As progenitors go, English quartet Black Sabbath is among the
most notable in the history of popular music. For their era,
Sabbath blazed a commercial trail into heavy music that
in hindsight is difficult to conceptualize. Sure, the Jimi Hendrixes
and Creams of the
world had raised eyebrows and sales figures banging out loud rock
and roll for a growing subset of hopped-up counterculture youth.
But garnishing loud rock and roll with a heaping helping of
nihilistic and occasionally demonic imagery was another proposition
Black Sabbath's once and current lineup came together in late
1968. Guitarist Tony Iommi and drummer Bill Ward had teamed up with
bassist Geezer Butler and vocalist Ozzy Osbourne by that point, and
soon chose as their musical direction a dark, gloomy aesthetic. The
band's self-titled debut effort was recorded via live takes over
two days on a miniscule budget, and made its appearance in early
1970. Opening with the title track, replete with cryptic references
to subjects like death and Satan, Black Sabbath
immediately set the tone for decades to come. Both "The Wizard" and
"N.I.B." -- with their indelible freight train guitar riff
progressions -- also became fan faves.
The band's sophomore LP, Paranoid, arrived
later in 1970. This slab was chock full of classics: the dynamic
Zep-like arrangement of "War Pigs" alternately creeped and exploded
out of listeners' speakers, "Iron Man" stomped along like a heavy
metal Goliath, "Fairies Wear Boots" gyrated on a figurative
stripper pole, and on "Paranoid" Ozzy had apparently dropped a
little too much acid for his own good. Many fans of the band
considered Paranoid the quartet's finest work.
Whether or not that was the case, Sabbath refused to let up,
issuing Master Of Reality in the summer of 1971.
Incredibly, the band's sound got even darker and heavier on this
record, with Butler's bass tracks glomming onto the finished tracks
like freshly-poured tar. "Sweet Leaf" and "Children Of The Grave",
ostensibly the up-tempo moments on the collection, were
overshadowed in scope by the droning "Lord Of This World" and the
massive space-travel epic "Into The Void."
In 1972, Black Sabbath remained fixated on ultra-heavy riff
ideas but ventured into the realm of exploring progressions on
minor keys on that year's Vol. 4. The haunting
pseudo-ballad "Changes" and delicate "Laguna Sunrise" each bore the
slightest hint of potential mainstream accesibility, but most of
the record was still well out of reach -- represented by the likes
of the drug-addled "Snowblind."
All four band members -- but especially Ozzy -- drifted further
into reckless substance abuse in 1973, and the group barely managed
to record LP number five, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,
before the end of that year. Its title cut closed with one of the
most powerful riffs in the history of rock; most of the rest of the
album, though, tinkered with elaborate elements like string
arrangements and synth technology. 1975's Sabotage
delved further into studio experimention, creating an almost
Twilight Zone-inspired atmosphere on tracks like
"The Writ" and "Megalomania." Sabotage's rawest
cut of old school meat was the mega-riff blasting off in "Symptom
Of The Universe."
Iommi elected to pursue his fixation with synthesizers to its
extreme on Sabbath's 1976 disc, Technical Ecstasy.
The rest of the band -- again, especially Ozzy -- was by that time
largely disillusioned with the band's direction. Ozzy left the band
briefly, but was back in the lineup for 1978's Never Say
Die, whose title track was a bright, punchy conclusion to
the group's first stint with the singer. Fed up with the band and
phoning in his obligations -- not to mention wasted most of the
time -- Ozzy was fired by Iommi in 1979 and replaced by New York
frontman Ronnie James Dio.
The insertion of the former vocalist for Ritchie Blackmore's
Rainbow rejuvenated Black Sabbath, who emerged in 1980 with
Heaven And Hell. Dio's other-worldly wail fit in
capably with Iommi's return to the more metallic resonance of the
axe tone. Both the ever-ready-to-pounce title track and the
operatic "Children Of The Sea" received heavy radio play. Ward
walked away from the band during the supporting world tour; Iommi
installed Vinny Appice in his place.
Dio stayed on for the ensuing year's Mob Rules.
A denser record than its immediate forbear, highlighted by "The Mob
Rules" (which filled a high-profile guest slot on the popular
animated movie Heavy Metal), Dio packed up his
rising popularity and split in 1982 to form his own band, and Black
Sabbath subsequently descended into the veritable revolving door of
players coming and going for the next fifteen years -- with Iommi
remaining the only constant in the group's roster. Between 1982 and
1997, notable stand-ins included drummers Bev Bevan (ELO), Eric
Singer (KISS) and Cozy Powell (Rainbow), bassist Neil Murray
(Whitesnake), and vocalists Ian Gillan and Glenn Hughes (Deep
Purple). Dio himself even returned in the early 1990s for a third
album with the group (1992's Dehumanizer). But
apart from that reunion, Iommi's baby was no longer a magnum force
in the heavy metal
genre: sales dwindled away with each successive record, and no
Sabbath material received airplay during this period of exile from
Meanwhile, as Iommi was slogging along in irrelevance, Ozzy had
risen from the depths of addiction and self-destructive behavior
and sculpted an impressive solo career. His well-publicized
resurgence were credited in large part to both his wife Sharon's
career management and his dynamic pairings with guitarists Randy
Rhoades and Zakk Wylde. In 1997, when the original quartet finally
reunited after eighteen years, Black Sabbath's latter-day success
derived primarily from Ozzy's involvement. 1998's live
Reunion set included popular studio track "Psycho
Man", which seemingly drew its inspiration in part from the
venerable "Iron Man.".
In the new millenium, Iommi worked regularly with both Dio
(under the moniker Heaven And Hell) and Ozzy. Black Sabbath
strengthened its legacy as the grand-daddy of all heavy metal music
on its well-received tours with both singers during the 2000s, and
was expected to release its first studio album in 24 years with
Ozzy at the mic in 2012.
most definitely one of the greatest all time bands...EVER!!!
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