BLACK SABBATH — Paranoid (review)

BLACK SABBATH — Paranoid album cover Album · 1970 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Sean Trane
As their debut album scored immediately on both side of the Atlantic, the world was now warned about BS and there would be no surprise effect this time around. Or so they thought! The Birmingham quartet had more trick up their sleeves and pulled a lot of trump cards from their games to confirm with HM's most definitive album. As much as Warning had done the job on the debut album, there was little to prepare the listener for the sonic assaults of their opening track, the eternal anti-war tune War Pigs with its air-raid siren howling in the opening riffs. Originally intended as War Pigs, this album title was vetoed by their US label fearing too much controversy with the Vietnam crisis and its political inflammatory contents, even though Butler's lyrics for the track came from the group playing US military installation in Germany and their lengthy conversation with the soldiers.

With the famous Sci-Fi warrior (rather cheap and missed, imho) of the outside gatefold and the very-white photo-shoot of its innerfold, Paranoid might have even not seen its title track included at first. The group had recorded this album almost as quickly as their debut album (one session) and when the Vertigo label assembled it, they deemed it too short, they asked the group to add another track, so the amphetamine-fuelled Paranoid was recorded as an afterthought, not knowing it would become their biggest and sole #1 hit on both side of the Atlantic. Originally the song had been casted-off because the group thought it too close to Zep's Communication Breakdown on their debut album. In terms of influences, Paranoid's riff is definitely one of the most inspiring for generations of metal group along with Zeppelin's Immigrant Song and from Judas Priest to the 80's thrash and speed metal groups and 90's progmetal, everyone owes a huge debt to it.

Again the group had all their songs well rehearsed well ahead of time as they played many gigs, including some Hamburg nights where they played up to six sets of 45 minutes, with War Pigs often lasting a full 40 minutes and here reduced to an 8 minutes version (you can hear its aborted ending as a cut-off). Sounding quite different is the superbly atmospheric Planet Caravan (where they sound like a very spacey Ten Yearts After) hinting at Sleeping Village on the previous album, where Bill Ward's bongos and Butler's gentle bass are absolutely gorgeous, Iommi's jazzy guitar and Ozzy's muffled vocals provide a genuine piece of jazzy psychedelia. The opening side finishes on another Sabbath monument, the awesome Iron Man, with its huge crunching power chord and its laughable opening announcement, and later Iommi's spine-chilling solemn solo. Again Geezer Butler's thumping bass lines (inspired by Cream's Jack Bruce) and Bill Ward's jazzy drumming bring a breath of fresh air to the general heaviness.

The flipside opens on another small but often overlooked Sabbath gem, Electric Funeral starting a bit like the gloomy BS track of the debut, but the middle section develops much more muscles and energy. The longest track of the album, Hand Of Doom, starts out appropriately gloomily and picks up again with Ozzy's inspired vocals and Ward's driving rhythm and then menacingly slowing down again.

After the short instrumental rifferama of Rat Salad, comes probably the most stunning Sabbath track (certainly my fave), Fairies Wear Boots, an anti-Skinhead anthem, which is really an Osbourne theme, since he was one of them prior to playing music. A lengthy intro including Butler's booming bass, Ward's incessant drum rolls and Iommi's distant guitar (at first) tells you that you're fantasyland, and until Ozzy's spine-chilling vocals enters some 90 seconds into the track, this is pure bliss? But Ozzy's vocals are particularly inspired as well and once the verse gone; Iommi, Ward and Butler take us to unsuspected proglands and looping it to the intro again for a second run. Even some 35 years after discovering this album, I can't help replaying this track a second time just for kicks and thrills. What an awesome way to finish an album.

After such a review, I don't really think closing comments are really necessary, right
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