Black Sabbath are, it can be argued, one of the most influential bands of all time. Without 'The Sabs', it is doubtful we would have Heavy Metal, as it became known, at all. Some would argue this would be no bad thing, and we will leave them to their navel gazing, because the world would be a less fun place without the likes of Metallica, Iron Maiden and the whole Death Metal genre, which draws much influence from, not only the mighty riffs of 'The Sabs' but much of their imagery as well. For it was The Sabs who popularized the image of the inverted crucifix, the symbol of disaffected, and noisy, youth everywhere.
More than Twenty years later, you won't be surprised to learn Black Sabbath's self titled debut album still sounds good. The entire history of Heavy Metal could easily be contained in the first minute of Black Sabbath; the rain pours, thunder claps and a lone bell tolls, then that chord kicks in. Chuuuung - Chung - Chung. It was absolutely fantastic and still is. By the time Ozzy Osbourne chants "What is this that stands before me?” a million bands had been born.
It's easy to get wrapped up in the cult of Ozzy, media whore as he has become, and forget about the music behind the voice which, if we are being objective, is distinctive, but not melodic in the slightest. Black Sabbath, at their purest, was a ferocious engine of sludge like riffs, which have never, ever been beaten. The mud like production on here only adds to the atmosphere. It's easy to forget, as well, how experimental the band were. Later tracks, such as Symphony Of The Universe with it's blues/jazz outro have their seeds on here in songs like The Wizard which has the most distinctive, distorted guitar riff playing behind a harmonica and it works far better than it has a right to and is possibly one of their best songs. Sad to say, though, the lyrics don't quite live up to the promise; It's all wizards and casting magic, but there you go. It was 1970 after all.
Tomy Iommi hardly ever gets his due as being one of the most interesting and unique guitar players in music. We'll set that straight, then. If you play metal guitar, you cannot play metal guitar without copying some of the sounds he made first. It's just a fact. Listen to NIB (Nativity In Black) for proof and remember he kept this quality of riff up for many more albums. Lyrically, as well, NIB is a lot more sophisticated than most of the songs on here, beginning as a sort of love song, by the time it ends, it's clear it's much darker than that...
Not everything still stands up. Lyrically, as we have seen in The Wizard the band often fall down. Evil Woman as well, is possibly the only song on here that sounds dated and nothing like The Sabs, more the sort of thing a bad Deep Purple cover band would attempt. It's more than made up for, though, by the magnificent The Warning and Sleeping Village that close the album. Both of which again highlight the range of styles The Sabs were capable of. Twenty-three years later, then, and Black Sabbath still deserves a place in your record collection.