Today, I shall begin with the first installment of the review series on my Black Sabbath collection. These will be frank and more of a personal look into these albums from my own perspective. I may continue with other albums in my collection, but will depend on how interesting I find writing these up. I mean, I may get bored or I may decide to do something else!
"Black Sabbath" was the first album by a band called...Black Sabbath!!! It was formed by four Englishmen from one of the most boring places on earth...Birmingham! I apologise if I have offended anyone from Birmingham that is actually reading this, but if you are from Birmingham, I suggest that you GET OUTTA THERE IMEDIATELY!!
John Osbourne, Frank Iommi, Terrance Butler and William Ward comprised the group. Fans of metal will know them by different names of course. When you're a big-shot rock dude, you have to have a name cooler than John or Frank, and worst of all, Terrance! Just looked up the info to see if I got those names right and I did! Ten points to me!
My CD says that the album was released in 1970, but that might actually be wrong. I seem to remember this album being released in 1969, but hey! Who cares, right?
I could rip off the wonderful Hugh Gilmour, who has done many wonderful articles on the wonderful Black Sabbath about how they started out as Polka Tulk, then changed to Earth (at Ward’s suggestion), then moved into the name Black Sabbath (at Butler’s suggestion), but this is my review and it's more about my take on the music, not some waffling essay on the band’s origins. Plus, there are others who have done this better than I could ever hope to do, so I won’t.
The album has a horror/occult aspect to it that came from the bassist, Geezer Butler. Most notably in the songs, "Black Sabbath", "The Wizard" and "Evil Woman". From what I understand, religious groups got a little annoyed at a perceived ‘satanic’ glorified messages, but anyone who has actually listened to the album can tell you this simply isn’t true, although the song "Black Sabbath" talks more about the futility of resisting Satan and his power. All four members of the band get some good exposure in this record, with Ward’s drumming on "Behind the Wall of Sleep", Iommi’s lengthy solo on "Sleeping Village/The Warning", and Butler’s intro solo on "N.I.B."
The sound of the record is very raw and musty. Definitely very 1970’s I would say, but different to anything else that came before it or after it, by anyone else or Sabbath themselves. From the beginning, the bass, drums and guitars meld together to provide a great platform for Osbourne’s wonderfully dramatic and piercing voice. Few groups seem to get the elements right from the get go, but Sabbath seemed to have managed that.
This record is in a large way all about themes. The theme of the occult, the dark arts is the most recurring thread throughout. I can only guess that was something that people in 1970 responded to, or perhaps because this was the first group to try something of that dark intensity. Maybe people were sick of songs about the government, or about love. The closest this album gets to love is a song about some evil woman, and believe me, there’s nothing nice about it!
"N.I.B." is most definitely the best song on the album and probably the most commercial, I would say. It's very smooth and incredibly easy to listen to. Just sitting here thinking about it I can hear the rhythm for the song clearly in my head. The rolling bassline on "Evil Woman" is incredibly catchy and very Butler. "Sleeping Village/The Warning" is an ode almost to their jazz background, with plenty of 'jive sounds' and 'groovy beats' and as I mentioned before, Tony Iommi breaks into what is perhaps the longest studio solo attempted in "Black Sabbath". It is worth listening to as Iommi is one of the greatest improvisational guitar specialists in the industry, but that is my opinion and some of you will disagree.
One thing I would like to note, however that my CD has the last song as "Wicked World", but that is an extra that was put on the new releases. The vinyl and early CD releases don't have that song on them. The album 'officially' ends with "Sleeping Village/The Warning". "Wicked World" was an early Sabbath demo and I think that "Wicked World" was made when the group was still known as Earth, but don’t quote me on that.
Another little known fact, or maybe a well-known fact is that Ozzy Osbourne plays the harmonica on the song "The Wizard", and I might add that he does it very well.
To sum up, this is a rather good start for a group that would go on to great things. This is probably the weakest of the first six albums that they produced, but that just goes to show how good the next five albums would be, because this isn't a bad record. There isn't one bad song on it in my humble opinion. But there also isn’t really any knock out blows. "N.I.B." would be the closest and "Black Sabbath" and "The Wizard" are good too, but not exceptional. I have always enjoyed this album and the ending of "Black Sabbath" has been an example of what moody metal can achieve, and the rhythm of the whole record is very good as I think I have already stated. I give this record 7/10.
Hope you have enjoyed my review of this metal record and I will see you next time, I hope!