The world into which the Birmingham England band Black Sabbath quickly rose to popularity with their second album, Paranoid, in late 1970 felt increasingly like a dangerous place. It seemed that time was marked and policy formulated by a seemingly endless stream of violent acts including assassinations, bombings, race riots, the slaughter of college students on theKent State campus, and the decade-long Viet Nam war. And all of this violence was set against the pernicious incessant white noise of the nuclear arms race between the U.S. and Soviet Union in a thermonuclear game of “chicken”. Black Sabbath’s sound and subjects, which would be lampooned decades later as cartoonish, were forged as much by these deadly concerns as by Animal House debauchery.While music critics were not hesitant to slag off every Black Sabbath release, beginning with their debut in early 1970, it became the band’s first gold record in the U.S. Yet many detractors who had watched Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, and Lon Chaney in such classic scary movies as Dracula and Frankenstein, nevertheless felt that Black Sabbath’s fantasy deadpan doomsday warnings on Paranoid and Masters of Reality, in such songs as “Iron Man”,”War Pigs“,and “Children of the Grave” were somehow a Marshall amplifier too far.
Even my 17-year old ears could hear the dramatic strides that the “underground’ hardscrabble British band had made on their sophomore effort Paranoid only six months after their debut. Original Black Sabbath singer / lyricist Ozzy Osbourne has fond memories of those days when he and his mates from the working-class neighborhood Aston decided to ditch their trendy blues music, cut the band down from a 6-piece to four, and started doing what Ozzy characterizes in this classic rock interview as “spooky music”. Little did they know that, forty-five years later, we’d be marking the release of three albums that defined a whole new genre, heavy metal. -Redbeard