Heavy metal with machismo and mysticism

By Gus Bode

Despite its many incarnations, heavy metal has remained a rock genre seldom recognized by popular culture. But then again, that’s what makes it so enticing to its main audience.

Had it not been for the musical innovation of one group of four men from Birmingham, England, it may have taken years for heavy metal to become established. There’s even the possibility that heavy metal may never have even existed as we know it, had it not been for the often-deemed “godfathers of heavy metal,” Black Sabbath.

It all started with their debut album, “Black Sabbath,” on Warner Bros. Records in 1970. At that point, Black Sabbath’s musical style had obvious blues-oriented influences, and had yet to develop into its true heavy metal format.


Although the album lists five actual track numbers, it contains 10 distinct songs, some of which are interwoven to construct complex blues and jazz medleys.

The first track, also called “Black Sabbath,” starts off with an eerie rainstorm and a ringing church bell in the background. Guitarist Tony Iommi then launches into one of the band’s timeless opuses with vocalist Ozzy Osbourne telling the torrid tale of a horrific encounter with a demonic figure. Osbourne has since revealed that the song was intended to warn against satanic worship and practicing the occult. But the song, the album and the name soon after gave the public an impression of the exact opposite, and continue to plague the band to this very day.

“The Wizard” is the first and last song Osbourne plays the harmonica on, which gives the album its first real blues sound. “Behind The Wall of Sleep” introduces Iommi’s expertise on blues guitar. “N.I.B.” reveals the true power behind the album and the band – the bass guitar. Bassist Terry “Geezer” Butler begins the song with a brief bass intro, followed by the pulverizing drumbeats of Bill Ward.

Indeed, the album ranges at times from slow, melodic rhythms to insane guitar solos, all ending in a grandiose finale. This album captures a moment in history when America started rejecting flower power and embracing the clear-cut reality of heavy metal.

Reporter Jared Dubach can be reached at [email protected]