A rolling thunderstorm, bells ringing. Then, one of the most recognizable riffs in heavy music slams through the speakers.
“What is this that stands before me?” Ozzy Osbourne’s wailing lyrical questioning of what he just saw. The lyrics to the title track reflecting on an experience shared by bassist Terry “Geezer” Butler.
Black Sabbath’s first record marked a significant chapter in what we know as modern heavy metal. A blues-influenced record permeating in excellent musicianship. In addition to the title track, side one of the record continues with “The Wizard” in which heavy metal harmonica adds to the historical importance of the album. Later as the band’s sound became more defined as metal, it would be considered among the first metal songs to contain the mouth harp. “Behind The Wall of Sleep” moves Sabbath’s sounds farther into heavy territory. Powerful riffs with a thundering rolling drum line. The track fades out with strong drumming from Bill Ward and leads into one of metal’s most recognized bass solos “Bassically” features Geezer Butler and a wah-pedal pushing through a flurry of notes on his Fender bass which should be required learning for any young aspiring bassist. The close of the solo has Butler stomping on some edge to play the riff to “N.I.B.”
The second side of the record is pure magic to listen to all these years later after first hearing it in my teens. It’s more of a jam session mixed with blues and jazz elements. The musical workout of “Warning” is a cover of a composition by The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation, which was a band led by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer Aynsley Dunbar.
As strong as the first Black Sabbath record is, it was poured as a giant stepping stone of steel for what was just around the corner. The molten metal was already being formed for their massively influential follow-up. On September 18th, we will mark the 50th anniversary of Paranoid.