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Black Sabbath - Paranoid CD (album) cover


Black Sabbath


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4.30 | 903 ratings

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4 stars Were I actually a Black Sabbath fan, I might give the "best album" title to Master of Reality for its introduction of the superheavy guitar tone, or to Sabotage for its prog-metal leanings, or to the debut for various reasons. Well, I'm not, so the mainstream whore in me naturally gives the nod to the closest thing Black Sabbath ever made to a normal "classic rock" album. I don't worship this album as much as a lot of people do, especially since I get tired of listening to it midway through the second half, but it's definitely the most "refined" Sabbath album I've ever heard. The riffs are all classic, the instrumental passages are relatively short and to the point (the mistake on BS is not repeated), and it stomps and clomps like nobody's business. The blues-pop elements are basically gone, which makes me a little sad (they were a cute diversion, after all), but I don't really mind when I'm listening. As far as the band's "masters of midtempo headbanging" shtick goes, this is danged near top of the line, almost resembling a greatest hits package by itself.

Ironically (or "naturally," given that this happens with me a lot) it's the two songs that deviate from the standard pattern that I enjoy the most on this album. One of them is the title track, a magnificent speedy rocker that would sound more like Deep Purple than Sabbath if it didn't sound so dark at the same time. It's certainly also one of Ozzy's finest moments as a vocalist; he didn't even know what the word "paranoid" meant before the band wrote the song, but his singing matches this state of mind perfectly. Add in a really neat fuzzy tone to the mid-song guitar solo, and you have one of the very best examples of proto-thrash.

My second favorite, then, is the oft-forgotten and overlooked "Planet Caravan." This one isn't even close to rock, much less hard rock, which I guess is the most obvious reason fans aren't usually huge on it, but I for one seriously dig the vibe of the song. I think of it as Sabbath getting back to their "pothead roots," so to speak, as Ozzy sings through a 'watery' voice filter over a moody, spacey background until Tony breaks into a very soft, jazzy solo. Believe it or not, this was, for the longest time, my favorite Black Sabbath song (which I guess proves once and for all that I'm totally missing the point of Black Sabbath, but hey, I've admitted that already), and I still have a very soft spot in my heart for it.

The rest of the album is five conventional Sabbath stompers (fine) and a drum solo (ehn). To the credit of "Rat Salad," the whole piece is only about two-and-a-half minutes, with the actual solo lasting much less than a minute, which makes it far better to my ears than "Moby Dick." That said, how excited can you expect me to get about a piece where the biggest compliment I can give it is, "It's shorter than a similar piece that sucks"? So ignore that and stick with the other pieces, which are largely the crux of the Sabbath legend. "War Pigs" is most infamous for being the track where Butler's lyrics rhyme "masses" with "masses" (!), but that shouldn't obscure its various positive aspects. The crisp two- chord pounded bit between each of Ozzy's initial lines gives a neat intense effect, the simple riffage that pops up later works well, the solos are good enough, and the climactic 'jam' holds up well in comparison to that of the last album's title track. The first side also contains the ultra-infamous "Iron Man," one of Beavis and Butthead's songs of choice for air-guitar and headbanging. Is the riff stupid? More or less. Are the lyrics stupid? Oh goodness yes. Does it rule? Yeah, it rules.

The second half contains three more similar pieces that I don't find as amusing, but are nonetheless good enough at what they do. "Electric Funeral"'s main riff was another of B&B's favored songs (it's amazing how many Sabbath songs I knew from B&B even before I ever heard one of their songs on the radio), but that's not really an insult, and the introductory riff is neat too. And hey, it's got a neat midsection where Iommi starts playing off of his own riffage, bouncing back and forth from one riff to the other, and Ozzy is chanting the title in all its ridiculous glory. Let's hear it for quality unintentional humor!

"Hand of Doom" and "Fairies Wear Boots" round out the album, and they're nice too. "HoD" is most notable for being largely based off a cool introductory bassline, alternating the bass/drums-only parts with full fledged "rawk" arrangements to decent effect, before speeding up a bit to try and provide the illusion of multiple parts in order to justify the 7:10 run-time. As for "Fairies Wear Boots," well, it's got a lot of nice riffs, and a decent bluesy feel in parts, and all the sorts of things you'd expect given what you'd have heard on the album to that point. Whee.

Basically, "Rat Salad" aside, there isn't a bad track on here, and that's enough for me. I don't find myself with much of a craving to listen to it very often, and I definitely find my attention starting to drift when I'm about a half hour into it, but that's just my problem. If you think you would hate Sabbath, this is probably the best place to go to change your mind.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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