|Review: Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath|
Label: Warner Bros. Records
Year released: 1970
Review online: April 12, 2011
Reviewed by: MetalMike
OK, here goes; a review of one of the most iconic albums of all time and, perhaps, the first true Heavy Metal album ever. 1970's Black Sabbath by the band of the same name should be well known to every Heavy Metal fan and, indeed, most rock fans. The first album to combine, in one place, all the elements that would come to define Heavy Metal, namely heavily distorted guitars, the bass as more than a simple rhythm instrument, arrangements in depressive, minor keys and dark lyrical imagery. All those things existed before Black Sabbath as indeed they could be heard in places as disparate as Blue Cheer's "Summertime Blues," The Who's Live at Leeds and even The Beatles "Helter Skelter," but it took Butler, Iommi, Osbourne and Ward to bring it all together.
Black Sabbath starts with the first, and, arguably, the best Doom Metal song, "Black Sabbath." The opening sound effects of rain and church bells are templates for creating an atmosphere of fear, copied countless times, and Ozzy's tortured wails, in the face of evil incarnate, have inspired innumerable singers in the 40+ years since the album was released. Tony Iommi's massive riffs, Geezer Butler's thundering bass and Bill Ward's frenetic drums on classics like "The Wizard" and "N.I.B." sound just as amazing and inventive today as they did in 1970. Lesser known cuts like "Behind the Wall of Sleep" and "Warning," while not on the same level as the better known tracks follow the same pattern of crushing heaviness.
The album is not perfect. It is a product of the (very) early 70s and the influences of the 60s are still quite noticeable. "Wicked World" is a 14 minute jam that sounds like it could be on a Santana or Cream album, despite some incredible soloing from Tony Iommi. "The Wizard," while one of my favorite Black Sabbath songs, features some decidedly un-metal harmonica work by Ozzy. Back in 1970, these probably didn't seem out of place, but today sound somewhat dated.
What cannot be denied is the quality of the music and, more so, the impact that Black Sabbath has had on Heavy Metal. There will always be debate over the "first" Heavy Metal album but regardless of which side you happen to be on, Black Sabbath remains great Heavy/Doom Metal and belongs in your collection.
Note: This is a review of the original U.S. version, released in June 1970.
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