Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Black Sabbath - Paranoid

As it is almost Halloween, it is time for me to pull out my Black Sabbath albums again and again I am
surprised that I have not written about these records, as they were a huge part of my teenage years. Everyone was into Sabbath at the time - the ultra-heavy guitars and lyrics that mixed hippie sentiments with devil worship really set this apart from the singer/songwriter tunes that were popular at the time. This was the soundtrack for the freaks - long before heavy metal became mainstream.

Opening with "War Pigs" - originally the title track for the album, but the record company balked at the anti-war perspective - this was obviously a continuation of the sound they created on their debut record, with Tony Iommi's guitar extremely present and the rhythm section pounding their heavy sludge. The structure is actually fairly unusual, with long pauses in between the power chords, and at almost 8 minutes, slightly odd for an opening number. But, of course, it became a classic. The actual title track, though, will always be the band's most famous number, as it was their only hit and, as often happens, this was written in the studio because they needed an extra song and was practically a throw-away. Regardless, the iconic guitar riff and powerful backing - along with the somewhat obscure/paranoid lyrics - make this one of the hits of the genre.

Never afraid to also show their mellower/stoned-out side, "Planet Caravan" is a ballad, complete with bongos and echoing guitar lines and sounds almost like something that Traffic would do rather than this heavy metal behemoth. Then they return to form with another of their best known tunes, riffing on the term "heavy metal" and stealing the name of a comic book character (though the lyrics do not seem to have anything to do with Tony Stark), "Iron Man" opens with Iommi down-tuning his guitar and then blasting out one of his patented chord-licks. Lot of riffs and twists and turns, yet maintaining a cool rockin' groove. The dirge-y tempo re-appears in "Electric Funeral", with its cool wah-wah guitar, before Bill Ward propels them into a rave-up mid-section. In "Hand of Doom", the group creates an early take on the now-familiar quiet/loud song structure, showing off their use of dynamics and filling the song to bursting with riffs. "Rat Salad" is a short instrumental that leads into the not-very-politically-correct closer "Jack the Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots", with its bizarre lyrics and multiple time changes.

This is pretty much what you should think of when you think of original heavy metal music - a classic of the style!