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Black Sabbath: The first chapter of heavy metal music

| Updated: February 14, 2022 13:04:21

Black Sabbath: The first chapter of heavy metal music

On this day 52 years ago, Black Sabbath released their eponymous debut album and shook the earth to its core, giving birth to the heavy metal genre in the process. 

Disregarding the hippy-centric peace and love that dominated the music industry throughout the 1960s, Black Sabbath delved into the kind of subject matters others simply wouldn’t dare – occult and fantasy, taking ideas from the contemporary horror movies and books. 

The Black Sabbath sound stood out from anything that was going around at that time and it is still as powerful and raw today as it was 52 years ago. 

Opening with the sound of the rain, wind and bell, and then that monstrous Iommi riff, complemented by Geezer Butler’s bass, the album was scary but mind-blowingly amazing at the same time, unlike anything ever heard before. 

Even the story of how the band's music came together has a legendary feel to it. 

The band was formed by four young musicians from the dead-end industrial district of Birmingham, England. 

Tony Iommi, the guitarist, had chopped off the tips of two of his fingers in a workplace accident and had to retrain to play the guitar on light-gauge banjo strings. And he did so by making a set of prosthetic fingertips out of a melted-down plastic detergent bottle.

Bassist Geezer Butler would double Iommi’s thundering riffs instead of playing the usual rhythmic or melodic runs, giving the band its heavy, earth-shattering sound. 

The terrifying lyrics, primarily written by Butler, were filled with conviction without catharsis, thanks to singer Ozzy Osbourne's banshee wails. The tales of doom and madness told by Sabbath provided little relief from the stress.

Ozzy Osbourne once said in an interview with the British daily The Guardian, “Looking back, it was meant to happen, I suppose. When I stop and think about it, we did our first album in 12 hours because we were playing the songs live on stage; so it was an easy album to make, really.” 

“Saying that we’d never made an album before, we just went in and played it. It was kind of like a live album with no audience. You think back to that time – it was all about love, peace and bullshit, you know? I was coming out with some demonic overtones, which was a new angle, I suppose.” 

He also added, “We used to rehearse across the road from a movie theatre, and Tony said one day, ‘Isn’t it weird how people pay money to get scared shitless in a movie theatre? Why don’t we start writing scary music?’ Our vibe kind of came from that, as I remember it.”

That’s how the idea of the album was formed and even though Black Sabbath released five of the most important and essential metal albums of all time over the next five years (Paranoid, Master of Reality, Vol. 4, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Sabotage), but Black Sabbath was really revolutionary – a structurally complete blueprint for doom. 

Even the cover image hinted at the uniqueness of the content; the unnerving sight of a plain-looking woman (possibly a witch?) standing in the woods in front of a farmhouse. 

38 minutes and 8 seconds long, the album was recorded on 16th October 1969 in a single day. The album starts with the title track, has 8 tracks on it, including the legendary ‘N.I.B.’

Make no mistake, the eponymous Black Sabbath debut album - a record of the dark alchemy Iommi, Osbourne, Butler, and Ward (the drummer) performed to forge something new, was the birth of metal. It was a snapshot of revolution. 

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