With the release of their self-titled debut album in 1970, Black Sabbath invented the first true heavy metal album. Hailing from Birmingham, England, Ozzy Osbourne (vocals), Tony Iommi (guitar), Geezer Butler (bass), and Bill Ward (drums) took this then-young genre of music to a whole new level. The original lineup released eight albums between 1970-1978, but the band sacked Ozzy after Never Say Die! came out in their final year together (1978). There were brief reunion shows/tours in the '80s, '90s, and 2000s, but the Ozz has finally returned to record a full album with the band. The reunion album is titled 13, and was produced by Rick Rubin. It is scheduled to be released in June, with a summer tour likely to follow.
So what makes Sabbath the original metal band? With all due respect to the likes of Led Zeppelin, Blue Cheer, and even Dave Davies’ guitar riff on The Kinks‘ “You Really Got Me,” the Black Sabbath album set the template. The cover alone scared the hell out of me, let alone the music. From the opening tritone sequence of Iommi’s guitar, to Ozzy’s frightening intonation of the words “What is this that stands before me,” and the pure doom that infused the whole of “Black Sabbath,” this song was unrelenting. And that was only the first track. Other standout cuts included “The Wizard,” “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” and the monstrous "Warning."
As if Black Sabbath were not enough, they managed to release a second long-player just seven months later. Paranoid was more than a worthy follow-up, and many fans (myself included) consider it to be their best. Besides the title tune, Paranoid also boasted “War Pigs,” “Iron Man,” and “Hand of Doom,” among other classics.
Sabbath were as far from the hippie delights of CSN and the gentle singer-songwriters of the period as could be imagined. Black Sabbath and Paranoid heralded a new era in music, and the critics were not happy. Even Lester Bangs missed the boat. His review of Black Sabbath in Rolling Stone described it as "discordant jams with bass and guitar reeling like velocitized speedfreaks all over each other's musical perimeters yet never quite finding synch...." In the 1979 Rolling Stone Record Guide, Ken Tucker summed up the Ozzy years with this pithy statement: “These would-be Kings of English Heavy Metal are eternally foiled by their own stupidity and intractability.”
1970 was the band’s watershed year, and they consolidated their early ‘70s supremacy with Master of Reality (1971), Volume 4 (1972), Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973), and Sabotage (1975). They were the English Kings of Heavy Metal, critics be damned. These albums contained a plethora of brilliant songs, including such essentials as “Sweet Leaf,” “Children of the Grave,” “Wheels of Confusion,” “Supernaut,” “Killing Yourself to Live,” “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,” “Hole in the Sky,” and “Symptom of the Universe.”