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Music / Black Sabbath

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The classic line-up of Black Sabbath.
Clockwise from left: Geezer Butler, Bill Ward, Tony Iommi, and Ozzy Osbourne.
What is this that stands before me?
Figure in black, which points at me
Turn around quick and start to run
Find out I'm the chosen one
Oh, noooooo!
— "Black Sabbath"

Black Sabbath was a band from Birmingham, England who are widely considered to be the first Heavy Metal band (Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Cream and Blue Cheer are also cited, as is the short-lived combo Atomic Rooster, but Sabbath is the most common), formed by singer John "Ozzy" Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi (who briefly joined Jethro Tull in 1968), 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 on how people pay to be scared. Their name did actually come from a 1963 horror movie named Black Sabbath, starring Boris Karloff. Their sound has naturally changed over the decades, and their two most celebrated eras, the "classic" years (1969-1975) and their early years with Ronnie James Dio (1980-1982), are marked by massive changes to the sound. For the classic era, they dabbled extensively with Blues Rock, Jazz Rock, Psychedelic Rock, early Doom Metal, and, of course, Heavy Metal. For the Dio era, they took up a more Power Metal and traditional metal stance with some instances of Speed Metal and vestiges of blues metal.

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 (although critics have reversed themselves and retroactively praised the other four albums).

In 1979, Ozzy Osbourne was fired from the band as his increasingly erratic behaviour 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, freshly departed from Heavy Mithril juggernaut Rainbow, as their new lead singer. Dio's initial tenure lasted only three years, but he was generally regarded as a brilliant front-man 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 band for Born Again and a notoriously mismanaged tour that most infamously included a Stonehenge prop (for use when playing the namesake song from the album) that was made at three times the intended size as the builder thought the measurements on the plan were in meters, not feet, making it too large for the tour. (This is the origin of the miniature Stonehenge bit in This is Spın̈al Tap.) The tour also included playing the Deep Purple song "Smoke on the Water" as part of the encore, an unusual move for Black Sabbath.

After the tour the band essentially broke up, with Tony Iommi returning to the studio to record a solo album with the idea of each song being sung by a different singer, but because of Executive Meddling, he was forced to release Seventh Star under the Black Sabbath name (though "featuring Tony Iommi" does appear below that), and the only singer to appear was Glenn Hughes, another Deep Purple alum, but Hughes' jaw was broken in a fistfight with a roadie shortly into the subsequent tour, and a replacement was brought in. With none of the session musicians who played on the album playing on the tour, Sabbath really became "Tony Iommi and whoever", as Iommi became the only constant member (and undisputed boss) through its multiple line-up changes in ensuing years, with no two albums or tours featuring the exact same lineup. Subsequent albums featured Tony Martin on vocals, starting with The Eternal Idol, except for 1991's Dehumanizer which featured a short-lived reunion of the Dio-era line-up, until the original four reunited in 1997 after a number of grunge artists cited the band as a key influence. 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 recorded and performed under the name Heaven & Hell until Dio's death in 2010.

In the state of limbo the band was after Dio's death, the original line-up 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, 13 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.)

On 3 September 2015, it was announced that Black Sabbath would embark on their farewell tour, titled The End, from January 2016 to February 2017. Despite earlier reports that they would enter the studio before their farewell tour, Osbourne stated that there will not be another Black Sabbath studio album and that Black Sabbath is indeed over. However, an 8-track EP entitled The End was sold at dates on the tour. Along with some live recordings, the CD includes four unused tracks from the 13 sessions.

On February 4, 2017 the band played their final show ever at Genting Arena in Birmingham, U.K., though Ozzy and Tony reunited once more at the closing ceremony for the 2022 Commonwealth Games performing "Paranoid".

Principal Members (Founding members in bold:)

  • Vinny Appice — drums, percussion (1980-82, 1991-93, 1998, 2006-2010)
  • Bev Bevan — drums, percussion, cymbals (1983-84, 1987)
  • Mike Bordin — drums (1997)
  • Jo Burt - bass (1987)
  • Terrence "Geezer" Butler — bass, vocals, mellotron, synthesizer, nose flute (1968-85, 1990-94, 1997-2010, 2011-2017)
  • Terry Chimes — drums (1987)
  • Bob Daisley — bass (1986)
  • David Donato - lead vocals (1984-85)
  • Colin Flooks (Cozy Powell) — drums, percussion (1988-91, 1994-95, died 1998)
  • Ian Gillan — lead vocals (1982-84)
  • Ray Gillen — lead vocals (1986-87, died 1993)
  • Glenn Hughes — lead vocals (1985-86)
  • Tony Iommi — guitars, vocals, flute, synthesizer, piano, mellotron, harpsichord, organ, bagpipes, harp (1968-2017)
  • Tony Martin — lead vocals (1987-91, 1993-97)
  • Eric Singer — drums (1985-87)
  • Neil Murray — bass (1989-91, 1994-95)
  • Geoff Nicholls — keyboard, bass, guitar (1986-91, 1993-2004, died 2017)
  • John "Ozzy" Osbourne — lead vocals, harmonica, synthesizer (1968-77, 1978-79, 1997-2006, 2011-2017)
  • Ronnie James Dio — lead vocals (1979-82, 1991-92, 2006-2010, died 2010)
  • Bobby Rondinelli — drums (1993-94, 1995)
  • Dave Spitz — bass (1985-86, 1987)
  • Dave Walker — lead vocals (1977-78)
  • Bill Ward — drums, percussion, backing and lead vocals, congas, timpani, piano (1968-80, 1982-83, 1985, 1994, 1997-2006, 2011-12)

Studio Discography:

  • 1970 — Black Sabbath
  • 1970 — Paranoid
  • 1971 — Master of Reality
  • 1972 — Black Sabbath Vol. 4
  • 1973 — Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
  • 1975 — Sabotage
  • 1976 — Technical Ecstasy
  • 1978 — Never Say Die!
  • 1980 — Heaven and Hell
  • 1981 — Mob Rules
  • 1983 — Born Again
  • 1986 — Seventh Star
  • 1987 — The Eternal Idol
  • 1989 — Headless Cross
  • 1990 — Tyr
  • 1992 — Dehumanizer
  • 1994 — Cross Purposes
  • 1995 — Forbidden
  • 2009 — The Devil You Knownote 
  • 2013 — 13

Live Discography:

  • 1980 — Live at Last
  • 1982 — Live Evil
  • 1995 — Cross Purposes Live
  • 1998 — Reunion
  • 2002 — Past Lives
  • 2007 — Live at Hammersmith Odeon & Live from Radio City Music Hall
  • 2010 — Neon Knights: 30 Years of Heaven & Hell
  • 2013 — Live... Gathered in Their Masses
  • 2017 — The End

Sabbath Tropes Sabbath:

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    Music Tropes 
  • After the End: "Electric Funeral" tells the story of the remnants of humanity struggling to survive after a nuclear war.
  • Age of Titles: Used on the song "Age of Reason", from 13.
  • 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 record 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, leading to Creator Backlash. (The band had never liked the photo to begin with.)
  • Ascended Extra: "Paranoid". It progressed from a quick filler track to round out the album to a popular single to becoming the Title Track due to Executive Meddling (Paranoid was going to be called War Pigs until their record company, Vertigo, balked at possible backlash due to the then-ongoing Vietnam War).
  • Audience Participation Song: "Heaven and Hell" live performances with Dio would involve him leading the audience to singing "On and on and on!" with him during the slow mid portion of the song.
  • Big Good: The title character of "The Wizard" seems to be this, which makes sense since he's supposedly based on Gandalf.
  • Big "NO!": In "Black Sabbath," punctuating the verses.
  • 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.
  • "Bringer of War" Music: "War Pigs" begins with lead guitarist Tony Iommi and bass player Geezer Butler constructing riffs around the main theme of Holst's Mars - Bringer of War. Holst's theme is still in the final mix if you listen very closely.
  • Buried Alive: They have a song with the same title.
  • Call-Back:
    • 13 ends with sounds of thunder and church bells, just like their very first album Black Sabbath started over 40 years ago.
    • The Wayne's World version of "Time Machine" calls back to several songs from Ronnie Jame Dio's career, such as "Gates of Babylon," "The Mob Rules" and "Egypt (The Chains Are On)" (presumably as a challenge to the types of people who would buy such a soundtrack).
  • Chronological Album Title:
    • Played straight with Black Sabbath Vol. 4, their fourth album.
    • Subverted by 13 which is their 20th studio album.
  • Crapsack World: Their first two or three albums, mostly.
  • Darker and Edgier: The reason they received little radio play and were accused by Moral Guardians of being Satanists.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The subject of "Paranoid."
  • Doom Metal: Often cited as the Ur-Example, due to their slower, more brooding sound compared to other early metal bands, particularly on Vol. 4.
  • Downer Ending: More than one of their songs ends with Satan or another evil entity triumphant. Especially notable in "Black Sabbath," "Iron Man," and arguably "War Pigs" (since it ends with those who profited off of war getting punished). Sometimes overlaps with The Bad Guy Wins and Karmic Twist Ending.
  • Drugs Are Bad: "Hand of Doom" (which was inspired by returning soldiers from the Vietnam War self-medicating what we now call PTSD with heroin, with predictably disastrous results), "Killing Yourself to Live", "Snowblind" (although the latter of these could be interpreted either way; see Ode to Intoxication below), "Methademic". It really depends what drug we're talking about. It's well-known that Ozzy was stoned out of his mind while making Sabotage, and all the band members were addicts for most of the 1970s. Iommi once talked about the recording of Vol. 4 by saying "We'd lay around in the Jacuzzi all day, absolutely fucking smashed on coke, and every now and again we'd get up and do a song."
  • Epic Rocking: Over the 8 minutes mark: "Warning," (10:32) "Wheels of Confusion," (8:00) "Megalomania," (9:40) and "The Writ," (8:10). Taken further on 13, with five of the eight tracks being over the seven minute mark.
  • Evil Laugh: On the opening of "The Writ", "Disturbing the Priest" and "Zeitgeist."
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "FX" is a short piece with nothing but heavily effected guitar hits.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: On "Black Sabbath."
  • 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."
  • Future Self Reveal: "Iron Man" features a man who travels back in time to stop some iron monster from causing a calamity. When no one believes him and instead they distrust him due to his being made of iron after his time-traveling methods had unforeseen side-effects, it's revealed that he decided Then Let Me Be Evil and became the monster he was supposed to destroy.
  • 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, but ultimately concludes "I don't believe that God is dead".
  • The Grim Reaper:
    • Featured on the cover of Forbidden.
    • The cover of Dehumanizer has a robot grim reaper.
  • 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.
  • Heavy Mithril: "The Wizard" is the Trope Maker and "Children of the Sea" from Heaven and Hell is similarly classic. It was always an occasional theme (bolstered by Butler, as the primary lyricist, having a strong interest in the occult and folklore), but it really took over when Dio joined the band. Fans of Dio weren't surprised by this in the slightest. Also the Tony Martin era album Tyr has a trilogy of songs about the Norse Mythology.
  • "I Am" Song: "I." Also qualifies as a Badass Boast.
  • I Am the Band: Tony Iommi, who was the only member of every incarnation of the band.
  • Last Chorus Slow-Down: "Never Say Die."
  • Longest Song Goes Last:
    • Black Sabbath closes with "Warning" (10:32).
    • Master of Reality closes with "Into the Void" (6:13).
    • Technical Ecstasy closes with "Dirty Women" (7:15).
    • The Eternal Idol closes with "Eternal Idol" (6:35).
    • Forbidden closes with "Kiss of Death" (6:09).
  • Loudness War: 13. Given that it's a Rick Rubin production, this was pretty much inevitable.
  • Love Redeems: "N.I.B." is a song about Satan falling in love and turning away from his evil ways.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Symptom of the Universe" is the most aggressive song of the Ozzy-era and a prototype for thrash metal, but its lyrics wouldn't be out of place in a love ballad.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: Master of Reality, Black Sabbath Volume 4, and We Sold Our Soul for Rock 'n' Roll.
  • Mistaken for Insane: "Paranoid", the singer says that people think he's crazy because he's frowning all the time.
  • Mushroom Samba: "Fairies Wear Boots", maybe. The band has vacillated on its subject matter; Ozzy claims it was about a bad acid trip, while Butler claims that Ozzy wrote it about a group of skinheads who jumped him and called him homophobic slurs when he was walking home through a park one night.
  • Never Say "Die": It's the name of their eighth album and its Title Track.
  • New Sound Album: While most albums stay true to their heavy metal sound, some include different influences:
    • Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage contain Progressive Rock elements.
    • Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die! straddles the line between their usual heavy metal and straight-up Hard Rock, with even a little Jazz Rock thrown in for the latter.
    • Seventh Star was, for the most part, more hard rock than heavy metal.
    • The Eternal Idol and Headless Cross contains elements from Glam Metal.
    • Dehumanizer brings back the Doom Metal elements of their early albums, and is perhaps the most doom-y out of all of them.
  • Nightmare Sequence: "Nightmare."
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Black Sabbath," "N.I.B.," "Paranoid," "Planet Caravan," "Hand of Doom," "After Forever," "Solitude," "Into the Void," "Supernaut," etc.
  • Ode to Intoxication:
    • "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-1970s; Iommi later stated he had once taken LSD every day for two and a half years straight during that time. Ironically, the title came from a brand of cigarettes whose slogan was "The sweetest leaf there is".
    • "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 when performed live, Ozzy screams the offending word between the verses as was originally intended. (System of a Down's cover features Serj Tankian yelping "COCAINE!" at multiple points in the song.) For what it's worth the band used quite a copious quantity of cocaine at this point in their career (and according to Ozzy in his autobiography, apparently got very pure coke and pot from someone who was implied to have ties to the DEA,) the band thanked: "The great COKE-Cola Company" in the liner notes, 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.
    • "Trashed", inspired by an incident where Ian Gillan got drunk, mistakenly climbed into Bill Ward's car instead of his own, and decided to race the car around the recording studio grounds, upturning the vehicle and nearly landing in a swimming pool. Notably the bridge is a brief Ode to Sobriety moment ("Thank you Mr. Miracle / I won't get trashed again"), but then the final verse has him returning to the pub.
  • Ode to Sobriety: "Hand of Doom" (heroin) and "Methademic" (meth), as well as many of the examples in Drugs Are Bad.
  • One-Letter Title: "I" from Dehumanizer.
  • Pedophile Priest: The song "Dear Father" from 13 is about a man who was molested by a priest when he was a child. Now an adult, he kills the priest in retaliation.
  • Precision F-Strike: Featured on "Guilty as Hell."
  • Protest Song: Too many to list. Don't forget — late 1960s, early 1970s rock band. I wonder what else was going on 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 literal Black Sabbath. On one occasion, Ozzy stated that the band "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 criticized by supporters of the Vietnam War. (It is worth noting that Butler wrote most of the band's lyrics, including the ones for "War Pigs". The only song on Paranoid for which he didn't write lyrics was "Fairies Wear Boots"; Ozzy wrote those.)
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "I! AM! IRON MAN!"
  • 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."
      • "Trashed" does this near the end, although the effect is probably meant to be humorous (and very few things properly rhyme with "tequila"):
        So we went back to the bar and hit the bottle again
        But there was no tequila
        Then we started on the whiskey just to steady our brains
        'Cause there was no tequila
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Iron Man in the titular song is about to exact revenge on humanity.
  • Robot War: "Computer God" is about humanity becoming too reliant on technology and said technology eventually rising up and destroying it.
  • Satan: The Devil is mentioned in several Black Sabbath songs. However, he is either portrayed as something to be feared and avoided, like in "Black Sabbath" and "War Pigs", or in the case of "N.I.B.," as a figure who was redeemed from being an evil character through love.
    • Despite claims from some parental and religious groups that Black Sabbath's music promoted Satanism, some of their songs can be interpreted as pro-religious. No, really, read the lyrics to "Lord of This World" or "After Forever" sometime.
    • The Headless Cross album is so full of Satan references that Tony Iommi had to ask Tony Martin to scale it back a bit for the next album.
  • Self-Titled Album: The first album... Which included a self-titled song as the first track.
  • Sinister Swine: Invoked through their song "War Pigs", an anti-war song about the horrors of war and the destruction caused by man. In the song, pigs are a metaphor for people who send the young and poor to fight and die in the Vietnam War.
    "Day of judgement, God is calling
    On their knees, the war pigs crawling
    Begging mercy for their sins
    Satan laughing, spreads his wings"
  • 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.
  • Start of Darkness: What "Iron Man" turns out to be, showing the titular character's origin.
  • 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 Ecstasy (with Bill Ward on vocals) is also very mellow.
  • Take That!:
    • "Digital Bitch" from Born Again is thought to be about Sharon Osbourne.
    • The "demon baby" on the cover of the album was also nicknamed "Aimee" within the band, after Ozzy and Sharon's daughter who was born right around the time the album was released.
    • "The Writ" is a scathing attack towards the band's former management who stole most of the band's money (especially Patrick Meehan.) This is also where the album title Sabotage comes from.
    • According to Geezer Butler, Dear Father was an opportunity for the band to finally get back at the religious fundamentalists who had accused them of being Devil worshipers for decades.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: "Paranoid".
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: The band's style, lyrical content and perceived preoccupations were equated to those of American heavy goth-rock pioneers the Blue Öyster 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.
    • BÖC guitarist Eric Bloom has said the main guitar riff for live favourite song "Cities On Flame (With Rock and Roll)" is 100% lifted from a Black Sabbath track, "The Wizard".
  • Trope Codifier: For the entire Heavy Metal genre.
  • Unbuilt Trope: Since they played metal before it was a codified style, they display a lot of influences that are less commonly seen in later metal. Bill Ward's biggest early influences (Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, and Louie Bellson) were all jazz drummers, and while numerous later metal drummers have certainly drawn plenty of influence from jazz as well, Ward's playing has a sense of swing to it that may still feel rather startling. Their song structure is unusual enough that, if they hadn't kickstarted their own genre, they might well have been retroactively classified as Progressive Rock instead - their songs from The '70s rarely have anything resembling verse-chorus structure, often run for seven minutes or longer, and commonly go through numerous tempo and key signature changes; while Progressive Metal wasn't really codified as a genre until much later, Sabbath are arguably an oft-forgotten Ur-Example of it. (Also, Vertigo Records, Sabbath's record label throughout The '70s, mostly released Progressive Rock at the time.) Sabbath's fusion of influences from jazz, blues, and heavy rock music is a large part of what made them unique at the time, and it's an important reason that, though so many bands have copied them, so few have equalled them.
  • Uncommon Time: "Shaking off the Chains" from Forbidden had a verse riff in 7/8, and then jumps to common time for the chorus.
  • 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).
    • Starting with Master of Reality the band started tuning their instruments down a minor third to give Ozzy more headroom and Ozzy's range greatly improved on the four albums in this tuning. Decades later this approach made live performances of these things more difficult, because while they could use the same trick on their songs recorded in standard tuning, it wasn't really effective on the songs that were already tuned down. As a result, many of the band's most popular songs didn't make the setlist on their final tours.
    • More recent fans could argue that if one were to see Black Sabbath performing live in the new millennium, they'd hear a vocal decline from Ozzy — mostly from his voice cracking occasionally (which isn't helped at all by the fact that Ozzy was almost literally semi-permanently high since the 1960s with periods of sobriety peppered in between) when he attempts to hit high notes and notes that extend for longer than a few seconds. It all depends on how much rest he's gotten and how stressful the tours are, really.
  • Voice of the Legion: Again, the opening for the Iron Man song. Word Of God states that to achieve this, Ozzy spoke into a metal fan.
  • Weird Moon: "Black Moon".
    • Also mentioned in "Heaven and Hell", even though this is just Ronnie singing about people who try to deceive others:
      And they'll tell you black is really white
      The moon is just the sun at night
  • Wham Line: "N.I.B." sounds like a love song at first, albeit a heavy one. Things get a little uncomfortable at the line "Now, I have you with me under my power", and then...
    Look into my eyes, you'll see who I am
    My name is Lucifer, please take my hand
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The song "Iron Man" tells a story of someone who traveled 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.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Dominant from Volume 4 and onwards, likely a result of the band being on all sorts of drugs.

    Misc Tropes 
  • Aerith and Bob: The original lineup. Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Ozzy Osbourne, and... Bill Ward. To be fair, Geezer and Ozzy are nicknames (for Terrence & John, respectively).
  • Animated Music Video:
    • "Get a Grip" from Forbidden.
    • "Bible Black" from The Devil You Know.
  • The Band Minus the Face: Some would say the post-Ozzy years. Averted for the fans that believe that Tony Iommi is Black Sabbath, as he's been in every lineup since the band started as the Polka Tulk Blues Band/Earth.
  • Band Toon: Animated versions of the Sabs starred in a parody of this trope on TV Funhouse. Watch it here.
  • Book Smart: Geezer, having studied accountancy which proved to be of practical use when he took charge of the band's finances in the early days. His education also gave him the vocabulary he needed when penning the lyrics to their songs.
  • 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 and 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.
    • Black Sabbath live with Ozzy as of recently falls into this trope as well. If one were to take a shot every time Ozzy shouts a variation of "Make some fucking noise!" or "I can't fucking hear you!", you'd either be dead from alcohol poisoning by the end of the show... Or very, very, very drunk.
  • Determinator: Tony Iommi. First he loses two fingertips on his fretting hand — no big deal; experiment with different materials to make fake ones. After recording the first two albums in standard tuning, start tuning your guitar lower and get a signature sound note  (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. Badass incarnate, right there.
  • Disability Superpower: Tony Iommi's signature low-tuned guitar style (see the note above for more info), 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 was not 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 by injuries sustained in a fire.)
  • Dungeon Masters Girlfriend: Sharon Osbourne (née Arden), daughter of the band's first manager, the feared Don Arden. Sharon proved she had learned from daddy by poaching Sabbath and becoming their manager; she famously married Ozzy and is still the power behind the shaky and teetering Dark Throne. She even turned at least one (possibly) murder attempt by Ozzy to her advantage and has steered his career ever since.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Their first 2 albums (both in 1970) are much closer to what would be considered classic rock lyric wise, Ozzy’s vocals aren’t as defined as later on, and Tony’s guitar is no different from other bands at the time. It wasn’t until their 3rd album, Master of Reality, where Tony down tuned his guitar and the lyrics became much heavier with its themes of doom, death and chaos.
    • Heaven and Hell marks the beginning of the Dio era, but is the only one of the 3 (or 4) albums to feature classic Sabbath drummer Bill Ward on drums. Every album with Dio since had Vinnie Appice.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The original four — Ozzy is Sanguine, Geezer is Choleric, Tony is Melancholic, and Bill is Phlegmatic... Usually. Ronnie James Dio was both Sanguine and Choleric.
  • Freudian Trio: The reunited lineup sans Bill.
  • Handicapped Badass: Tony Iommi, who made the most of the loss of his fingertips by tuning down his guitar, and invented a whole new style in the process.
    • Bill Ward suffered 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 (i.e. his Rock 50 radio show, his art project "Absence of Corners", and working on his third solo album).
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Bill Ward and Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Ronnie James Dio, Geezer and Tony Iommi.
    • 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 the perforated diverticulitis he suffered in September 2013). Bill did reconcile with Ozzy in 2019 when the latter was hospitalised due to his injuries (as well as the long-term effects of the quad bike accident he had a decade earlier).
  • Lead Bassist: Geezer Butler, chiefly from a combination of his loud Epic Riffs and being one of the band's primary songwriters.
  • Our Angels Are Different: The cover of Heaven and Hell shows a bunch of angels smoking and playing poker.
    • The music video for "Bible Black" (played in the band's Heaven and Hell incarnation) features an angel as a childlike silhouette.
  • 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 on!"
  • Porn Stache: Tony and Geezer back in The '70s.
  • Revolving Door Band: Black Sabbath have never recorded consecutive albums with the same line-up since Ronnie James Dio left the band in 1982.
    • Even more so than that. The two consecutive albums with Ronnie James Dio did not have the same line-up. First, Ozzy left after Never Say Die. Then, Bill Ward left before the tour for Heaven and Hell. Then, after Mob Rules, both Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice left to form the band Dio.
  • Same Face, Different Name: When the band reunited with Dio in the late 2000s, they went under the name Heaven and Hell as to differentiate between the still active Ozzy fronted line-up. That said, they weren't fooling anyone, as most called them Sabbath anyway.
  • Satanic Panic: Pretty much the target of Moral Guardians back in the day, given the subject matter of most of their songs. While the devil is frequently mentioned and the lyrics nightmarish, they assured in interviews that they wanted nothing to do with actual satanism either. Ozzy claimed in his memoirs that cult members—having heard of their music—invited them to perform in whatever dark ritual they're into, but the Sabs refused; cultists tried to hex them in their hotel room but the band, clearly having a cheeky sense of humour, instead playing "Happy Birthday" to piss off the satanists. This, according to some, accounted for why the band wore crosses since then.
  • Scary Musician, Harmless Music: Inverted; they looked like regular blokes, and later old geezers... while doing pretty heavy and haunting songs.
  • 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 and Tony once did acid every day for a year just to see what would happen.
  • Shout-Out: "The Law Maker" includes the line "Silver mountains won't save you from Hell, the Prince of Darkness inside you will dwell", references to Ronnie James Dio and Ozzy Osbourne respectively.
  • Sir Swearsalot: Ozzy is well known for cussing off when speaking, but rarely if ever used profanities in their songs. Averted with Geezer who "never uses foul language" according to Osbourne.
  • Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: Thanks to collaborations, musicians are given a Sabbath number based on appearing on the same recording.
    • Black Sabbath has a Sabbath number of 0, while its band members have a Sabbath number of 1.
  • Special Guest:
    • Rick Wakeman went into the studio around the time of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath when he stopped caring about the Tales from Topographic Oceans sessions while a member of Yes, and provided the keyboard parts in "Sabbra Cadabra". His son Adam would eventually be a touring member for the group and Ozzy Osbourne.
    • Ice-T provided a verse on Forbidden's "The Illusion of Power", although in this case it wasn't at Black Sabbath's high point.
  • 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 — He could have turned down the offer altogether, but this way he'd be able to collect a small rejection fee. 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.
    • And then, Black Sabbath's official Facebook page once posted an archive photo of Tony with a sitar, in the bathtub, most probably on acid.
  • Those Two Guys: Geezer and Bill tend to get overshadowed by Tony's guitar mastery despite his handicap and Ozzy's... Everything.
  • Trope Makers: Although bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Blue Cheer paved the way, many people consider Black Sabbath to be the world's first true Heavy Metal band. They are also considered the Ur-Example for Doom Metal, which basically takes the characteristics of Sabbath's music (slow, heavy, sludgy riffs) and turns them up.
  • Un-person: As a result of the "unsignable contract" incident, the band's marketing team and/or management mostly go out of their way to pretend Bill Ward never existed by airbrushing him out of old photos. According to Ward, what happened was that during the band's 11/11/11 reunion announcement (ie the press conference that featured all four members), Bill hadn't yet signed a contract for the subsequent 13 album and tour (but did the press conference anyway because he assumed it would get resolved), and he was featured in promotions for upcoming gigs. Bill requested to the powers that be that he be removed from the promotional material so as not to confuse anybody. They responded by twisting his words and removed him from pretty much everything.
    • Keyboardist Geoff Nicholls often performed backstage and never appeared in promotional material with the band, despite being credited as a full member of the band throughout the majority of his 25-year tenure and being the fourth longest lasting member in the band's history.
  • Unwilling Roboticisation: On the cover of aptly titled Dehumanizer.