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Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath CD (album) cover

BLACK SABBATH

Black Sabbath

 

Prog Related

4.22 | 791 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!

Difficult to find a more influential album in the heavy metal genre than Black Sabbath's debut album. Graced with a gloomy old mill filtered photo with a so-called witch, the Brummie quartet went straight for the dark side of rock and their sinister looks sporting large crosses were certainly enhancing intently this image. Recorded and produced (almost inexistently by Rodger Bain) in just two days, this might seem today a real botch job in the light of modern technology, but it is precisely this rough, raw finish that gave this album its aura. The album was immediately successful on both side of the Atlantic, but it was to stay 18 months in the US charts.

If anything must represent heavy metal, than the eponymous album opener is it: from its thunderstorm and bell intro, to the sinister slow descending riff (based on Gustav Holtz's Mars piece from The Planets Suite) and Geezer Butler-inspired depressive lyrics, the group cannot help but launch a chain of reaction in everyone. Love it or hate it, this track is an absolute stunner (I remember that even my grandfather had to recognize its powers, when I presented him this "UFO") and the reaction of the public was immediate. One of HM's most defining moments. The following gloomy Wizard track is a blues-derived riff-laden song with an unusual pace and the dreamy, almost ambient by their standard, Wall Of Sleep with its great slower mid-section are not as much attention-grabbing, but remain quite solid tracks that make this album an all-time classic. Closing the first side is an epic love song (NIB is NOT Nativity In Black), starting on a pulsating bass solo (Geezer Butler is the unsung hero of BS's first two albums and had one of the more original style back then), than Iommi's solid guitar riff takes over accompanying an average Osbourne vocal line, but for some reasons, the whole thing works quite fine and this track remains a classic to this day. Ward's jazzy drumming throughout the album brings a bit of lightness to his three mate's overpowering heaviness. Butler's style is also bringing much air, as he generally shadows Iommi's riffs (instead of countering or underlining them) and plays much like his inspiration, Cream's Jack Bruce.

The flipside starts on a rare cover, the groovy bass-ed up Evil woman, which was originally intended as the single then with what I' call the album's weaker track Sleeping Village: it seems like a collage of three pieces, but comes off well in its second half, and might be as close as they'd get to an instrumental track on this album. As SV ends in a feedback, the most impressive almost 11-min Warning (an Ainsley Dunbar Retaliation cover) starts exactly on that same feedback, and although it might appear as completely indulgent nowadays, it is one of the most Sabbath tune ever. Indeed the track is full of "solo" playing that seem to drag on a bit, especially Iommi's guitar twangs in the middle section, but it is a real testimony to his passage in Jethro Tull and Mick Abrahams (whom he replaced), see Cat Squirrel on the This Was album. But it got most future metalheads understanding what Iommi's modified sound was all about. Indeed a work incident had him lose a fingertip and he had to detune his guitar strings in order to accommodate his self-made prostheses to replace the lost bit. The bonus track closing the remastered version Wicked World is another great BS track, getting lost in the shuffle of their first two albums' abundance of good ideas, as it was used as a non-album single.

The Legacy edition brings a second disc of alternate takes and work-in-progress, even bumping the previous Wicked World bonus on the remaster version on the second disc, thuis making it less interesting. This Legacy edition does provide an extended booklet with piccies and liner notes, but the digipak doesn't really respect the artwork, so I'd advise you against the extra cost.??.. Need I say something more about this flawed but groundbreaking artefact of the first months of a then-new decade?

Sean Trane | 4/5 |

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