The timeless, culture shocking self-titled record debut from Black Sabbath is an album that will forever live in infamy as its references to Satan, the overarching deathly sound that creeps behind it, and for spawning a wave of hell fire from everyone. It will also be laid in the history books as being one of the most influential metal/rock albums of not just the 1970’s, but of the incoming decades that would forever put Black Sabbath on a pedestal of power.
The Youthful group that took flight in the early 70’s would achieve superstardom before the decade was over and become a collective of multiple generations of striking music that would continue to inspire throughout the world. Starting small with a four-man line up that showed changes later in Black Sabbath’s career, but was widely renown for having John Michael, “Ozzy” Osbourne on the vocals and harmonica, Geezer Butler on the bass, Tony Iommi on the guitar, and Bill Ward on the percussion. In an impressive feat that is still not understood today is how the album was recorded. It was done as a “live” album where the band would be playing in different booths at the same time to maximize recording time and effort. The actual instrumentation and vocals were laid down in one single day, the remaining mastering and work was done over the following day where Tom Allom and Berry Sheffield handled the engineering of the album. It was almost an incomprehensible fathom as to how it could sound so incredibly clean with only twelve or so hours being allotted to the recording time, but through the immaculate work of Rodger Bain on production, and the two fantastic engineers, they were able to to make a diamond among rough reviewers and harsh critics.
Black Sabbath originally had the hammer brought down upon it from critics and reviews that criticized the obscure and obligatory lyrics that mentioned the afterlife, death, and spirituality in a much different fashion than that of which the 1960’s had prepared the audiences for. Black Sabbath would open up with their self-titled track, “Black Sabbath” which has since become an iconic styled track that features church bells and rainfall over a sudden, razor-edged guitar that cuts through the atmosphere like a bolt of lightning. It is instantly recognizable and truly begins to shine when the guitar fades back and has Ozzy wincing in the darkness behind cymbal crashes and writhing bass. The whole of the group manages to switch styles and adopt a technique that would become copied for years after the initial moments of Black Sabbath. The anguished cries of “Oh no, no, please god help me,” as the strings slither up the spine of the listener like a mighty deceiver is still something that can be reimagined near fifty years after the first moments of Black Sabbath’s Earth-shattering release.
Most of Black Sabbath is converged of long, stretched out tracks that form smaller sections inside each track. The album is only a mere five-tracks long, but reaches into the near forty-minute mark. It is an album that segues well within itself and shows a real natural progression that never feels as if any track is being played for too long, or is truly overstaying its own welcome. Most sections last only around three to four minutes and follow a loose pattern of transitioning, but transitioning in a satisfactory method that transcends into the official tracks as well. Even when the final track is being presented, “A Bit of Finger / Sleeping Village / Warning”, still takes on a method of showcasing multiple genres and play styles before falling into an eventually black silence.
The subtly of Black Sabbath is the band’s biggest benefit and is a rightful showcase of the raw emotion and talent that all four members had within themselves. To be accredited international merit for an album that was first displayed as a failure by most contemporary artists is a feat all in its own. Then to add a beautiful and iconic style of playing from Tony Iommi after being able to play with prosthetic finger tips after a machine shop accident, makes for a veil of intrigue being placed over just how he did it. Black Sabbath illustrates signs of magnificence even into the eventual bitter end of “A Bit of Finger / Sleeping Village / Warning” where Black Sabbath can demonstrate a heightened ability of play style that shifts from genre to genre with ease. The strings are synonymous together and Ward brings a complex arrangement of tom hits that coincide with the cymbals and makes for a system that dials back and then shifts forward with each transitioning track. With Ozzy on the vocals, Black Sabbath became a wrecking force that could also become a jam band with a sense of direction. As everything transports into sequence, as every instrument falls into place, with the vocals from Ozzy delivering a real sense of distress behind his voice as he exclaims, “I was born without you baby, but my feelings were a little bit too strong”, there is grace behind the band.
Black Sabbath became a barrier destroying band that changed generations forever. Their debut album simply entitled, Black Sabbath was an entity of power all on its own and displayed the sense of raw power and effective energy that could stem from an operational group of talented musicians. The group was propelled into the light with Black Sabbath, but the record would forever remain as a dark, and foreboding beginning to one of the biggest bands in the world.