Black Sabbath – the best band ever to come from Birmingham, England – FACT.
My first exposure to Black Sabbath was as a 10 year old and a mate at school making me a Heavy Metal compilation tape. The cassette had no track listing – I was listening blind. I loved the Thin Lizzy stuff on it and “Iron Man ” which I assumed was by Iron Maiden. I was wrong.
Gigs throughout my life have usually been in Birmingham. Bands such as Mudhoney, Nirvana and Mogwai have paid respect to being in the city Black Sabbath are from. This is usually met with the audience (in Birmingham) looking around puzzled. It never puzzled me.
I have always said Black Sabbath have never made a stone cold classic album. You could argue their best LP is Greatest Hits (the single vinyl version LP with the skeletons on the cover) – but that would be just wrong.
If the track “Black Sabbath’ from the bands first album had been on Paranoid it would be one of the best albums ever made – but its not. Damn.
That said, Paranoid is the groups best studio album – by some distance.
I did not listen to Black Sabbath for getting on about a decade (this was about 10 years ago). A motorbike that was so big it should have been a car pulled up alongside me one suuny day blasting out War Pigs. The motorcyclist got off the bike, left it blasting the track and popped into an off-license. It sounded very cool. I checked out the band again.
War Pigs is possibly the bands best ever track. Slow. Heavy. War Sirens. Then THAT tapping sound and RIFF. Ozzy Osbourne’s unique vocal hollars with that empty but soulful sound. Loopily brilliant drums rolls. Then the gathering sound. The vocals up and sound more urgent and earnest. Solidfying the Metal Blues the first album offered this is the sound of Industrial Birmingham going aurally stir crazy. It builds, breaks, builds some more. Then we get that sound that I’ve always considered is almost Metal Funk. You can actually boogie as the riff climaxes at six minutes 10 seconds in. The swirl is ahead of Metal even back in 1970. An astonishingly powerful piece of music.
Paranoid was intended to be a filler track to pad out the album. Written in under half an hour from nothing – I do not need to point out that it’s one of the best Metal songs (and just songs) ever. Urgent and oh – so – catchy. Bleeding fuzzy guitar breaks to die for. Lyrics sung in a way that sketches a painting. Very heavy but totally accessible. A pure winner.
Black Sabbath step back from the urgency. Planet Caravan is evocative – mystic even. Toms and a spooky vocal. the band open up and showcase more strings to their mighty bow.
thud…thud…THUD…THUD… I am Iron Man. Iron Man hit the spot with me even as a 10 year old kid – it still does. Storytelling that books cannot convey. Dark. Powerful. A riff to top most riffs. The build leads to a final full-on minute of guitar wizardry from Iommi.
Electric Funeral cannot keep up the pace – but it’s still a great piece. Wah’s bleed now from the guitar. Beating rhythms build then the tracks practically pogos out of the speakers. It racks up and fazes out in jagged glory.
Hand Of Doom is longer. Soft intially Ozzy leads the track into a brewing swirl. The riff changes pace – totally. It’s practically two tracks in one. Black Sabbath jam it into a heavy place.
Rat Salad gets all Moby Dick on us. Drums solos lead the way.
Fairies Wear Boots is a Zeppelin challenger. It closes Paranoid with Blues and Metal. Iommi lets loose many guitar breaks. The bass sounds superb too.
If you could jiggle Paranoid to contain “Black Sabbath” the track, maybe at the expense of Rat Salad it would be a total classic. Then again, it’s pretty damn good as it is…pity they’re all Villa fans…