Blast From The Past: Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (1970)

Black Sabbath‘s first album Black Sabbath, including the first song Black Sabbath. Innovative. It may not sound innovative but it was.

A lot has been written about Black Sabbath’s debut album, one of the first metal albums, but it hasn’t been given a lot of crap. That’s what we’re here for. Read on after the jump.

Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (1970)

Black Sabbath’s first album starts off with the song ‘Black Sabbath‘ and the lyrics “What is this that stands before me?”. That’s what I think each time I see Ozzy Osbourne nowadays but at the time of the release Ozzy was just 21 years old and could still walk upright so he didn’t exactly look like a freak back then. The song’s intro is just a recording of rain to remind you that Black Sabbath are from England. The song’s riff is something probably every metalhead all over the world recognizes. It’s slow, it’s moody, it’s evil. The lyrics, written by Ozzy about an incident involving Geezer Butler and a disappeared book (probably forgot to pay the library fee), are haunting and work nicely with the music. The riff that starts at around 4:34 is something probably millions of metal bands copied later on. It’s a great break that bridges the gap between the slow part and the faster part that leads into the solo, which is one of Iommi’s finest.

The first song, that clocks in at 6:16 minutes, stops abruptly which works nicely for the second song ‘The Wizard‘, that starts off with Ozzy playing the harmonica. Yeah. The harmonica. Evil. The whole song sounds a bit off at times but Ozzy’s vocals are way off most of the time and the imperfection of it all makes it sound likeable. The 4:24 minutes long song sounds way different than the first song, with some clever drumming and nice guitar playing. It may sound more bluesy than Black Sabbath (the song) but not too much to bore you. But we’re just getting started here.

The third song on the album, ‘Behind the Wall of Sleep‘, is a typical early Sabbath song. Very bluesy but it also shows Ozzy’s limits. His vocal melodies have never been inventive but on this song he just sounds lazy. He basically just sings between the guitar playing, instead of on top of it. The song ends with Bill Ward who forgot to stop playing his drums.

We’re already at the fourth song and almost halfway done. ‘N.I.B.‘ begins with a bass solo by Geezer Butler, titled ‘Bassically‘ on some releases. No one really knows what ‘N.I.B.’ stands for. Some claim it stands for ‘Nativity in Black’ which is also the name of a number of Black Sabbath tribute albums but Geezer Butler said it just stands for Bill Ward’s goatee at the time, which they called nibby. Eh, I prefer the first one. More has been written about the origin of its’ name but the song at hand is one of Black Sabbath’s finest works. Once again, especially Tony Iommi shines with his guitar playing with one of his greatest solos.

Song number five is a cover of the 1969 Crow blues rock song ‘Evil Woman’. Some, including me, may claim all women are evil so the song should be called ‘Evil Women’ but you can’t blame Sabbath. You can blame Crow though but no one really knows who they are so just listen to the damn song.

Song 6, ‘Sleeping Village’, once again a very bluesy song starts off with a haunting intro, then changes to a completely different sounding part and then, well, changes to a completely different sounding part once again which includes the solo of the song which is guitar wankery at its’ earliest and truest forms. The riffing after the solo deserves its’ own song, in my opinion but it’s done sooner than you may think.

The ending of ‘Sleeping Village’ then fades into the beginning of the last song of the album. A cover of an Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation song, called ‘Warning’. Wait, who? Exactly. Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation was a band that started in 1969 and disbanded in 1970 but released 4 albums in these 2 years. Aynsley Dunbar later played drums for Frank Zappa, David Bowie and the likes but enough about him. The song is probably the bluesiest of the bunch and clocks in at 10:32 minutes with a real guitar solo. Yes, a real solo. What’s that? It’s a guitar and nothing else playing. A solo, dummies. The whole song showcases Iommi’s exceptional talent. Thousands of guitar players who just started playing the instrument laid down the guitar for good after listening to this song.

All the innovation and legacy aside, ‘Black Sabbath’ is not just a prime example of early Heavy Metal but also Metal in general. Some may say Sabbath even topped their debut later on with ‘Paranoid’ or ‘Master of Reality’ but to me this album is the truest form of Black Sabbath and early Heavy Metal.


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