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In Review: Black Sabbath

Discussion in 'Album Reviews' started by Z-Man, Jan 29, 2019.

  1. Z-Man

    Z-Man Junior Member

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    I'll be reviewing their albums up until Never Say Die!

    BLACK SABBATH

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    The album that opened the floodgates to heavy metal. Sure, there was heavy guitar-driven music before, albeit unseen hand in hand with malignant tuning, deathly tempos, and morbid themes. Their style was inimical enough to prompt virulent reviews from several rock critics at the time, some of whom described the music of the debut as a perversion of Cream, which holds water to some extent. Sabbath’s blues influence is manifest in their riffs, and their jamming goes nowhere, although these traits disappear from subsequent albums. The band was inchoate and hadn’t found their way yet. We even hear Ozzy’s voice in all its crudeness, whereas his pitch was modulated on later releases.

    The title track opens the horror show with a primeval, sinfully distorted note sequence built on the tritone, also known as the “devil’s interval” because it was tabooed in the Middle Ages for its dissonance. You can see why. It is on the plodding side, sorry to say. The group stick to typical blues-rock for “The Wizard”, though Iommi’s gruff timbre makes it so you can’t confuse them with any other band. Next up is perhaps my favorite cut, “Behind The Wall of Sleep”, a prototypical Sabbath number that foreshadowed the kind of material on Paranoid. “NIB” is somewhat of a disappointment. It’s centered on a pedestrian hard-rock riff that drags on for too long. What follows isn’t much better, a lackluster cover of Crow’s “Evil Woman” without the colorful nuances that made the original great. So maybe third time’s a charm? Wrong. “Sleeping Village” begins as a somber acoustic piece and devolves into a tasteless cluster of chords and aimless jamming. Now we’re at the final track, a prolonged jam reminiscent of live Cream. It takes several twists and turns, intermixing blues rock and heavy metal, some parts being less eventful than others. Altogether, a tiresome listen. Long improvisations just weren't their thing.

    After hearing this, your impression might be like that of the critics. Understandable, as it’s certainly not a spectacular debut, pioneering, but paling in comparison to their next release. Starting with Paranoid, the group left behind the blues-based Creamesque tendencies, honed their songwriting and sound, and took their reputation to new heights. I guess if you don't buy into the whole horror shtick, you won't like them no matter what. The lack of variation likely put off critics as well. Nonetheless, you still have to give Black Sabbath credit for fathering an entire subgenre. This is what got them noticed.

    Black Sabbath: A-
    The Wizard: B
    Behind the Wall of Sleep: B+
    NIB: B-
    Evil Woman: B-
    Sleeping Village: C
    Warning: B

    Overall grade: B
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2019
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  2. Lynch

    Lynch Rockin' Out

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    Cool

    This has been my opinion for years. I like the debut, but nowhere near as much as the few albums that came right after it, specifically Paranoid
     
  3. E-Z

    E-Z Senior Member

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    Personally speaking I actually like the first Black Sabbath album quite a lot for a small number of reasons apart from the songs that it actually contained. Firstly yes I do actually like all the songs on the album and I also like the vinyl albums gatefold sleeve depicting the woman in black standing alone in the woods (apparently beside the river Thames in Oxfordshire in England) I find that is a nice picture with it's colours to look at and I also like the inner gatefold sleeve depicting the 'inverted cross' with it's written text which was apparently thought up by the recorded company art department and not the band members according to Tony Iommi. Also it does kind of have a curiosity value being released on Friday 13th February 1970 as it was and taking heavy rock music at that time in a new direction and finally for a personal reason it was one of the earliest vinyl albums that I bought along with The Deep Purple As & Bs singles album on purple vinyl around 1978.

    Also the track Wicked World from the same sessions is a good song in it's own right.

    Several months ago I actually bought a vinyl copy of Black Sabbath for the above reasons so I could put it on a shelf where I live and look at it daily.

    E-Z
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2019
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  4. Sharp Dressed Man

    Sharp Dressed Man Down South Jukin' Staff Member

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    There's no denying the albums importance and the artwork is phenomenal, but I do think the title track (which I would rate A+) overshadows the rest of the album and probably makes us value the album higher than we would if we stripped that track away. I love the album, there's no bad tracks on it, but overall, it's fair to say it's not their best album.
     
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  5. Z-Man

    Z-Man Junior Member

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    The debut does have one of their best album covers, though the winner would have to go to Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, which has among the best album art of all time.
     
  6. Z-Man

    Z-Man Junior Member

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    I think they should have just nixed the album and released a single with "Black Sabbath" on the A-side and "Behind the Wall of Sleep" on the flip. Maybe then critics probably wouldn't have been so harsh.
     
  7. Z-Man

    Z-Man Junior Member

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    PARANOID
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    Having recovered from the critical scorn of their debut, Black Sabbath reemerged as a powerhouse to rock people’s socks off, and they scared critics again. They revamped their sound to exclude blues-rock platitudes and emphasize thrusting riffage. Paranoid was the pinnacle of their career, and a big leap forward in their compositional prowess. Those hostile to the diabolic imagery of the previous album may not find contentment here, although a few songs now reveal sardonic commentaries rather than amateurish horror tales. You have “War Pigs” roasting warmongers, originally titled “Walpurgis” before the record company declared it too satanic, and thus the renamed title actually works better. The title track relates to bassist (and principal songwriter) Geezer Butler’s paranoia and depression as a teenager. “Hand of Doom” deals with opium addiction albeit in a manner one might deem self-righteous/pontifical. On the other hand, tracks like "Iron Man" and "Electric Funeral" can't help but feel put-on.

    Lyrics aside, Sabbath broke out of their Creamesque cast and transformed into a full-fledged heavy metal outfit, riff-master Iommi discharging one electrifying guitar line after another. He gave up his turbid tones for something cleaner, yet still remaining beefy. Their top-20 Billboard hit “Paranoid”, while overplayed, is just as good as it gets. Energizing all the way. The classic “Iron Man” features a distinguishable riff that batters the listener. But alas, it has an essence of cheese. Probably because the riff is not only just simple, but almost manufactured to be that way, like it was contrived to teach power chords to beginner guitarists. There's other guitar parts to change it up though. “Electric Funeral”—has Iommi’s tone ever sounded so cool? “Hand of Doom” rests on a brooding bassline that catapults into confrontational refrains. “Rat Salad” is an everyday rock instrumental with a rudimentary drum solo. I can take it or leave it. The sneering “Fairies Wear Boots” was written about an altercation between the band and a gang of skinheads. It’s almost as long as “Hand of Doom”, and almost as vigorous, almost. There’s also the other side of the coin: the psychedelic. “Planet Caravan” conjures a free-floating atmosphere, like Pink Floyd. They didn’t do too many like this, so who knows how much psychedelia they were capable of.

    Paranoid makes the eponymous debut Black Sabbath look like the works of a neophyte, and indeed it was. Gone is the semblance to Cream. Gone is the monotony. Gone is the schlocky songwriting. Now they were an original force to be reckoned with. This album put them in the vanguard of heavy rock along with the likes of Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin.

    War Pigs: A
    Paranoid: A+
    Planet Caravan: A-
    Iron Man: A-
    Electric Funeral: B+/A-
    Hand of Doom: A
    Rat Salad: B
    Jack the Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots: B+

    Overall grade: A
     
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  8. Lynch

    Lynch Rockin' Out

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    Awesome album, easily their best from the Ozzy/classic lineup era. I've often referred to this album as the first coming of "The Heavy Metal Bible"

    :oy:
     
  9. E-Z

    E-Z Senior Member

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    With regards to the PARANOID album in particular the thing that I don't like about the album is the actual album cover artwork which I just don't like so from that fact it kind of puts me off a little bit in playing the record/cd which is a pity, I wish they had come up with a better album cover?. Anyway as for all the songs on the album I haven't got any complaints about any of them.

    The song Paranoid I remember it being played on the radio in England back in 1970 when I was a teenager around the same time as Deep Purple's Black Night was being played on the radio as well.

    E-Z
     
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  10. Lynch

    Lynch Rockin' Out

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    Other than the debut album and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, ALL of the Ozzy-era album covers have some mighty lame artwork.
     
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