Bill Ward, Black Sabbath, Geezer Butler, Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi

Bill Ward, Black Sabbath

On the Sinister Majesty of Black Sabbath

With a new box set collecting the original lineup’s first eight albums, we pay tribute to Black Sabbath

12.9.2019

With a new box set collecting the original lineup’s first eight albums, we pay tribute to Black Sabbath

With a new box set collecting the original lineup’s first eight albums, we pay tribute to the lords of this world

of the album Black Sabbath (which was incidentally released in the U.K. on a Friday the 13th) with the punchline that Sabbath were “just like Cream! But worse.” He eventually became a fan as the group became more nuanced, but he missed out on the directness that separated them from Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce. Where Cream had a song like “Sunshine of Your Love,” Sabbath used a similar riff for Black Sabbath’s “N.I.B.” and infused it with dark psychedelia and a thicker wallop. Their music was much more barebones and much more like a slap in the face; Cream were genteel London noblemen by comparison. Butler wrote lyrics about H.P. Lovecraft–inspired trippiness (“Behind the Wall of Sleep”), astral projection and love (“Planet Caravan”), war (“War Pigs,” “Hand of Doom,” “Children of the Grave”), and feeling like an outcast (“Paranoid”). He avowed the band’s love of Jesus Christ in the wake of a British sorcerer allegedly hexing them (“After Forever”) and his love of drugs (“Sweet Leaf”). “Into the Void,” one of the band’s heaviest early songs, was an elegy for a dying planet: “Back on earth the flame of life burns low/Everywhere is misery and woe/Pollution kills the air, the land, the sea/Man prepares to meet his destiny.” It was the opposite of megahits in 1971 like Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World” and the Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.” “Sabbath was everything the Sixties weren’t,” Metallica frontman James Hetfield once beamed. “Their music was so cool because it was completely anti-hippie.” In their defiance, Sabbath embraced nuance. Just look at the grooves of 1970’s Paranoid or 1971’s Master of Reality , and the folky ballads are immediately noticeable next to ragers like “Lord of This World,” as are effects like the gurgly voiced “I am Iron Man” that opens one of their most famous songs or the choking weed cough of “Sweet Leaf.” It’s a paradox of detail and dudeliness. A mono version of the Master track “Into the Void” on Monomania is even thicker and heavier than the one on the record, and you can feel the power they were starting to tap into with their music on the way the verse riff on “After Forever” returns with an extra dimension of bass-guitar smackdown. They were masters of their own reality. On 1972’s unimaginatively titled Vol. 4 , the group broke new ground and recorded some of their most creative sounds. It was the band’s proud cocaine moment (“We wish to thank the great COKE-Cola Company of Los Angeles,” read the liner notes) and they paid tribute to their powdery muse on “Snowblind.” But there was a new depth of sound on the weighty “Wheels of Confusion” and thumping “Supernaut.” The ballad “Changes” featured a piano and a mellotron with an orchestral string sound, and it was disarmingly fragile. The record closes with “Under the Sun,” a tune that grinds slower and slower and slower as it ends until you’re looking up from the dirt. “Life is one long overdose,” Osbourne sings. The group had leveled up, and its music would grow more and more complex on 1973’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and their last masterpiece, 1975’s Sabotage (which sports a deceptively corny album cover despite the impossibly hard-hitting riff on “The Thrill of It All”). Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’s “Killing Yourself to Live” is like a Black Sabbath glossary that finds Osbourne screeching, “I’m telling you, believe in me” — and you want to with all the blues riffs, Sgt. Pepper psychedelia and surprising a breakdown. In the middle of it he whispers “smoke it” in one speaker, and “get high” in the other, and you don’t know if it’s peer pressure or an admonition. That album’s “Who Are You?” is a buoyant synth track Osbourne dreamt up, complete with a proto-industrial rattle, and the record as a whole variously features Iommi playing synth, flute, organ, bagpipes, and piano, while Ward expanded his repertoire to bongos and timpani. And on Sabotage , they invert the folky, Latin jazz jam at the end of “Symptom of the Universe” by pairing one of their heaviest-ever songs, “Hole in the Sky,” with a quirky acoustic jam called “Don’t Start Too Late.” And once again, you can see in the grooves how complicated a song like the gloomy “Megalomania” on Sabotage is by the way the rungs contort. “Symptom,” too, contains some of Butler’s trippiest lyrics, in which he asks you to “take [him] through the centuries to supersonic years” and “swim the magic ocean I’ve been crying all these years,” making it one of the band’s biggest headfucks. The megagothic “Supertzar” is an instrumental piece Iommi dreamt up, complete with a 55-voice choir, and it was majestic enough for the band to use it to open their shows on the tours that followed. Drink, drugs, and too many years on the road got the better of them on their two final releases of their initial run, 1976’s Technical Ecstasy , and 1978’s ironically titled swan song for Osbourne, Never Say Die! , and the music is noticeably less inspired but still rocks as hard (if not a little harder) than Led Zeppelin’s two final albums. Oddly, the Never Say Die! single “A Hard Road,” with its slick swagger got them back on Top of the Pops , eight years after they played “Paranoid” on the U.K. music show, making them pop stars. But the intra-band bacchanalia proved too much for the group and they oustered Osbourne for his herculean drug use (even though they were all using), ultimately giving him the opportunity to defy all odds and become a bigger solo star than the band in the Eighties all while they started over with Ronnie James Dio and inspired a new wave of heavy metal fans with their Heaven and Hell album. At their peak — whether that’s their first trilogy of heavy-hitting albums or the technical ecstasy of their work in the mid-Seventies — Black Sabbath were the touchstone for everything that followed. Although the band members have each scoffed at the metal tag over the years, they’ve never denied their influence on the genre and the bands whom they have inspired. In the five decades since they formed, Black Sabbath’s music has been interpreted in many different ways. Metallica reveled in the complexity of their mid-Seventies recordings. Megadeth zeroed in on the hits (“Paranoid” and “Never Say Die”) and thrashed them up. Pantera surprisingly tackled the ballad “Planet Caravan.” Van Halen, who went out on their first big tour supporting Sabbath, once flirted with calling themselves Rat Salad after an instrumental on Paranoid . Cypress Hill, Ice-T and Busta Rhymes all sampled Sabbath. And the band Sleep is basically a Sabbath tribute band, formed at a time when the band was less fashionable. Moreover, Weezer, Green Day, Charles Bradley, Blondie, Foo Fighters, Replacements, the Roots, Beastie Boys and Courtney Love, among dozens of others, have covered their songs. Without these eight records, music would sound drastically different. Weirdly, some of the band members don’t fully appreciate the work they put into their records. “I was always disappointed with our albums because of the fact that we were a fucking great live band,” drummer Bill Ward said in the liner notes to the 1998 live album Reunion . “I felt we always lost something by trying to record what we did.” But long after the original lineup fell apart, it’s what they put on their LPs that cemented their legend. Since 1979, the original members of Black Sabbath have reunited and broken up and carried on with solo records. Everything finally came full circle in 2013, when they released 13 (sadly without Ward and not included in the box set) showing they still had it in them to conjure their dark spirits for tracks like “Damaged Soul” and “God Is Dead?” that could have come out anytime in the Seventies. The album was a worldwide smash, notching the Number One positions in the U.S. and U.K. The determination, and the willingness to work through their differences, harks back to a lyric on Vol. 4’s “Under the Sun,” and one that captures the spirit of the band: “Just believe in yourself you know you really shouldn’t have to pretend/ “Don’t let those empty people try to interfere with your mind/ Just live your life and leave them all behind” Long may this message echo through centuries into supersonic years. Hail Black Sabbath, Lords of This World! In This Article: Read more: Rolling Stone

jpgrady73 Did your magazine give Sabbath a bad review back in the day like it did ledzeppelin & kiss saying they would fail? Obviously music critics can be fools pollsack 🤘🏼🤘🏼🤘🏼 Essa banda do Belchior e Benito de Paula é muito boa Black Sabbath was the very first non-Motown album I bought with my own money. Vinyl. Back in the 1960s college daze.

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