Some things you find out during research are amazing. I never knew for example, that Black Sabbath formed under the name ‘Polka Tulk Blues’. I mean, it’s very hard to imagine them scaring the moral majority with a name containing the world ‘polka’. They became ‘Earth’, then the rest is history. Other weird things. Black Sabbath’s influences range from The Beatles, to the Shadows, to Django Reinhardt, jazz music and Cream. The band apparently wanted to create music that would have the effect of a horror movie. Satanism? The lyrical content was ( initially at least! ) actually warning people away from Satanism after a particularly disturbing figure two members of the band saw standing in their room one day. Oh, for the musicians amongst you, Black Sabbath unconciously hit upon using trinitones in their music. It’s a musical interval that spans three whole tones, apparently. Iommi, like most of us, just thought that it sounded cool. With an accident that meant he lost two of his fingers, plastic was molded onto his now sensitive fingers stubs, guitar strings were detuned creating a lower sound. There was also a dissonance to the sound. A rhythm section sounding as heavy as all hell. Fantasy/medieval/satanic sounding lyrics. How on earth could they fail but to sound different and to sound scary? Sounding scary was the entire point of course. Related to wanting to sound scary I suppose, Sabbath were influenced by the blues. Not wanting to sound like exactly Led Zeppelin however ( and what would be the point? ) the Black Sabbath style is distinctive and different. Black Sabbath come to the blues as such with their cover of ‘Evil Woman’, released as the first singlem although the band themselves weren’t exactly overly enthusiastic about it. The b-side ‘Wicked World’ also makes it to all modern versions of the album ( ‘Evil Woman’ originally absent from US issues, ‘Wicked World’ originally added to US versions ), also rooted in blues, although the vocals sound thin and all the attempted jazzy runs and smashing cymbals do my head in. So far, so average? Luckily for us then that the remainder of the album is massively better.
The title tune, one of the clearest statements of intent on any debut album, ever. Truly a scary song and the ending once the songs in full flight, happily exciting. Flowing into the harmonica intro of ‘The Wizard’ is clever, immediately a different feel is presented. The rhythm section of Butler and Ward are truly heavy and thunderous here, blowing up sub-woofers the land over, I should imagine. What else? Well, the ten minute ‘Warning’, the second and last cover song. Reportedly edited down more a much lengthier version, the sound is extremely loose. Oh, I mentioned ‘Evil Woman’ as blues rooted, well so is ‘Warning’, I suppose, but Black Sabbath seem to transcend the genre purely by not quite knowing what the hell they’re doing! Ozzy sings impressively throughout the opening, we’ve then got great slabs of schizophrenic instrumental playing covering a variety of styles – even Iommi’s solo is pieced together from the lengthier original version. The riff friendly ‘Behind The Wall Of Sleep’ is all well and good but the real diamond on show is the massive and huge ‘N.I.B’. The style of the band encapsulated, the solo is scary and exciting, Ozzy sounds impassioned, the drums and bass both do their own thing and shining equally. You can pick out each and every band members part, isolate it, and just admire that. Obviously, you can listen to the whole ensemble together and it’s even better! Raw, basic in places, impressive in others, entirely heavy and very well structured, the band stretching out over six minutes and sounding utterly unique. That’s ‘N.I.B’ for you, not Navitity In Black apparently, rather named after the style of Bill Ward’s beard at the time.