Classics: Black Sabbath
In February 2005 we ran the following Classics review to mark the 35th anniversary of the release of Black Sabbath's seminal debut album, which opened the floodgates to one of the most popular genres of music: heavy metal. Today we mark the 40th anniversary of this release by looking back again.
Now from Darkness There Springs Light
By Keavin Wiggins
When you look at groundbreaking albums that changed the direction of music forever Sgt Pepper probably comes to mind at once. Perhaps the second most influential band of all time is Black Sabbath and this month we look at the album that started it all. By all, I mean not only Black Sabbath but a whole new form of music-- Heavy Metal and its later offshoots.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Black Sabbath and its impact can still be felt in music today. Sabbath is one of the most significant artists of all time, right up there with Elvis, the Beatles, and the Stones. Some may try to downplay the impact of this album because it hasn't moved 20 gazillion units, but we can hear its importance to this day in every single metal and metal influence band that came after it.
By 1970 acid rock and the late 60s brand of heavy blues were still the rage among younger rock fans. Cream, Blue Cheer, and Vanilla Fudge laid the groundwork. Led Zeppelin became an international sensation that the critics never understood but young fans immediately latched on to. It was the power of the distorted Blues and majesty of the lyrics that captured the imagination of a generation.
There is the famous scene in Spinal Tap where Nigel Tufnel talks to Marty DiBergi about his special guitar amplifier that "goes to 11". "When I need that little extra push over the cliff…" That little push over the cliff was what Black Sabbath delivered. Zeppelin II was released in October of 1969, five months later Black Sabbath delivered this self-titled debut and provided that little extra push over the cliff for many fans when they took the blues based heavy rock to a new extreme. Metal was born.
The album wouldn't hit American record stores until May of 1970, but it quietly built momentum as word of month spread about this amazing new band. By August, Black Sabbath had entered the American Top 40 album chart and remained there for over a year, going on to sell a million copies. Quite an impressive accomplishment in 1970.
But why did this album have such an impact? One listen tells the tale. The dark mesmerizing power of "Black Sabbath," "The Wizard," "Behind the Wall of Sleep," "N.I.B.," and "Warning" still send shivers down the spine. It's hard to imagine what it must have been like to fans in 1970 the first time they heard this dark symphony of distortion and power and the genius combining of one song into the next. As Ozzy sang "Now from Darkness there Springs Light," a strange metaphor when you consider the dark nature of metal, but it fits. As Led Zeppelin was moving into a new lighter direction with Led Zeppelin III (released Oct 70) Black Sabbath was giving the power hungry fans something to bang their heads to, but also sink their minds into. The one thing about the early Sabbath releases is that they are very visual. The power of the bass, drums and guitars grab you but the lyrics capture the imagination, bringing on visions in the mind's eye. Many bands have come after but very few have held the same captivating power of early Black Sabbath.
If you are a fan of metal, you owe it to yourself to own this album. Not only because, 40 years later it still stands out, but because on this disc you will hear the keystone to all the metal that came after. Sabbath were the rock John the Baptist, shouting in the wilderness about the coming messiah for rock n roll: heavy metal!
Check out all our Black Sabbath gear @ MRB