Black Sabbath is a band from Birmingham, England, who are considered to be the pioneers of Heavy Metal (sharing credit with Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Blue Cheer), formed by singer John "Ozzy" Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Terrence "Geezer" Butler, and drummer Bill Ward.They started out in 1968 as a blues band called "Earth" until changing their style to a darker tone. Apocryphally, this was the result of one of the band members seeing a queue for a horror film at a cinema and commenting how people pay to be scared. Their name did actually come from a 1963 horror movie named Black Sabbath, starring Boris Karloff.Their first two albums, Black Sabbath and Paranoid (both released in 1970) brought them great popularity with songs like "Black Sabbath", "War Pigs", "Paranoid" and "Iron Man". Due to their darker style, they initially received no radio play, and Vertigo Records had to bribe radio stations to play "Iron Man", which scraped the US charts. Their next albums Master of Reality and Volume 4 spawned a new batch of classics such as "Sweet Leaf", "Children of the Grave", "Into the Void", "Supernaut" and "Snowblind". It wasn't until their fifth album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath that they finally got positive reviews from the mainstream media (even if critics have reversed themselves and retroactively praised the other four albums).In 1979, Ozzy Osbourne was fired from the band as his increasingly erratic behavior rendered him generally unreliable. On the advice of the band's manager, Sharon Arden (who would later become Sharon Osbourne), the group recruited Ronnie James Dio, formerly of Heavy Mithril bands Elf and Rainbow, as their new lead singer. Dio's tenure lasted only three years, but he was generally regarded as a brilliant frontman in his own right, and his 1980 debut with the band Heaven and Hell is an all-time classic.From 1982-1984, former Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan joined the Black Sabbath for the Born Again album and a tour that most notably included the DP song Smoke On The Water as part of the encore, an unusual move for Black Sabbath.The band saw several line-up changes (including a reunion of the Dio-era lineup in 1991) until the original four reunited in 1997. As Ozzy again drifted away from the band in the mid-2000s to focus on his solo career and semi-retirement, the other members reunited with Dio and performed under the name Heaven and Hell, until Dio's death in 2010.In the state of limbo the band was after Dio's death, the original lineup had confirmed its reunion, with a new album and a tour on the way, but Iommi's early stages of lymphoma had to halt all their summer tour dates as Black Sabbath except for Download Festival, with "Ozzy and Friends" performing most of the dates due to Iommi's condition.In May of 2012 drummer Bill Ward broke from the band, citing contractual differences, leaving the band to perform its first show in Birmingham with Ozzy's current drummer Tommy Clufetos. The latest studio album was recorded with Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk (who coincidentally shares the same initials as Ward, and whose name would be an anagram of Ward's if not for one letter).Their sound has naturally changed over the decades. Their two most celebrated eras, the "classic" years of 1969-1974, and the early Dio years of 1980-1982, are marked by massive changes to the sound. For their classic era, they dabble extensively within Blues Rock, Jazz Rock, Psychedelic Rock, early Doom Metal, and, of course, Heavy Metal. For the Dio era, they take up a more Power Metal and traditional metal stance with some instances of Speed Metal and vestiges of blues metal.
1995 - Forbidden: "Can't Get Close Enough", "Shaking Off the Chains", "Sick and Tired", "Kiss Of Death"
Black Sabbath provides examples of the following tropes:
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After the End: "Electric Funeral" tells the story of the remnants of humanity struggling to survive after a nuclear war.
Album Filler: "Paranoid" subverts this. Originally it was a quick filler Tony Iommi threw together for the album they wanted to call War Pigs. Then the company made them change the title. It ended as one of the band's (and, by extension, Heavy Metal's) anthems.
The Artifact: As mentioned in the Album Filler entry above, the title of Paranoid was supposed to be War Pigs, but got changed at the last minute due to the popularity of "Paranoid". The rest of the artwork remained unchanged, though, and the war pig on the cover makes very little sense.
Big "NO!": In "Black Sabbath", punctuating the verses. While it creates an atmospheric effect, it's absolutely frightening in the song's video.
Book Ends: The sound of rain, thunder, and church bells book ends the band's entire career. We first hear it at the start of their first album, Black Sabbath, and hear it last at the end of their final album 13.
Doom Metal: Often cited as the Ur Example, due to their slower, more brooding sound compared to other early metal bands.
Drugs Are Bad: "Hand of Doom", "Killing Yourself to Live", "Snowblind". It really depends what drug we're talking about. It's well-known that Ozzy was stoned out of his mind while making Sabotage.
Epic Rocking: Over the 8 minutes mark: "Warning", (10:32) "Wheels of Confusion", (8:00) "Megalomania", (9:40) and "The Writ", (8:10). Taken Up to Eleven on 13, with five of the eight tracks being over the seven minute mark.
Evil Laugh: On the opening of "Disturbing the Priest" and "Zeitgeist".
Fun with Acronyms: Subverted. "N.I.B." officially does not stand for anything, and was coined from Geezer Butler's assertion that Bill Ward's goatee looked like the nib of a fountain pen. It has since been declared by listeners to stand for "Nativity In Black". Comes in full circle, with the 1994 and 2000's Cover Albums being called "Nativity In Black, Vol. 1 and 2", along with a bonus track from 13 having the Pun-Based Title of "Naivete In Black".
God Is Dead? The song brings up the question from the point of view of a man who lost his faith in face of humanity's atrocities.
Heavy Metal - Among its founding fathers, with far-reaching influences - the vocal intro to "Iron Man" is often cited as the first death-growl, "Black Sabbath" and/or "Into the Void" is considered to be the first doom metal song, and "Symptom of the Universe" has been called the first thrash metal song. "Electric Funeral" is sometimes referred to as the first stoner metal song, while "Paranoid" is dubbed by most as the first true speed metal song.
In other words, Black Sabbath is responsible for so many 'firsts' in the metal world, it renders the argument that bands such as Blue Cheer or Led Zeppelin were metal first almost completely nonsensical.
I Thought That Was: "Iron Man" has nothing to do with the superhero. However, it's easily applied either way, right down to "Or if he moves will he fall?" This hasn't stopped the song from being used in played in the movie's trailers and credits. The novelization of the first film states that Tony Stark heard the song inside his helmet, and after the press names him Iron Man even mimics Ozzy's intro.
The song's name was originally going to be "Iron Bloke", because upon hearing the now-famous guitar distortion bit at the start, someone commented that it sounded like a big iron bloke walking down the street.
Non-Appearing Title: "Black Sabbath," "Behind the Wall of Sleep," "N.I.B.," "Paranoid," "Planet Caravan," "Hand of Doom," "After Forever," "Solitude," "Into the Void," "Supernaut," etc.
Not Christian Rock: "After Forever", according to the band, was actually a song addressed to people who didn't 'get' the fact that their occult content was just a marketing ploy, rather than a stealth parody of Christian music.
"Sweet Leaf" is a pro-marijuana song, and opens with a loop of Tony Iommi coughing immediately after taking a hit. The band were on pretty much every drug throughout the early and mid-'70s; Iommi later stated he had once taken LSD every day for two and a half years straight during that time.
"Snowblind" is about cocaine. Originally the plan was for Ozzy to scream "COCAINE!" between the verses to make it obvious, but Executive Meddling nixed that idea. It is still audibly whispered at about 0:41 into the song (right after the line "icicles within my brain..."), and he continued to scream it when performed live. For what it's worth the band used quite a copious quantity of cocaine at this point in their career, the band thank "the great COKE-Cola Company" in the lyrics, and Geezer Butler had a sticker on his bass designed to resemble a Coca Cola ad but with the text changed to "Enjoy CoCaine" around that time.
The band members have disagreed on whether "War Pigs" is a protest against the Vietnam War or not, especially since it was originally written as "Walpurgis" and had lyrics about a witches' sabbath. About the song, Ozzy stated "we knew nothing about Vietnam, it's just an anti-war song", but Geezer claimed "it was totally against the Vietnam War, about how these rich politicians and rich people start all the wars for their benefit and get all the poor people to die for them", and the record company made them change the name of the album for fear of being criticised by supporters of the Vietnam War.
Rhyming with Itself: The first verse of "War Pigs" (Needless to say, as it's Ozzy singing, they pull it off):
Generals gathered in their masses
Just like witches at black masses
Though this is due to the song being re-written from its original Walpurgis, where the opening line was "Witches gathered at black masses, bodies burning in red ashes"
Satan: The Devil is mentioned in several Black Sabbath songs. However, he is always portrayed as something to be feared and avoided (despite claims from some parental and religious groups that Black Sabbath's music promoted Satan worship).
Stable Time Loop: The song "Iron Man" is about a person who travels through time "for the future of mankind" only to find that the world is destroyed in an apocalyptic event. Deciding to return to his present to warn the people of the coming disaster, he gets "trapped in a magnetic field" which turns his skin into metal. Thus, when he warns the people of the present, they are frightened by his appearance and too afraid to listen to him. Then, out of frustration that no one heeds his warnings about the forthcoming apocalypse, he causes the apocalypse.
Surprisingly Gentle Song: Several, including (from the first five albums alone) "Changes", "Planet Caravan", "Orchid", "Solitude", "Laguna Sunrise", and "Fluff". "It's Alright" from Technical Ecstacy (with Bill Ward on vocals) is also very mellow.
Trans Atlantic Equivalent: The band's style, lyrical content and perceived preoccupations were equated to those of American heavy goth-rock pioneers the Blue Oyster Cult. Aware that musical critics were directly comparing both bands, their managements bundled them together on a joint tour, dubbed The Black And Blue Tour. It was never repeated.
Vocal Evolution: On Black Sabbath, Ozzy's voice is noticeably different; it's harsher and less melodic than later releases. Made particularly noticeable since he's sounded pretty much exactly the same from Paranoid to the present day(over forty years).
Butt Monkey: Bill was this in the original lineup. Tony, in his book, admits to setting Bill's beard on fire more than once. Usually it sputtered out on its own in a couple seconds and didn't bother him. But once, ah... it didn't. They still picked on the poor guy, but Tony never again set fire to him.
In his book, Tony states that Bill lit up like that because he used lighter fluid that time. He also said that he recently asked Bill if he still had the scars on his leg, and Bill pulled up his pantleg to confirm that he did.
Bill wasn't the only one. The producer for Heaven & Hell, Martin Birch, was known to be very superstitious, so Tony made a fake voodoo doll out of balsa wood to screw around with him, with Geezer and Ronnie getting in on it by acting really shady with each other (talking about fake occult meetings and the like). No one ever told Birch the truth.
Cluster F-Bomb: The Ozzy-era lineup's comeback live album Reunion (1998) was full of these.
Determinator: Tony Iommi. First he loses 2 fingertips on his fretting hand- no big deal, melt down soap bottles to make fake ones and downtune your guitar (and create music history in the process). Then some 50 years later he gets lymphoma. No big deal, go back to England to continue treatment, ship your bandmates out there with you so you can still work on the album, and still plan to tour that summer. Bad Ass incarnate right there.
Disability Superpower: Tony Iommi's signature low-tuned guitar style, which almost every subsequent heavy metal band emulates, evolved as a result of him losing two fingertips in an industrial accident and struggling to find a way to play that wasn't unbearably painful, ultimately stringing his guitar with banjo strings and making himself a pair of prosthetic fingertips from melted-down soap bottles. (He was largely inspired by Django Reinhardt, who similarly adapted to playing guitar after two of his fingers were paralyzed.)
Executive Meddling: A couple of the albums were released under the name of Black Sabbath only because the record label demanded so.
Fan Nickname: Tony Iommi has recently picked up the nickname "Iron Man," especially prominent after his cancer diagnosis.
Bill Ward suffered a perforated diverticulitis in September 2013 (causing him to lose a lot of weight and most of his muscle mass), but it hasn't stopped him from his various pursuits (ie his Rock 50 radio show, his art project "Absence Of Corners", and working on his third solo album).
Not so much with Bill and Ozzy anymore. In a recent interview, Bill reveals that he didn't take kindly at all to Ozzy's comments that Bill was out of shape and couldn't cut it anymore (in regards to why Bill was offered that "unsignable" contract). He does however still keep in touch with Tony and Geezer, albeit behind the scenes. He's also open to rejoining the band someday, provided the contractual dispute is resolved (and once he fully recovers from a perforated diverticulitis he suffered in September 2013).
Lead Bassist: Geezer Butler, chiefly from a combination of his loud Epic Riffs and being one of the band's primary songwriters.
Overly-Long Gag: With "Iron Man" on the Reunion tour album, Ozzy keeps trying to make the crowd chant louder. It's at 1:06 where he proclaims, "We are not going to continue until we hear the fucking roof rattle, come one!".
Even more so than that. The two consecutive albums with Ronnie James Dio did not have the same lineup. First, Ozzy left after Never Say Die. Then, Bill Ward left before the tour for Heaven and Hell. Then, after The Mob Rules, both Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice left to form the band Dio.
Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: The guys in Black Sabbath did a lot of drugs back in the 1970s. Ozzy even claims that during the peak of Black Sabbath's popularity he did acid every day for over two years.
Springtime for Hitler: The album cover of Born Again was designed by Steve Joule, who deliberately tried to make it as distasteful as possible. He wanted to be rejected from the design commission, as he was also retained on a lucrative contract by Ozzy Osbourne's organisation for his sleeve designs. To Joule's horror and surprise, Iommi and Butler approved the image for the album. Ian Gillan, who sang on the album but didn't see the artwork until it was in stores, had more of the desired reaction: "I looked at the cover and puked".
The Stoic: Tony Iommi. He spends most of his time focused purely on his instrument instead of showmanship. This is most obvious in some live videos with Ozzy, who would clap and cheer and jump around beside Tony, who simply stood there (occasionally adopting a power stance). His stage presence is much closer to that of a jazz player than a rock player, which fits given his roots. And all that while wearing a black leather trenchcoat under the hot lights. Must have Kool-Aid for blood.
He's only stoic most of the time. Every now and then, he makes what musicians call guitar faces and what normal people call jizz-in-my-pants faces.
Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The song 'Iron Man' tells a story of someone who travelled time to save mankind but, when he returned, he was turned to steel, leading to everyone ignoring him or rejecting him outright, which causes the titular character to become vengeful and kill the people he once saved.