This, my friends, was the beginning of Heavy Metal.
This record, released in May 1970, was something the world just wasn't ready for. Coming at the end of the 60's "peace and love" era and the AM radio pop sound, this was a pop melody mass murderer. Much like seeing an adolescent Linda Blair driving a crucifix up into her bloody groin area shouting expletives was in '74, this record was the audio equivalent. This was pure evil.
The four members of the band were thought of as direct descendants of Satan, instead of four poor kids from working class Birmingham, England. Starting out on their hometown pub-and-club circuit as Earth, they played a blend of blues and rock that led to a devout following throughout the English Midlands. In 1968 they changed their name to Black Sabbath, and started writing songs to fit their new moniker. In 1969 they entered the studio to cut this, their self-titled debut record.
As soon as this record kicks off, the shivers are sent bolting down your spine. The self-titled "Black Sabbath" track, complete with the sound of thunder and pouring rain, is the perfect introduction to the menacing Metal that pulses through this entire record. Singer Ozzy Osbourne plants his deepest, spookiest voice on us, and belts out lyrics like "Big black shape with eyes of fire - Telling people their desire - Satan's sitting there, he's smiling - Watches those flames get higher and higher". And, of course, standing tall behind all of this gloom and doom, is the sledgehammer instrumentation of band members Iommi, Ward, and Butler. Butler's thumping, bottom heavy bass combined with Ward's simple, yet bombastic drum assault created one of the heaviest rhythm sections ever. On top of that you have the tremendous, stupendous, and truly amazing Tony Iommi playing guitar. It sounds so unfair to say that he's just "playing guitar". Tony Iommi does so much more than just play guitar. The seity of these songs is ultimately created within Iommi's strings. His playing was revolutionary here, and his Best Metal Guitarist throne began its construction immediately.
The second of only five album tracks is one that begins with Osbourne playing harmonica. "The Wizard" is hard rock classic driven by Ward's rumbling drum work, and Ozzy's rare work on the harmonica. As I listen to this record today, I tend to favor this song for that very reason - we never hear Ozzy play the harp anymore. I miss the sound and mood that it created here, and it's always refreshing to rekindle the fire behind that harp with this tune.
As the record moves into the four-part third track, "WASP, Behind The Wall Of Sleep, Bassically, N.I.B.", we may have the quintessential Sabbath track. At just over ten minutes, we get great instrumental pieces that feed into lyrics of mysticism which are sung with power and style. "Bassically" is basically a bass solo intro to "N.I.B.", and it cements "Geezer" Butler upon his Best Metal Bassist throne. One word,...........incredible. The lyrics from "N.I.B.", which is an acronym for Nativity In Black, carries on the "horror movie" lyrical theme with deadly precision. With lyrics like "Look into my eyes, you will see who I am, my name is Lucifer, please take my hand", the flower power people started wetting themselves - and that was the idea. Sabbath was one of the first to really take the risk of pushing the censorship envelope without using four letter word profanity. The powers that be started asking if they could ban music that mentioned Lucifer or Satan, or spoke of incantations and the like. This record truly got the censorship juices flowing.
With the straight forward rocker called "Wicked World", Sabbath moves to lyrics with political and social commentary. Osbourne questions the politicians and their priorities,
"A politician's job they say is very high
For he has to choose who's got to go and die
They can put a man on the moon quite easy
While people here on earth are dying of old diseases"
and then goes on, ironically, to question the morality of society,
"A woman goes to work every day after day
She just goes to work just to earn her pay
Child sitting crying by a life that's harder
He doesn't even know who is his father"
The album finishes up with what sounds like a leftover from the Blues inspired time when the band called themselves Earth. This three-part, fifth and final track, "A Bit Of Finger, Sleeping Village, Warning", is another extraordinary exhibition of talent. Clocking in at just over fourteen minutes, this is a Blues jam of epic proportions. Iommi, once again, exhibiting his sharp, maniacal style. Not much has been said of drummer Bill Ward up until this point, and that's just not right. All through this release you hear Ward's solid pounding of the skins. Every song on the record is testimony to his place of royalty in Heavy Metal history. And, of course, there is the King Of Kings.......the Godfather Of Metal.........the Wife Of Sharon - Ozzy Osbourne. This is a young and hungry Ozzy, with a deeper, more resonant vocal tone; an Ozzy you will never hear again. This disc is the place to get your fill. So, load this disc in your player and fill 'er up.