A & E

Vinyl Club: Black Sabbath’s Paranoid

Vinyl by dotpolka licenced by CC BY 2.0.

Vinyl by dotpolka licenced by CC BY 2.0.

By Ian Mergelas

Paranoid, released by Black Sabbath in early September of 1970, took the music world by surprise. “Heavy metal” had been dismissed by much of the media as a passing fad, and yet here was a band who’s “heavy” music revealed a creative force to be reckoned with. It was rare that such aggressive music could contain such musicality, intense intricacy, or raw talent. It was rare too that an album could be so controversial, with lyrics and music that prompted allegations of Satanism and occultism from members of the mainstream media. 

Paranoid is considered one of the best Black Sabbath releases, if not widely acclaimed as one of the most important landmark albums in the “heavy metal” genre of music. Rarely has an album contained so many of a band’s signature songs, but simply look at the track listing of the first side of Paranoid and you’ll be surprised at how many of the best Black Sabbath songs are on Paranoid, songs like “War Pigs,” “Iron Man,” “Planet Caravan,” and the title track “Paranoid.”

Even some of the deeper cuts like “Hand of Doom” are perfect examples of Black Sabbath’s prowess, fully showcasing all facets that made Black Sabbath one of the best rock bands of all time. All tracks on Paranoid find the band in its perfect form, with the relentlessly precise pounding of the Sabbath rhythm section – made up by Bill Ward and Geezer Butler – matched only by the seamless mesh between the distorted wail of Tony Iommy’s piercing guitar leads and the powerful, emotional vocals of lead singer Ozzy Osbourne.

Where Led Zeppelin had begun to move away from the “heavy metal” genre by incorporating more folk and acoustic influences on the now classic “Led Zeppelin III,” Black Sabbath embraced their labelling, and pushed their already heavy blues-influenced songs into a more visceral, raw and sonically weighty territory. Paranoid made them a household name, and affirmed their position as both the pioneers and fathers of heavy metal.

“Sabbath-esque” bands worth checking out:

  • The Sword
  • Electric Wizard
  • Kyuss
  • Sleep

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