ROCK! Some people will tell you that Paranoid is the popular, but overrated album and that Sabbath’s classic status is derived from the next album’s heaviness, Vol. 4‘s diversity or Sabotage‘s prog-leanings, but they’re all wrong. WRONG!
Paranoid certainly isn’t the world’s most consistent heavy metal album and some of the song-writing is average at best (several of the songs have shifts that make no sense whatsoever if you listen to it from a distance), but despite its limitations, relentless brashness, and uh… stupidity, it’s still a 95% bullet-proof groove-fest. Among the classic stupidity-accusations: the sheer poetry and stunning rhyme of “Generals gathered in their masses/ just like witches at black masses” (are those grand opening lines or what?), Ozzy just singing/yelping along to “Iron Man”s key melody or Iommi’s fret-abuse in “Electric Funeral”, the riff and intro (“I AM IRON MAN”!) of that same song, awkward shifts (2:05 into “Hand of Doom”), the fairy on the album cover and “Rat Salad” (an excuse for a drum solo). But the GOOD stuff! The swift title track with its memorable, throbbing vibe (even though it’s arguably a rip-off of Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed & Confused”), those silly stops and adolescent-fressen like “Happiness I cannot feel and love to me is so unreal.” Even though the intro to “War Pigs” goes on for way too long, the pay-off after 105 seconds (“Oh Lord yeah!”) and that mean, “I’m holding your testicles in my clenched fist”-riff that pops up makes it such a pleasure. Add to that Ozzy’s nagging vocals and stretched-out solo-moments that are much more effective than those on the debut’s second half and it’s a full-on thrill. “Iron Man,” perhaps the most ridiculed Sabbath-song, closes the first album half and even though it might crack you up if you’re raised on the angelic sounds of Converge, Slayer or Neurosis – to name just a few – the first ten seconds (up ’til that moment) might contain the biggest chicken skin-factor of their entire output. That bass drum pedal and then…. RRRRUUAAAAAAWWWHHHAAAA, Iommi’s descending guitar riff (well, just one note, basically) inviting you to visit hell. Or some creepy place. The song’s key riff (TIDATIDADATIDATIDATIDADAAAAM) is simple, yet effective and admit it, it’s an invitation to act like a bad-ass when no one’s around. The plodding rhythm section – the crawling bass, rumbling drum kit action, constantly bordering on “too slow” – even adds to it and prepares for Iommi’s soloing at the end – some of the best-constructed stuff he’s come up with. The second half contains three corpulent behemoths and all three of ‘em are pretty terrific. “Electric Funeral” with its “Black Sabbath”-styled atmosphere (and arguably only their second doom song) and kick-ass acceleration after 2:18; the multi-parted “Hand of Doom”, which boasts one of Hall of Fame’s classic headbangin’ moments, are already pretty satisfying, but even better is album closer “Fairies Wear Boots,” a song with an intro that contains almost as many shifts and changes as a deranged Ween-song, yet that manages to come off wholly convincing. And the riffing is really powerful, fist-pump inducing powerful! There’s also the much-maligned atmospheric “Planet Atmosphere,” often considered a throwaway song, but I actually like the melancholy vibe, simple percussion, jazzy guitar solo and Ozzy’s altered vocals, which must’ve sounded unlike anything else at the time. I kept it short – there are only so many ways to describe a classic metal riff – but I’ll repeat it once again: is Paranoid dated? Oh yes! Are some of its songs rather silly? Oh yes. Does it work? You bet. More than three decades after its release, it’s still satisfaction-guaranteed, invigorating and possible even more influential and lauded than ever before. 40 minutes, and at least 30 of it should be part of your breakfast if you’re pretending to be your neighborhood’s metal man.