Remembering Black Sabbath’s Debut Album
Forty-four years ago, a teenager had just returned from the record store. Out of a paper bag came an LP with what looked to be a haunted castle and an ominous figure staring as he opened the shrink wrap.
A few seconds after the needle hit the vinyl, he heard dark, cold falling rain and a bell of doom in the distance. A few moments later, he — like many, many others in the days, weeks and decade to come — were introduced to the mighty band that would become the architects of heavy metal music. The song, the album it was from, and the band who created it were all called Black Sabbath. The name was designed to inspire the same fear as the horror movies that fans eagerly queued up for – simply for the thrill of being scared.
This album featured riff master Tony Iommi playing drop tuned, heavily distorted guitar, creating sounds like no one had ever heard before. Terry “Geezer” Butler played bass guitar so frantically but still made every note count. Drummer Bill Ward listened closely to the bass and guitar and created an infusion of jazz, swing, and heavy footed caveman-like playing showcased in the mix, a drummer who would prove impossible to duplicate. Vocals were handled by John “Ozzy” Osbourne, a neighborhood street hoodlum who the band was reluctant to hire, but soon be grateful that they did. Not a conventional “singer” to be sure, but he would, of course, go on to become one of rock’s most iconic frontmen.
Songs like “Behind The Wall Of Sleep,” “Wicked World,” and “N.I.B,” were sort of heavy blues, and created the blueprint for metal music. A few years down the line, a band from Sabbath’s native Birmingham, England named Judas Priest would be influenced by Black Sabbath’s sound, and expanded it with a more conventional singer and by utilizing two guitar players.
Priest would go on to influence a group of bands in the late seventies who would be known as as “The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal”: Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, and Motorhead, among them.
In early 1981, it was The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal that motivated two young musicians from Los Angeles named Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield to start a band called Metallica that celebrated Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Judas Priest, but most importantly Black Sabbath.
Black Sabbath, of course, weren’t only about volume: they were about light and shade, and as such, they inspired loud bands to also write songs that included acoustic guitars, orchestral strings, piano, vocal choirs, and more.
The influence of Black Sabbath’s debut release can be heard in all kinds of modern music, including Queens Of The Stone Age, Avenged Sevenfold and Slipknot, among legions of other bands.
— Roberto Boschian – 104.3 WOMC Detroit