavy blues band, switching their name from The Polka Tulk Blues Company to just Polka Tulk, and then finally to Earth. After this final name change and some touring, Tony Iommi left for a short stay as guitarist in Jethro Tull, before returning to Earth (no pun intended). It was only after Geezer Butler observed a throng of people awaiting admittance to the Boris Karloff film Black Sabbath that he became interested in the occult and horror as launching points for the story of the title track, a name which the band would soon adopt, in part to avoid comparisons to another British band named Earth.

The title track is important for a bevy of reasons, not least for the fact that it launched an entire musical genre. As I noted previously, Butler aided Ozzy in constructing the occult inspired lyrics, using inspiration from horror stories and his personal visit from a dark apparition upon awaking from a nightmare. This morbid subject matter was far outside the norm for its time, and would become the foundation for the band moving forward. To accompany this dark tale, a simple three-note riff known as “diabolus in musica” was utilized. This riff, also referred to as “The Devil’s Tritone” is both simple and ominous, and embodies a sound that would later come to be known as doom metal. Ozzy also does a fantastic job at sounding tortured and frightened to cement the aura of Geezer’s paranormal experience. It is worth noting that this track was quite a departure for the Black Sabbath of the time period. In keeping with their original intention of playing heavy blues, the majority of the rest of the album follows a more Led Zeppelin like path, starting with the upbeat track The Wizard. With lyrics paying homage to Gandalf, Ozzy also plays a mean harmonica to add a southern blues vibe to Iommi's heavy riffing. Following this is a medley containing two songs (Behind the Wall of Sleep and N.I.B.) and two musical interludes (Wasp and Bassically). N.I.B., which does NOT stand for Nativity in Black as was widely circulated, is the prize of this group. Named after the shape of Bill Ward’s goatee, N.I.B. is where Iommi and Butler really shine. Butler sets the tone with an introductory distorted bass solo (Bassically) and the foundation of the supremely heavy main riff. Iommi then takes over, and his soaring leads in the bridge and closing portions are breathtaking to say the least. The result is a nice mixture of the blues of their roots and the heavier sound of their future. Next on the docket of the US version is Wicked World, while the original UK version contained the cover track Evil Woman. I personally have yet to hear the latter, but Wicked World is a solid vintage rock track, with Ozzy sounding very much like Eric Burdon of The Animals. The closer, A Bit of Finger/Sleeping Village/Warning is another medley, though this time it hinges on the sprawling cover track Warning. Originally containing a 30-minute Iommi solo, it was whittled down to avoid alienating the listener. The entire fourteen and a half minute medley is a showcase for Iommi’s bluesy guitar stylings, as he glides from lead to lead in often hypnotic fashion.

The stories surrounding this album are plentiful, and I’m not here to give a history lesson so I won’t go into each one. A bit of internet research will prove interesting for those of us who weren’t around for the original release, as we can read about the initial critical backlash and other fascinating tidbits. Though this album lacks a clear direction, it is still an immensely important release, metal or otherwise. The title track was the sound of the future, and though Tony Iommi’s famed guitar de-tuning would not arrive until Master of Reality, the elements that would frame that now familiar sound were already in motion here. I do not say this often, but this album is essential for fans of any type of metal.
Killing Songs :
Black Sabbath, The Wizard, Wasp/Behind the Wall of Sleep/Bassically/N.I.B.
Adam quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Black Sabbath that we have reviewed:
Black Sabbath - 13 reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Black Sabbath - Classic Albums - Paranoid (DVD) reviewed by Marty and quoted no quote
Black Sabbath - Headless Cross reviewed by Adam and quoted 81 / 100
Black Sabbath - Forbidden reviewed by Khelek and quoted 65 / 100
Black Sabbath - Mob Rules reviewed by Khelek and quoted CLASSIC
To see all 22 reviews click here
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