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
Oh no !
These dark, mysterious lyrics open up an album that would spawn an entire genre called “heavy metal.” These lyrics are from the first track on the self-titled album Black Sabbath released on Feb. 13 1970, the song encompasses the entire genre of what would become heavy metal. It features a chord progression known as “The Devils Third” which was actually illegal to play during the Medieval age because it was believed to conjure up evil demons. The heavy guitars on the album come as a result of an industrial accident which lead to guitarist Tony Lommi’s loss of two fingertips. Lommi’s loss of fingertips would require him to play slower and to slacken the strings by tuning his guitar down, creating Sabbath’s signature dark style. Adding to the heavy guitars are the dynamic duo of bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward, who provide ambient blues-rock lines that fully enrich and embellish their “satanic” lyrics. “Look into my eyes you’ll see who I am, my name is Lucifer please take my hand” from the song “N.I.B.” is a prime example of the content that caused mother’s to worry about their children. The combination of dark lyrics and the vocals sang in the dark menacing wails of a mad man, (Ozzy Osbourne) completes the sound of the band.
According to Allmusic‘s Steve Huey, the album “transcends its clear roots in blues-rock and psychedelia to become something more”.The songs on the album’s first half feature simple but dark blues licks and deal with themes that would become the main characteristic’s of heavy metal,evil, paganism, and the occult. The second half of the album transitions to Cream like blues-rock. In the September 17, 1970 issue of the Rolling Stone Lester Bangs wrote “The whole album is a shuck — despite the murky songtitles and some inane lyrics….They even have discordant jams with bass and guitar reeling like velocitized speedfreaks all over each others musical perimeters yet never quite finding synch — just like Cream! But worse.”
Despite the album not being critically acclaimed at the time of its release, Sabbath appealed to the underbelly of society, the misfits of the world that had felt disenfranchised. People wanted heavier music that was more representative of what their generation had seen growing up in a post WWII England filled with industrial factories and rubble of buildings that had been bombed during the war. Black Sabbath was dark and that is what they capitalized on, there was nothing like them, they made people think. The darkness and the occult that surrounded the band made them mysterious and it attracted a following. Black Sabbath pushed the boundaries of how dark a group could be, and Ozzy Osbourne would become the outline of the quintessential lead singer and go on to have a very successful solo career. Impressively, the band has been highly active throughout the years with various front-men such as Ronny James Dio. Even more impressive this band, who debuted some 44 years ago in 1970 is still alive and kicking, in fact just a few weeks ago their album “13” was nominated for the “Best Rock Album” Grammy. We’re willing to bet that the there were a few bands nominated that were influenced by Black Sabbath.