Okay let me bold on this one, Black Sabbath is the best metal band of all time. No arguments accepted. After listening to a bit of Iron Maiden, Scorpions and a few other Rock/Metal bands, I started making my way chronologically backwards. During this journey I encountered the mighty Sab Four. And boy I was hooked.
Black Sabbath were formed in 1968, in Birmingham, England, and are considered the father of heavy metal. With Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward, they made eight albums across the 70s. After pioneering heavy metal on their first three albums ‘Black Sabbath’, ‘Paranoid’ and ‘Master Of Reality’, they started experimenting with their sounds on the next three albums, ‘Vol. 4’, ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’, and ‘Sabotage’. Here they started incorporating more instruments, experimental tracks, and alternate ways to develop Heavy Rock/Metal music. Then they had a slight slump with their next two albums ‘Technical Ecstasy’ and ‘Never Say Die’. Amidst drunkenness and drug addiction, they finally parted ways with Ozzy (fired sounds a bit too rude to use for such a legend), and replaced him with another great singer Ronnie James Dio, previously of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. After two albums ‘Heaven And Hell’ and ‘Mob Rules’, they replaced Ronnie with Ian Gillan previously of Deep Purple. This line up made only one album ‘Born Again’, after which Black Sabbath became a revolving door of members, with only Tony being the only permanent member. They occasionally reunited with Ronnie and Ozzy producing one-off albums and tours. Their latest one being ‘13’ released in 2013. But for me their best era was undoubtedly the 70s with the original line-up, and that is what I’m gonna talk about here.
How do they sound..? They sound HEAVY (caps intented). The first thing to notice are the mammoth riffs by Tony. There hadn’t been as heavy guitar riffs before he hit the tritone (a.k.a. devil’s note, diabolus in musica) on the very first song (titled Black Sabbath) on their first album (again titled Black Sabbath). His riffs across several songs pound on your ears and make you nod/bang your head everytime. They are slow, rocking, and engulf you, and occupy your whole conscience. (Even now I’m not being able to focus on writing this article, as I’m headbanging to Wicked World). Then comes Ozzy’s wails. His singing maybe out of pitch, and his voice may sound hoarse and weak, but it grips you by the neck. He is a vocalist who draws his singing style from straight from the hoarse psychedelic songs of the late 60s like Jack Bruce, John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, etc. Hence, yes he sounds super psychedelic. Then comes the extra bonus gifts to your ears. The super heavy, groovy, fat and low-pitched basslines from Geezer. His bass lines have a hypnotic effect, drawing on the super heavy bass lines of Jack Bruce, John Paul Jones, etc, but much more gripping. I could just listen to the bass and have a great time. No other metal bass player has been able to emulate his hypnotic bass lines. And then you add the secret ingredient- the jazz drumming of Bill Ward. Unlike most rock drummers of the day, Bill did not rely solely on the Rock ‘N Roll backbeat. His style could be traced to jazz drummers like Art Blakey and Elvin Jones. Of course, you always had the Ringo Starr-ian swinging back beat that makes you bob your head. It’s not over yet. The guitar solos by Tony may be emulating his blues-rock predecessors like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Ritchie Blackmore and Jimmy Page. But he one-upped them by a very simple process. How..? Simple maths – he played two solos. Listen carefully to Tony’s solos on headphones, and you can clearly hear there are two different solos on each side of the headphone. Yes, the technique that is famous today known as double tracking. Each side of your ear is taken on a separate journey by two Tony Iommi’s.
So, every component of the music is great and each member is a master of their respective art. The music is a flawless journey that does not forget to count in the listener as almost a part of the band. They don’t amuse you and leave you clueless. They take you along with the music. You think this much is enough to make them the best metal band of all time, right..? But there’s still more. Of course, how can a Black Sabbath discussion ever be complete without mentioning Geezer’s lyrics..? You might think that my next statement is a tad-bit too far-fetched, but, I think that the direct predecessor to Geezer’s lyrics is none other than Bob Dylan. If you don’t believe me listen to the lyrics of Bob’s Masters Of War, and Geezer’s War Pigs side by side. There are many analogies that can be drawn. They both talked about nuclear warfare, evil/corrupt governmental policies, brainwashing of the masses, personal depressions and addictions. Of course, I will say that Geezer is a much darker and bolder version of Bob. Whereas Bob spoke through references like Judas and alchohol, Geezer referenced Satan and harder drugs. Though I must say, as a fan of Sabbath lyrics, that there are a few bummers during their addiction years. (I can never take Sweet Leaf seriously because of the lyrics). But most of the time, Geezer’s songs always have a message to convey, sometimes personal, sometimes socio-political, but always great.
I don’t want to talk much about the Dio era, as Ronnie mostly took over the leadership (even the lyrics). I sure do love it. But it just is not the same psychedelia-infused heavy metal sound that the words Black Sabbath make me think of. It sounds much cleaner, well produced, and lyrically imaginative. But Sabbath lost the hypnotic quality that I loved about them. I love those two albums more as a Dio fan than as a Sabbath fan.
- Black Sabbath (1970)
- Paraonid (1970)
- 4 (1972)
- Heaven And Hell (1980)
(trying hard to limit myself to just a few)
- Black Sabbath, The Wizard, N.I.B., Sleeping Village (Black Sabbath- 1970, though the whole album is super-duper awesome)
- War Pigs, Planet Caravan, Hand Of Doom, Rat Salad, Fairies Wear Boots (Paranoid- 1970)
- Children Of The Grave (Master Of Reality- 1971)
- Wheels Of Confusion, Changes, FX, Snowblind, Laguna Sunrise (Vol. 4- 1972)
- Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Who Are You (Sabbath Bloody Sabbath- 1973)
- Megalomania, Am I Going Insane (Sabotage- 1975)
- Children Of The Sea, Heaven And Hell, Lonely Is The World (Heaven And Hell- 1980)
- End Of The Beginning, God Is Dead (13- 2013)
- Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath- 1970)
- War Pigs, Paranoid, Planet Caravan, Electric Funeral, Hand Of Doom, Fairies Wear Boots (Paranoid- 1970)
- Children Of The Grave (Master Of Reality- 1971)
- Changes, Snowblind (Vol. 4- 1972)
- Heaven And Hell (Heaven And Hell- 1980)
Other Bands/Artists To Check Out:
Bob Dylan, Cream, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Blue Cheer, Coven,
Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, King Crimson, Budgie, Pentagram,
Judas Priest, Rainbow, Dio, Ozzy Osbourne (solo),
Saint Vitus, Trouble, Candlemass
I do not own the copyrights to the image used. Got it straight from google. Since I am not commercializing this article (at least not yet), I’m guessing no one will want to sue me.