During last year’s Shocktober I reviewed some of my favorite “Horror-Themed” rock albums but I left out one essential. The debut album from Black Sabbath is a creepy, bluesy, hard rock experience well suited for this terrifying time of year. Just look at that album cover. What is that? Is that some kind of witch? Is that Ozzy Osbourne from a distance? I’ve never been sure, but I suppose fear can best be described as what you don’t understand. Creepy witch cover aside this is the album that introduced the world to the lumbering dinosaur that is Heavy Metal.
The debut from Black Sabbath, this album was very much a reflection of the band’s live set at the time. As a matter of fact, it was exactly that. Based off of what I saw on an episode of Classic Albums the band just went in and recorded their nightly setlist. The difference being the small but crucial tweaks and overdubs that turned a solid rock album into a classic rock album. This can be noted in the band’s most defining track, appropriately titled “Black Sabbath”. Was there ever a riff more brooding and ominous than on that track? Add in the atmospheric touches of falling rain, thunder, church bells, and you have one helluva an opener.
Thematically, bassist/primary lyricist Geezer Butler was inspired by the occult. Songs speak of mysterious figures in black and even Lucifer himself. “Behind the Wall of Sleep” is a reference to H.P. Lovecraft’s story Beyond the Wall of Sleep while “The Wizard” was inspired by… Gandalf? If you say so Wikipedia. Though this album is more than just a high-five to Satan. The musicianship here is surprisingly tight considering the intense genre of music. This is the kind of band you could imagine jamming for hours without ever running out of compelling ideas. Sometimes it sounds like every member is just soloing, yet it all blends together like a bubbling broth in a big heavy metal cauldron.
Though Sabbath’s followup album Paranoid would be held as the band’s best, this one is damn close. Or should I say “damned close”? Sorry, all this Halloween Hoopla has gone to my head. Halloween may be coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean you should wait until next year to delve into Black Sabbath. Let Ozzy: The Prince of Darkness, guide you into the bowels of Black Sabbath. It’s an eerie ride but it will live forever in your nightmares.
Favorite Tracks: “Black Sabbath”, “N.I.B”, “The Wizard”