BLACK SABBATH — Paranoid (review)

BLACK SABBATH — Paranoid album cover Album · 1970 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
After dropping their sonic bomb on the world of free love and idealistic utopian visions with their self-titled debut at the very beginning 1970, creating a clear delineative line between two distinct decades in their wake, BLACK SABBATH wasted no time releasing their followup PARANOID just a mere seven months later, however while the debut was criticized as being too strange by the critics but yet still attracted a decent amount of public interest, it was PARANOID that set the world on fire as it shot up to the top of the British charts and sold mass quantities of albums. The critics still panned it (of course) as have many others who haven’t taken the initiative to dig deeper into the symbolic mordant lyrics of social critique and heavy apocalyptic doom inspiring song structures built upon the crushing down-tuned riffs of Tony Iommi, but the real underlying success of BLACK SABBATH with PARANOID is that it simply harnessed the sentiments of an ever skeptical public following one of the most tumultuous decades known as the 60s.

BLACK SABBATH clearly hit upon a new sound that has since been tagged HEAVY METAL and while the debut still had a murkiness that tied it to the bluesy psychedelic 60s despite the occult themes and imagery, PARANOID tweaked those elements and created one of the earliest blueprints of the dawning of an entire rock genre. The dark lyrics, doom laden tritone song structures, occult imagery and energetic power chords guaranteed an instant polarizing reaction for first time listeners but one they for sure could not simply ignore. Whereas a few other groups like Lucifer’s Friend, Sir Lord Baltimore and Deep Purple were heading in the same direction with harder driven rhythms and a brashness absent from 60s comparisons, BLACK SABBATH was the first to bring all the attributes together on PARANOID by finally jettisoning most of the heavy psych and blues and concocting a shocking and thought provoking album that dared to delve into the occult and scathing critique of the political subterfuge of the era.

The album title was originally supposed to be titled “War Pigs” but the record company wouldn’t allow it so they changed it to the more nebulous title PARANOID. The track “War Pigs” was originally supposed to titled “Walpurgis,” one of the major holidays in Satanism, but once again the Vertigo label saw SABBATH as a potential commercial behemoth and managed these possible controversies fairly well. Parental overrides by the record label aside, what we get here is a nice callathump of dark, doomy, energetic guitar riffing, groovy bass and drum interaction and of course, Ozzy Osbourne’s manic vocal style spewing out the best nihilistic antiestablishmentarianisms to be found in the musical universe. Whether you consider the mostly hard rockers such as “War Pigs,” “Iron Man,” “Fairies Wear Boots” or the title track, the depressive cosmic vibe of “Planet Caravan” or the semi-proggy jazz influenced “Electric Funeral” and “Rat Salad” tracks, it is evident that SABBATH were not only pioneering a totally new sound and ethos but were gifted at keeping a nice variety between the tracks as to keep the album entertaining.

Like much of early SABBATH and the other contemporary proto-metal albums of the early 70s, i used to think this sounded primitive and substandard to the vast wealth of music inspired by these early prototypes of the heavy metal genre, but let’s face it, the roots of a tree are never as pretty and splendiferous in their coloring as are the branches and leaves that grow from them. PARANOID is the perfect primeval example of this phenomenon we call evolution but as i listen to this almost 50 years after its release and do indeed hear an underdeveloped musical form, i have to say that i have come to love this album exactly for what it is. It is not about the stunning guitar virtuosity that Ritchie Blackmore would develop with Deep Purple, it’s not about the top notch production that could compete with anything released in the 21st century and it’s not even about an all encompassing theme or concept. It’s simply about a certain mood dynamic and atmosphere that is absent from a lot of music these days. For me the secret of PARANOID is an extremely well-balanced musical approach that perfectly contrasts slow and fasts tempos, loud and soft passages all tempered with a brash bravado that critiques the misuse of power. As with many albums before my time, this was a grower but as time has gone on has become only more and more brilliant. Yeah, Iommi’s leads are an acquired taste as well, but just like mayonnaise and garlic which at one time i didn’t care for, are ones that i now savor. True this album was a rushed affair with some tracks being created on the spot, but that only testifies to the creative genius of the band who could muster up this material instantaneously and still sounds relevant to this day despite perhaps sounding like a product of its time.

Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward created several classic masterpieces in the 70s but PARANOID was their first album that skyrocketed them onto the world’s stage and allowed them the success to create the scaffolding of the heavy metal universe that would build itself into the vast universe that it has become today. PARANOID was exemplary at capturing the mood of an era when clandestine wars, political scandals and assassinations, media manipulation (hmmm….. some things never change) and perhaps a healthy drug consumption conspired to make a skeptical and unwary public question virtually every aspect of reality. Of course, the more you tear down the previously constructed world views, the more you open yourself up to the vast universe of possibilities including some that aren’t so pleasant more likely than not making you PARANOID. This is simply one of the earliest soundtracks for this state of mind.
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more than 2 years ago
No dis. I had Black Adder in my head.
siLLy puPPy wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Voila, no -dis-. Antidisestablishmentarianism is the principle of opposing the Anglican church in 19th century England. Antiestablishmentarianism is the opposition to conventional, social, political, economic etc issues. So you still haven't seen that word in a review and i doubt given its meaning that you will!
more than 2 years ago
Congratulations on fitting antidisestablishmentarianism into a review. I've never seen that done before. I also like the line, "the roots of the tree are never as splendiferous in their coloring as are the branches and leaves that grow from them." You were really on the poetic high horse for this review.
siLLy puPPy wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Thanks :) I never considered them Satanic only because of the 90s! But the 60s started the whole Church Of Satan thing and all so... Sabbath latched onto something
Vim Fuego wrote:
more than 2 years ago
It's funny how it was deemed too Satanic for the time when you see what bands do now! Good review too.
Unitron wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Great review, I never knew that 'War Pigs' was originally going to be titled 'Walpurgis'. We've definitely been spoiled with modern production, but I really like raw and gritty productions.


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