On Friday, February 13, 1970, the first Metal album in the history of music was released, the debut album of "Black Sabbath".
This is not just another debut album, but an album that is the mainstay of the Heavy Metal genre and the album that will lay the foundations for Doom Metal, with the theme song that even more than fifty years later continues to chill.
So true, there will be those who will say that the Metal elements were planted long before, on "Led Zeppelin's" debut album, in the sounds of Hendrix's guitar, in the heaviness of "Cream", in the roughness of "Grand Funk", in "Helter Skelter" of "The Beatles" or even in the nails nailed by Dave Davies from the "Kinks" in the membrane of his guitar amp speaker to create the fuzzy riff sound in the song "You Really Got Me". Everyone is right, the beauty in music is development. Every artist has been influenced by something so that we can always go back and point out his influential sources. But yet, no one can take the title from this album as being responsible for creating the Metal genre. The metallic sound, the heaviness, the general atmosphere that hovers over the entire album, leaves no room for doubt, this is the first metal album!
The sound so unique to this album is largely attributed to an accident guitarist Tony Iommi suffered at the age of 17. During his work in a metal factory, his middle fingers were cut off. So, to alleviate the pain while playing the guitar, he wrapped them in small plastic hats. In addition, Iommi loosened the guitar strings a bit to ease his fingers, which resulted in the metallic and heavy sound that is heard on the album. What completed the heavy sound was the bass work of Geezer Butler who was originally a guitarist and did not really know how to fit in with Iommi's playing. Butler found himself more than once following Iommi's playing and imitating it in a way that amplified the heaviness in the sound.
(Photo: Metal Hammer Magazine)
Another thing that influenced the sound has to do with Tony Iommi's accidental malfunction of the "Fender Stratocaster" guitar, which he used to play while making the recordings. This forced him to switch to "Gibson SG" guitar and anyone who knows both guitars will immediately understand the difference in sounds between the two guitars.
It is unbelievable that this album was recorded from beginning to end in less than 12 hours. All the songs here were recorded live on November 19, 1969. There were no overdubs, no effects, and no other external intervention. Except for the sounds of rain and the ringing bell at the beginning of the album and the guitar solos in the songs "N.I.B." And "Double Sleeping Village," everything sounded just like the band played in the studio.
The album opens up with the theme song "Black Sabbath", to the sounds of heavy rain and a bell piercing the silence. A gloomy opening perfectly timed with the band's name and the album's release date, which was by no means accidental. It was Friday, February 13, 1970. This song is a statement of intent of the band's musical direction, which was influenced by the horror film genre that swept Britain in those years and reached the homes of the working-class families of Birmingham. "Black Sabbath" was the name of one of the horror movies that Geezer Butler watched and it was he who suggested the name to the rest of the group members. Geezer Butler was then greatly influenced by mysticism and black magic, the walls of his apartment were painted black with embedded crosses and pictures of the devil hung on them.
The main riff in the song was created after Iommi heard Butler play an excerpt from Gustav Holst's suite "The Planets", which is called "Mars". Iommi went home and the next day came back with this creepy riff. What contributed to the heavy and dark sound, was guitarist Tony Iommi's use of a riff based on "tritone" - a three-tone sound interval that got the nickname "Devil's Riff". Iommi deviated a bit from the familiar bluesy-pentatonic scale to produce this immortal riff that formed the basis for most of the riffs throughout the genre.
The lyrics to the second track "The Wizard" were written by Butler, under the influence of the "Lord of the Rings" magician, Gandalf. The music was created by all four members. Another version tells that the song was influenced by a drunk man that Geezer and Ozzy met outside a pub that looked to them like an elf. The sweeping harmonica sound in this song is the fruit of Ozzy Osbourne's playing. The song is led by the harmonica sound played by Ozzy Osbourne and its combination with Iommi's sawing riffs is just awesome.
"Behind the Wall of Sleep" is based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft, of the same name. The intro to this track is called "Wasp" and immediately after it comes a break to a slower rhythm. It is interesting to note that the riff in the song "Cities On Flame With Rock and Roll" by the band "Blue Oyster Cult" is very reminiscent of the riff in this song. As is well known, "Blue Oyster Cult" was initially intended to be the American answer for "Black Sabbath". In the American version of the album the song connects with the next song - "N.I.B."
The fourth track on the album "N.I.B.", Is without a doubt one of the greatest's and most identified with the band. It opens with Geezer Butler's bass solo, leading us toward the iconic riff of the song, which comes in after 40 seconds. Much has been written about the meaning of the acronym "N.I.B.", including those who claimed that it was the phrase "Nativity In Black", that served as the basis for the band's masterful tribute album series. It is, however, a nickname given by Butler to drummer Bill Ward's beard that looks like the tip of the pen (NIB).
The album also includes two cover versions. The first is "Evil Woman" by an American band called "Crow". The song was recorded as a single even before the album was recorded and was released in January 1970. The song was not a success but its b-side is an interesting song that was not released on the original album, but only in the American version and is called "Wicked World".
"Sleeping Village" opens acoustically, darkly and mesmerizingly. Some say it was influenced by Salem's witch trials. This is one of the first songs the band played on John Peel's radio show in November 1969.
The second cover version is a little more interesting. It's the song "Warning" by the band "The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation", which was a blues-rock lineup of the English drummer Aynsley Dunbar.
The reviews did not praise the album when it was released, but the audience loved it, especially the youth who were drawn to the underground and dark sound and the devilish motifs. Needless to say, as one of the founding albums of the genre, this album is a part of every possible ranking list, both of Metal albums and in general.