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Black Sabbath


Review by Gary Hill

The second album from Black Sabbath, this isn’t quite as revolutionary as their debut, but that’s probably because of how groundbreaking that one was and the fact that this builds on the music they created there. There are no weak tracks here and this is genre defining music. I’d have to say that the numbers that get played on the radio the most probably come across weaker here, but it’s just because of over-familiarity rather than any inherent weakness in the music. This is a classic album and for good reason – it’s great.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 4 at

Track by Track Review
War Pigs
One of Sabbath's best known, tunes, this is just so cool. It's such a great album opener. The bass pounds away as the guitar powers over the top. An air raid siren screams. Then we drop to the stripped back drums only section with guitar bits as punctuation. Osbourne's vocals slice the silence with the opening lyrics. This song is doom and destruction. The more full arrangement after the first vocal segment has a great groove to it. That's one thing a lot of people forget about Sabbath - they had groove. This is screaming hot stuff. There is a reason this is a classic and a song they frequently used as an opener in concert. It's a killer tune. The guitar solo is just so perfect. The bass really shines. If you can listen to this and not appreciate how great Geezer Butler is, you must be deaf. This cut is really a dynamic number with a lot of different sections and moods. Yet, it all flows so well together. The guitar solo section late in the piece is just so great. The solo carries such great melody and yet jams like crazy, too. It's the perfect way to take this thing out in style. There's a weird little wind up effect at the end.

This might be a bit overplayed, but it’s still quite a cool track. It’s short, “paranoid” and to the point. It’s a safe bet that if you’ve ever heard Black Sabbath you know this number.

Planet Caravan

Mellow and spacey, this is more psychedelic space rock than heavy metal. Truth be told it reminds me a lot early Hawkwind. It might not be the most obvious track for praise, but it’s incredibly tasty. The variety and mellow nature it provides makes everything else seem heavier.

Iron Man

Here’s another that’s pretty safe to say if you are reading this, you know this song. It’s a great tune, but also one that suffers a bit from being overplayed. Still, it’s quintessential Black Sabbath.

Electric Funeral

They give us another song about warfare – in this case the nuclear variety. It’s more classic Sabbath. There’s a tasty wahing sound that is a bit dated, but still very cool. They take us through a number of changes on this tune. It’s a great piece of music.

Hand of Doom

Perhaps more typical, this has a doomy sound and alternates between mellower and harder sections. The powerhouse movements are what really make this one work, though. It’s seems to be about the dangers of drug addiction – ostensibly the needle driven variety. It’s got a lot of changes and different sounds and textures. It also has some of the tastiest guitar soloing of the whole disc.

Jack The Stripper / Fairies Wear Boots

The first half of this twofer is a tasty instrumental that really showcases what’s always been great about Black Sabbath. It’s got plenty of changes and plenty of style. They take it out to the song proper and tell the tale of a man who is hallucinating because of all the chemical alteration of his mind that he does. There’s some awesome jamming later in this track, too – some of the best on the album. Honestly, I’d chalk this one up as a highlight of the disc. And considering the other stuff here, that says a lot. The swirling outro riff is quite tasty.

Rat Salad
They close the set out with another instrumental. This one includes a drum solo and is based on quite a potent riff. It’s got a bit of a dated sound, but still works reasonably well.
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