The long overdue return of Black Sabbath


Where exactly did heavy metal begin? The phrase is said to begin with the line in Steppenwolf’s ‘Born To Be Wild’. There’s certain bands that laid the groundwork for it in the sixties, amongst which Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience would be forerunners, and The Who (‘My Generation’ and ‘Substitute’), early stuff by The Kinks (‘You Really Got Me’ and ‘All Day And All Of the Night’), and even The Beatles (‘Revolution’ and ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy).’

However, perhaps the band with the most claim to have truly invented heavy metal is Birmingham’s Black Sabbath.* And this year sees the release of 13, the first album in 35 years to reunite singer Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tommy Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler (drummer Bill Ward has been replaced by Rage Against The Machine’s Brad Wilk).

My favourite Sabbath albums are probably still Black Sabbath and Paranoid, though I enjoy Sabbath Bloody Sabbath as well. To list all the bands who have been influenced by Black Sabbath would take a long time, but when you consider sources as diverse as Slipknot and The Cardigans** have claimed them as an inspiration, that shows the length of the appeal of a band that the critics of the time hated. You can hear them on stoner metal bands, goth bands (well over a decade before goth rock was even termed), grunge, thrash, death…

The album tracklisting is as follows:

‘End Of The Beginning’
‘God is Dead?’
‘Age Of Reason’
‘Live Forever’
‘Damaged Soul’
‘Dear Father’

The bonus deluxe edition tracks are:

‘Peace of Mind’

Stream the awesome first single ‘God Is Dead?’ (note the significance of the question mark).

*yes, I’m aware of the importance of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, but Sabbath consolidated the whole thing, frankly.

** yes, really. The Swedish band covered ‘Iron Man’ ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ and ‘Changes.’

33 1/3 Part 24


Black Sabbath -‘Paranoid’ (Vertigo, 1970)

Before Sharon Osbourne on X-Factor, The Osbournes, Ozzfest…there was Black Sabbath and they were one of the greatest things to come out of Birmingham. Ever.Along with Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, they took on the mantle of actually creating what Steppenwolf had referred to ‘Born To Be Wild’ and The Beatles, Hendrix and The Kinks had done in their heaviest modes and created Heavy Metal. Praise be. Led Zeppelin incorporated folk, Deep Purple incorporated bits of classical…

…and Sabbath? Well, two things, really. Firstly, Sabbath had started out as a jazz band. You heard. And listen to ‘Planet Caravan’ and ‘Fairies Wear Boots’ if you don’t believe me. Secondly, having come out of a rehearsal and seen people queueing up to see the Turn Of the Screw [N.B. Most likely The Innocents, which it was filmed as in the 1960s, and influenced Kate Bush’s ‘Infant Kiss’ off Never For Ever.] it was wondered if people would pay money to hear music that would scare them. They would. For four decades afterwards. The front cover of their eponymous debut paid tribute to The Turn Of The Screw/The Innocents and dealt with much horror that would grace a Hammer Horror.

That was early 1970. Before the year was out, Sabbath had issued their second album. Paranoid was going to be called War Pigs. This was a direct reference to the Vietnam War, which was still going on, and the record company baulked. So it took the name of the second track on the album -‘Paranoid.’ That song is probably the one for which Sabbath are best known and still thrills and chills the spine forty years on. Less than three minutes long it’s widely viewed as a classic rock anthem and rightly so. Actually, it’s a classic song. Period.

Yet musically there are other surprises on the album. A few years ago, French act Air included ‘Planet Caravan’ on their Late Night Tales compilation. If you think this is an album of non-stop headbanging indulgence, think again. Oh, and listen to the album. ‘Caravan’ is gorgeously mellow. Then again there are slow rock tracks – anticipating drone rock, stoner rock – whatever you want to call it, ‘Electric Funeral’ and ‘Iron Man’ have it in (Ace of) Spades.

It’s possible to hear Sabbath’s influence in much music of the last forty years – be it Iron Maiden, Sunn o))), Earth, and Mogwai and Magoo issued a split single paying tribute in 1998. In 2006 Flaming Lips covered ‘War Pigs’ on tuor. Whilst antic on stage, on TV and in the papers may have detracted over tiime, do not forget what made Sabbath matter in the first place.

I first heard the single as a 15 year old, and eventually started bought the album in my twenties. It may have taken until the last three years or so, though, to properly appreciate just how and why this is such a great album. Do yourself a favour and check it out.

Black Sabbath -‘Paranoid.’ mp3

Black Sabbath -‘Planet Caravan.’ mp3

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