If you were to ask metal fans which band invented heavy metal there’s a good chance they’ll say Black Sabbath. They’re a legendary band that has somehow managed to make great music to this day. So many artists have been influenced by them and they’re a band each generation discovers for themselves. And we have their debut album to thank for that.
The opening song “Black Sabbath” is the epitome of damnation. It starts things off on a Gothic note with the sound of rain, thunder, and tolling bells as if to say bad things are coming your way. Then the monstrous creepy guitar riff comes and slices through the noise to give you goosebumps. It’s a kick ass riff, but it still makes you a little uneasy. Things don’t get any better when Ozzy starts singing about something coming after him: “What is this that stands before me?/Figure in black which points at me/Turn around quick, and start to run/Find out I’m the chosen one.” He ends each verse with a cry of “Oh no” that makes your spine shiver. It’s the sound of hopelessness until the powerful riff speeds up at a galloping pace. Even then you can’t be sure if things will be okay because Ozzy lets out one last cry for help. It’s one of their darkest songs and still one of their best.
Since things started off on such a heavy note, you would think the rest of the album would follow suit. “The Wizard” shatters that expectation. Since it starts off with a jaunty harmonica, it actually has some blues influence you wouldn’t initially expect from them. But that gritty, dirty riff is what lets you know it’s a Sabbath song. What’s interesting about the track is it’s on the positive side. It’s about a wizard who keeps evil away and makes the people feel better. Only Black Sabbath could make a song about a happy wizard without it sounding cheesy. “Behind the Wall of Sleep” has more of a psychedelic tone with its swaying music and natural imagery described in the lyrics. It has another fierce riff from Tony Iommi that pulls you into the song.
“NIB” starts off with a sick bass solo that reminds you what talented players can do. It then makes way for the main rocking riff followed by Ozzy’s cries of “Oh yeah!” between the verses. This song has a bit of a twist to it. At first it seems like the band is addressing love especially with lyrics like “Some people say my love cannot be true/please believe me, my love, and I’ll show you.” Only later it is revealed they are referring to Lucifer. It’s a great song that manages to be catchy thanks to Ozzy’s singing. Another track that’s on the catchy side is their cover of “Evil Woman.” While they manage to keep things heavy here it’s still pretty upbeat and gives you something to move to. They somehow make the song their own, making you forget it’s originally by Crow.
One of the oddest, yet most intriguing songs on the album is “Sleeping Village.” The music is really strange as it’s somber and has a western vibe, especially with the very distinct twang in the background. It does a great job of creating this mood of isolation and loneliness just from the music. There’s only one verse; the rest of track is filled with impressive guitar solos and drum fills from the band. It’s something you’ll get lost in while listening to it. You may not even realize the song is still going, but once you do, you don’t mind one bit. The album closes on the ten minute “Warning.” It kicks off with slow that drags along until Ozzy starts singing about the bad weather, an omen he should’ve stayed away from this woman. Again, there’s a hint of the blues with Ozzy’s slow style of singing, almost like he’s drunk, and the intense music. The rest of the song is one long jam session, which is too lengthy at times.
Overall, the album gets 9/10. This has got to be one of the greatest debut albums in music history. It not only helped to give birth to the heavy metal genre, but it introduced Black Sabbath in the most epic manner. Every song is notable and shows that Sabbath loves their metal, but aren’t afraid to move into the blues and psychedelic realms. For a good while in their career, things were going up for the band and it’s thanks to this album and the immense talent of all the members. If you haven’t listened to it all the way through you are seriously missing out.