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Black Sabbath - Paranoid CD (album) cover


Black Sabbath


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4.30 | 898 ratings

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Prog Sothoth
4 stars A wise man once said "music is like a sandwich, in that each slice and condiment adds to a cohesive whole to be consumed by the listener". I can't really argue that statement, I mean he was, after all, wise. The last time I saw him was about three months ago yelling profanities and shaking his fist at a fire hydrant, but the point still stands.

The reason I bring this up is that he reminded me of the guy swinging his sword on Paranoid's cover. Same facial hair and similar attire but without the weaponry and armor. The album itself is a crazy bugger, but within the stomping madness there's plenty of smart commentary and even words of wisdom. "War Pigs" and "Electric Funeral" focus on the insanity of war and global obliteration. "Hand Of Doom" is an eerily effective warning about heroin abuse (and coming from these guys, that's saying something). "Iron Man" was probably written as a violent revenge fantasy, but it certainly brings up the stupidity of mass culture's penchant for intolerance. Finding social commentary concerning the rest of the tracks is a bit of a stretch, although "Fairies Wear Boots" is a fun mockery of skinheads and maybe "Rat Salad" could be an indictment of the restaurant business if you're the dude on the album's cover.

The music itself ditches a lot of the blues and jammin' from the debut for a more full on barrage of a metal assault, which makes sense since 1970 itself was leaving behind a lot of bands stuck with a 60's vibe. "Planet Caravan" is no doubt a psychedelic ballad, but even with its trippy-based lyrics, the song comes across as quite a gloomy and haunting interlude between the chugging rage of the title track and the bombastic crush of "Iron Man". As ridiculously influential as this album is, most metal bands years and decades later aping the early Sabbath blueprint wouldn't dare add to their album a full fledged ballad without some sort of crescendo into heaviness. I will say there are some brave acts that do, and they are better off for it, since it adds depth and some much needed variation to a sound that can get monotonous for an album's length.

Debating what the first true metal album is will go on until the world explodes, but I would argue that this just may be the most influential. The title track alone takes Zeppelin's "Communication Breakdown" and pumps it up with a heavier guitar sound and turns it into a grim world view beast. Pretty much like what a lot of the speedier underground metal bands did much later, you know, the bands whose members didn't look like poodles in colorful spandex.

I have to admit that I pretty much hate Rat Salad. The little guitar solo early on is pretty sweet, but then the drum solo kicks in and I look at my watch. I understand the need for it in 1970, in which that year's biggest selling hard rock album was Led Zeppelin II. "Moby Dick" was already becoming a concert staple for the Zep, and Sabbath probably assumed that they needed one too. Great. I also have to admit that I've heard this album so many times since my relative youth that it's hard to get any rush out of this album except for maybe "Planet Caravan" and "Hand Of Doom", although "Fairies Wear Boots" was my favorite for awhile. It swings! I won't take the overplaying of this opus into account for my star rating, but I never cared for sloppy drum solos, so it's basically almost a masterpiece.

Within the Land of Prog, VdGG, King Crimson and I suppose Egg each put out two notable and in some cases fantastic releases in 1970, but concerning the rock world in general, Black Sabbath unleashed a one-two punch that year that cannot be denied, and formed a genre that hasn't let up since. Good work guys.

Prog Sothoth | 4/5 |


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