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Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath CD (album) cover

BLACK SABBATH

Black Sabbath

 

Prog Related

4.23 | 768 ratings

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ProgMirage1974
4 stars REVIEW #10 - "Black Sabbath" by Black Sabbath (1970)

It is a fact that Black Sabbath is one of the most influential bands that shaped the genre of heavy metal. Considered by many to be the first ever "true" heavy metal album, their eponymous debut is a unique mix of blues and psychedelic rock with a never-before heard level of darkness, gloominess, and raw power. Whether it be the unique voice of vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, or the powerful guitar riffs by Tony Iommi, this album despite not being vehemently prog, still would go on to inspire many prog rock bands, and therefore deserves recognition as part of the genre.

Opening up the album is the added sounds of a thunderstorm, deep in bass and ominous in nature - a foreshadowing of what is to come in the opener track "Black Sabbath" (5/5). Suddenly the listener is hit hard by a loud, slow, heavy guitar opening. Utilizing a simple tritone riff inspired by Gustav Holst's "Mars: Bringer of War" movement (the same piece that inspired King Crimson's "The Devil's Triangle" on their second album released the same year), it sets the tone - dark and forbidding. A reprieve opens up to Osbourne's vocal strength - lyrics based upon a supernatural encounter by bassist Geezer Butler coupled with the vocal emotion makes the song even more haunting. The song goes from fast to slow before hitting a climax with an Iommi solo before abruptly ending. A simple song in scope, yet immensely influential. Next up is "The Wizard" (4/5), a Tolkien-inspired song utilizing harmonica and a faster paced tempo. With a good groove, this song is solid, and the harmonica is a great addition to make the song unique in comparison with the other material on the album. Then comes the heavier "Behind the Wall of Sleep" (4/5), a shorter piece which establishes the tone for the final song of the first side, the hefty "NIB" (5/5). Beginning with a bass guitar solo titled "Bassically" on American releases of the LP, this goes on for about a minute before ending and giving way to an infectious, powerful Iommi riff. With first-person lyrics from the point of view of the devil falling in love, the verses are followed by the same epic Iommi solo - elaborated upon in the song's final hoorah. A six- minute wall of metal, this is the highlight of the album, and one of the band's many classics.

Side two differs depending on the UK and US releases of the LP. In the band's native UK, the listener was given the band's first ever single, a cover of the band Crow's "Evil Woman (Don't Play Your Games with Me)" (2/5) which, despite being historically significant, falls extremely short to the other material on the album, due to its inherently commercial nature. Recommended to the band for being a radio-friendly song, the band was not very excited about recording a cover of the song, but went ahead with the wishes of their producer. On the American release however, the listener is given the far superior "Wicked World" (5/5) from the B-side of their first single. A song with cynical lyrics of the world (a sign of what would come on the band's second breakthrough album), the brutal riff coupled with the lyrics make this song a classic, although it is far less known in the Sabbath catalogue. The next track, "Sleeping Village" (5/5) offers a calm reprieve from the action on the album, with ominous lyrics that utilizes great imagery before opening up into a raw Iommi riff that segues into the closing track of the album "Warning" (4/5). An extended ten-minute cover of the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation song, this is the only real example of prog you will find on the album. A much heavier touch on the original, coupled with a very long improv showcase with wild drums and guitar riffs, it is not a great closer to the album, but certainly ambitious and raw.

Black Sabbath's debut introduced the world to what would eventually become the diverse genre of heavy metal. Panned by critics, it also drew criticism to the band for "Satanic imagery", stemming from the lyrical content of some of the songs, as well as the inverted cross featured in the LP's gatefold cover (a decision by the cover artist, not the band). Over the course of the band's history has this criticism existed, despite the fact that every member of the band is a Christian. As a huge Sabbath fan myself, I am very happy with the content on this album - except the Crow cover. Everything else on this album is gritty, rough, and ominously beautiful - from the opener to the closer. It may not necessarily be an example of prog rock, but there is no debate as to whether this album was monumental in giving rise to the modern prog bands we see today. Many rock bands cite Sabbath as their inspiration, as the band, along with other pioneers such as Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, brought rock and roll into a new era, one which is considered to be a golden age. Any rock fan should give this album a listen out of historical significance alone.

OVERALL: 4.42/5 (B+)

ProgMirage1974 | 4/5 |

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