Δευτέρα, 19 Φεβρουαρίου 2018

BLACK SABBATH: Demonic riffing & birth of heaviness - What is this that stands before me?

From the ashes of the 60s bands of Mythology and Rare Breed, four blokes from Birmingham started in 1968 a journey that would change the face of music. After many gigs in United Kingdom, Germany and Denmark, the audience was shocked by the heavy music of those guys. In 1969, Ozzy heard the Led Zeppelin debut album and he was surprised. He couldn't believe that this was a new band. He said to Tony Iommi 'did you hear how heavy this Led Zeppelin album sounded?'. Without missing a beat, Tony replied, 'we'll be heavier'. And so they did. In 1969, Earth became Black Sabbath and in February the 13th of 1970, the world of music changed with the first Black Sabbath same-titled album that introduced to the world the songs that were performed only live for the past two years but already had caused an impact to the underground music scene of the late 60s.
 
 Black Sabbath, 1969

The opening title-track of "Black Sabbath" album was a shock for the world back then. While most of the heavy bands of that era were inspired from blues, Tony Iommi also adds inspiration from Gustav Holst's classic piece "Mars, The Bringer Of War" in the title track, and there was an undentified sinister aura dominating the album.

Heavy Metal's roots came from bands like Cream, Iron Butterfly, Jimi Hendrix, Blue Cheer and Led Zeppelin, but Black Sabbath introduced to the world a complete offering of outcast heavy music with dark lyrics, imaginery, and riffs everywhere. Heavy metal riffs and not just guitar distortion. If we need to set a zero moment for the birth of heavy metal with just one band, one album and one musician, it has to be: Black Sabbath, "Black Sabbath" and Tony Iommi. Heavy metal would exist without them for sure, but it would be different. So much different that might be something else... There was heavy music before and during Black Sabbath's existence, but the blokes from Birmingham led heavy music to a new level.

Those days, even without internet, the spread of the news was quick and a band that released an album in February, could influence another band that released an album just two months later. Music was changing daily and parthenogenesis in music was more present than ever. Things were very fast and recordings were finished in just few days. Just keep in mind that during 1970 - 1973 Black Sabbath recorded 5 albums!

"When the 'Paranoid' album came out, Rudolf Schenker and I saw Black Sabbath play at a club in Hannover and it was amazing. Those are the songs which helped to create the entire heavy metal style. Sabbath's music has become the soundtrack for everything we love about metal. What an incredible band. They mean everything to metal and hard rock." - Klaus Meine (Scorpions)


The theoretically artistic imperfection of the 1970 Sabbath albums ("Black Sabbath", "Paranoid") caused a phenomenon of a social impact with all the "wrong" mucical reasons. Listening to Black Sabbath back then looked like something forbidden. Sinister and anti-hippie lyrics, unorthodox drum parts, weird guitar tuning and lower frequencies that sounded evil and threatening to the listeners of that period, and the diminished fifth - the devil's interval. If you will add the desperate human and yet out-of-this-world voice of Ozzy, you have something completely out-of-the-box, scary and heavy. It was no secret that "Paranoid" track (a huge commercial success) was a song the band didn't really like back then because it didn't fit with the rest of the tunes and was added after the label's request.

"Black Sabbath... Very different in approach to us, but the way they've influenced music since is extraordinary." - Keith Emerson

Black Sabbath never stopped writing and recording music for the next years, and played countless shows all over the world. Critics and press didn't accept them in their early years and there was no marketing plan from any label or manager during 70s. How could there be since press didn't support them? There was just the audience that followed them anywhere and wanted to see this heavy band with the dark anti-hippie lyrics and the crazy frontman. They wanted to witness history in the making. There were of course few other bands with distorted guitars and few heavy songs back in late 60s and early 70s, but there wasn't any complete album so heavy like "Master Of Reality" until 1971. And that was already the third album of Black Sabbath in 2 years. Tony Iommi downtuned his guitar and produced an even bigger, heavier sound. Geezer Butler also downtuned his bass to match Iommi and the result was the heavier album until 1971, and the foundations of more genres like doom, stoner and sludge. Nowadays (or even during the 80s) these songs might be described as "heavy" but not "metal", but during the 70s, that was Heavy Metal.


Black Sabbath were unstoppable and kept evolving. Everyone wanted to check those guys and the impact was huge back then and we cannot understand it clearly with today's standards. In the next three albums ("Vol.4", "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", "Sabotage") the progress and the evolution led them to worldwide critical success and they were regarded as one of the most important bands of the 70s.

"I always get the question in every interview I do, 'what are your top five metal albums?'. I make it easy for myself and always say the first five Sabbath albums." - Scott Ian (Anthrax)

Those years, countless future known musicians started playing music thanks to Black Sabbath or listening carefully how they composed those songs. Many of them played heavy metal during 80s, some of them crafted their heavy art few years later (even months) from the moment they were introduced in the Sabbath songs and there was also many artists that were influenced by Black Sabbath without even playing metal, and that makes Sabbath even more important. The impact was huge. Not just in terms of music, but aesthetics also, and direct or indirect influence. Even if you think that you "hear" no influence, it is still there.

"Without doubt, all the songs that Sabbath made were heard around the world and made singers, guitar players, bass players and drummers around the world sit up and think. In Priest we all checked out Sabbath by really listening closely. We learned a lot in the exciting ways that heavy music could be written, recorded and produced." - Rob Halford (Judas Priest)

"Anything I do, even if someone can't identify it, it has to do with Black Sabbath. It is in my blood. It's my favourite band." - Jim Matheos (Fates Warning)

"The true importance of any band can be justified by the influence their music has had on other musicians, and Sabbath have undoubtedly influenced tens of thousands. For me, they are the true godfathers of metal." - Rick Wakeman

"Tony Iommi. He is the master of the riff. He is a huge influence on me because I only play riffs, I don't play lead. To me, Sabbath is like the bible of metal." - Max Cavalera

"You can't calculate the influence that Black Sabbath and Ozzy have had on rock n'roll. It's huge." - Lemmy

"Tony Iommi is the true father of heavy metal, a continuously creative genius riff-meister. Black Sabbath developed an incredibly unique style. These men invented heavy metal. They have come up with more riffs than any other band in history. Sabbath have inspired so many young bands." - Brian May (Queen)

"Metal owns its beginnings to Black Sabbath. Without them, history would have been totally changed. You would not have any metal at all. At least not metal the way we all know it now. You can't say many other bands have had such a huge impact." - Phil Collen (Def Leppard)

"Every metal band owns a debt, musically, to Black Sabbath. They were the original." - Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse)

"The guitar heard around the world. Yes, indeed. The beloved Black Sabbath have inspired more new bands to start their own journey than perhaps any other band." - Gene Simmons (Kiss)

"Black Sabbath are what got me into playing. They were one of my favourite bands and without them I would probably not have become a drummer. I owe them a lot." - Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

"If there was no Black Sabbath, I could still possibly be a morning paper delivery guy." - Lars Ulrich (Metallica)

"Mr. Iommi, also known as The Riffmaster. It's all his fault I am where I am." - James Hetfield (Metallica)

"I love Black Sabbath, they were amazing, they were great, they were dark, and they made an amazing contribution to music today. They taught everyone that you could tune your guitars down to a D or C or A, and that's a big deal. Amost every band that made it big in 90s, including Soundgarden and Nirvana, owe a debt to them." - Dave Grohl

"Like so many of my generation, I grew up listening to Black Sabbath. They were one of the most important bands in my early life. Without them, I would't have become the musician I am." - Trent Reznor


"The godfathers of a genre. There's been no one who really touched on what Black Sabbath sounded like, with all the different nuances that they had as a group and encompassed across their catalogue. They really are the marquee heavy metal band of all time." - Slash

"Without Tony Iommi, heavy metal wouldn't exist. He is the creator of heavy. Tony is a legend. He took rock and roll and turned it into heavy metal." - Eddie Van Halen



Can you make a difference with a random heavy song in one album? Can you make a difference with just one album or a single performance or with just one cover or few dark lyrics? Probably it takes more than being the right time in the right place. Black Sabbath did in few years what others couldn't do in a lifetime and that was ground-breaking and changed everything. They set the biggest boulder and upon it the foundations of heavy metal were built. 

In 1980, once again, with a different line-up and approaching, Black Sabbath (and producer Martin Birch) defined-unlocked the "sound" with the album "Heaven And Hell". From that year and on , heavy metal already had the "SOUND" and the structure. It wasn't "hard-rock-ish", "rock-driven" or "proto-metal" (funny term of the last years, if you want my opinion), or whatever; it is pure Heavy Metal now, in all terms, and that is more than obvious in the 80s, despite that thunder during February the 13th of 1970. There was heavy metal in the 70s, but from 1980 there is a real explosion and once again, Black Sabbath were there, setting with few others the template for 80s heavy metal.

More albums followed during 80s with many line-up changes (someone might say that those incarnations were a different act) but even if the music was more straight-forward, albums like "Headless Cross" and "Tyr" still remain as few of the decade's finest.




Did Black Sabbath know that they defined a genre? Did they do it on purpose? For sure, they knew that there was something "different" happening but it is a fact that when you will try to change the world, most likely you will fail. "Something" drives you to this direction and you will understand what you did only when the impact will surpass your existence.


"Black Sabbath - they invented heavy metal. And we should all thank them for doing it. Tony Iommi is the master guitarist. What he has done is remarkable, and helped to put this band beyond everyone. They should be very proud of what they have achieved. In metal, it all began with them and no one has ever done it better." - Sir Christopher Lee



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