logotype

Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath

1970

For all intents and purposes, this is where heavy-metal as most people know it, was born.  Sure, Helter Skelter might have arguably been the first metal song, and Led Zeppelin had already put out a pair of ground-breaking albums by 1970, and Cream's version of stripped-down, hard-hitting blues certainly set the table, but it's Black Sabbath's debut album that best encapsulates what heavy-metal is all about.  There are a few reasons for this.  Primarily, Sabbath was definitely heavier than any of the aforementioned bands/songs, and they were also less dynamic and melodic.  Their style was bleak and abrasive by comparison, and when coupled with the dark and druggy atmosphere of the music, you have something that is entirely unto itself.  This was basically the blues stripped-down to it's most basic and raw components, slowed down and delivered with a pummeling riff-based groove courtesy of one of the most influential guitar players of all-time: Tony Iommi.  Aside from the classic title track, "The Wizard" and "N.I.B" best showcase this unique groove, which essentially laid the foundation for all of my favorite heavy bands to come over the next few decades.  Perhaps the most impressive jam on here is "Warning" which is so damn dark and bluesy it's downright disgustingly awesome.  Black Sabbath was arguably a better, more compelling evolution of the blues than Cream, albeit they were representing a darker vision.  Regardless, both were great bands for different reasons, but Black Sabbath took the basic sound of Cream to heavier/darker extremes, and the results were pretty damn infectious and riff-tastic.  So here it is, the birth of heavy-metal, in all its dark and dingy glory.  A hugely influential classic.

8.9

Paranoid

A blurred photograph of a man wearing a helmet and sash and brandishing a sword with the title of the album and artist written in the background

Black Sabbath

1970

A lot of people consider this to be Black Sabbath's finest hour, and it's pretty hard to argue with that.  It's not a drastic improvement from their debut, but it is overall slightly better, thanks largely to a stronger set of songs.  It's pretty hard to compete with an album that features "War Pigs", "Paranoid", "Iron Man", and "Faires Wear Boots".  "Hand of Doom" is certainly no slouch itself, and "Planet Caravan" found Sabbath expanding their sound into trippier, mellower territory.  So whereas their debut was a bit more moody and darker, Paranoid overall is a more engaging listen with arguably more highlights.  Another classic.

9.0

Masters of Reality

Black Sabbath

1971

Masters of Reality is a slight drop-off in quality when compared to Sabbath's debut and Paranoid.  The first half of the album is pretty rock solid, featuring classics like "Sweet Leaf", and the hard rocking "After Forever" and "Children of the Grave" (the latter of which might have been their heaviest song to date).  From there, things tend to get slightly underwhelming.  Even though "Lord of this World" and "Into the Void" are considered classic Sabbath songs in most people's book, they also kind of sound like a parody of the type of music that Frankenstein's monster would dance to.  They are slow and lumbering in nature, which is great when you're in a slow and lumbering state yourself (like if you indulge in the first track's glorification of a certain substance), but otherwise these tunes tend to both slow and weigh the album down.  Certainly some great riffs to be found here, but overall Masters of Reality sounds slightly underwhelming when compared to the two classics that preceded it.

8.5

Vol. 4

Black Sabbath

1972

Similar to Masters of Reality, Vol 4 is not quite in the same league as their classic debut and Paranoid, yet it does deliver plenty of tasty jams/riffs throughout.  Vol 4 also finds Black Sabbath expanding their sound somewhat, with the heartfelt and melancholly "Changes", which is one of my personal favorite songs from the band.  Additional highlights include "Supernaut" and "Snowblind", two classics in anybodys book.  While Vol 4 does sound a bit more dynamic than their prior material, it also kind of sputters out during the last few songs to close out the album.  Vol 4 is also a bit longer than their prior albums, and the fact that it ends on a somewhat underwhelming note makes that more noticable.  Overall, while Vol 4 was probably Sabbath's most dymanic album to date, ultimately it falls short of greatness in my book.  A solid Sabbath album nonetheless.

8.5

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

Black Sabbath

1973

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was the album that finally garnered the band critical acclaim, and perhaps not surprisingly, it's probably my least favorite of their classic albums.  The sound here is generally more dynamic and progressive sounding compared to their prior efforts, and while that is certainly admirable, I never really listened to Sabbath for the dynamics.  I listened to Sabbath for their bludgeoningly heavy and infectious stripped-down riffs, so the old-school vibe of their earlier albums is somewhat missed here.  That said, there are still plenty of tasty riffs to be found on this album, but what stands out more are Sabbath's use of synths, pianos, and occasional symphonic arrangements in their music.  So while Sabbath Bloody Sabbath certainly seem the band growing and continuing to expand their sound, ultimately it all adds up to a less satisfying listening experience for yours truly.

8.2

Sabotage

Black Sabbath

1975

Sabotoge proved to be the last good album the original Sabbath line-up had in them, ending a streak of impressive consistency for a band that was often considered too one-dimensional.  Sabotoge finds Sabbath somewhat getting back to basics and features a looser, jammier vibe compared to the somewhat technical Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.  I find Sabotoge to be more head-banging inducing compared to SBS, as these jams tend to have more emphasis on rhythm and riffs (hence getting back to basics).  There's also a somewhat campy vibe that permeates through a few tracks, which somewhat recalls the darker aspects of their classic debut.  Overall, while not quite in the same league as their classic albums, Sabatoge is more enjoyable (for me anyway) than SBS, and certainly head and shoulders above their final two albums to come with Ozzy in the following years.

8.3

© 2018 The Z-Spot. All Rights Reserved.