Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunday Sabbath: "Black Sabbath," from Black Sabbath (1970)

Welcome to the start of a new series taking a track-by-track look at the masters of heavy metal, Black Sabbath.

It’s only fitting that the series start with the eponymous track off their eponymous debut album, which for me, is the genesis of the genre of music that I dearly love.

The sounds of rain and thunder, a bell tolling through them, and then those three huge notes ringing out across a bleak landscape to announce the arrival of something completely new. You can argue that heavy metal started with Zeppelin, Blue Cheer, Iron Butterfly, Steppenwolf or Hendrix, but you’re wrong. While all of those bands brought elements of the sound that would become metal, it wasn’t truly born until these three notes.

Sabbath brought together the elements that all of those bands had used and then put their own stamp on it. “Black Sabbath” is certainly one of the creepiest, spookiest song ever recorded, and I can only imagine what a kid in 1970 would have thought on hearing the bleak, but sinister and powerful sound for the first time.

After a few minutes of the dirge-like pace, the tempo increases to a gallop that ultimately leads to a crashing crescendo beneath Tony Iommi’s guitar solo, putting an exclamation point on the statement that a new breed has been born.

In the 46 years since “Black Sabbath” was first unleashed on the world, I don’t believe that there’s been a more perfect metal song recorded. It is, arguably, the alpha and omega of the genre.

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