Review Summary: In the beginning...
When Black Sabbath made their self-titled debut and released it on February 13, 1970: something happened. What many have believed as the pivotal creation of heavy metal, it is still quoted as such more than 40 years later. Originally recorded in one day, that one day proved to be the first step into an incredibly popular genre. It was dark, heavy, and haunting. While their debut was undeniably great, many cite Paranoid, their second release, as their best to date, their magnum opus. While it may be an overstatement as the single reason heavy metal is what it is, Paranoid is Black Sabbath at their peak, and, at the time, it rocked harder than anything else, so credit must be given where it is due.
Even though the satanic feel was dropped from the album, this is Black Sabbath still attempting what they are notorious for: haunting riffs, crushing tempos, and multi-sectioned songs, which contrasted with the heavier sound they took on in Master of Reality. On their debut, it had much more of a doom-like feel to it, considered demonic for its time. But there was no more of that: Paranoid altogether dropped that and made a cataclysmic fury of rock music, something that is rarely, if not ever, performed again in music, quite effectively proving themselves worthy.
The main selling point about Paranoid is that it never takes time to build, and the performance of the band members is top-notch. Tony Iommi's guitar is as dark and inventive as many say it is, from the cataclysmic midtempo solos of War Pigs, or the famous wah wah melody in Electric Funeral. The bass of Butler is almost godly: the tempos are crushing and wicked. Bill Ward's drumming is set at an incredible pace, showing off skills in the 2-minute instrumental Rat Salad (basically a Moby Dick cover), and the ending of Iron Man. As for the former trait: the tracks are unbelievably creative, showing off spastic energy throughout.
A good example would be War Pigs
, the high point of the album because it relies on atmosphere as well as heaviness, and it succeeds in both points. The opener alone should prove that Sabbath has ditched the blues influences altogether, making more space for their signature style: pure, cataclysmic brilliance. The vocals are far from the focal point of the album: the instruments are the dominant, the leading force of the LP. Such facts of that are proven on tracks such as the seven minute Hand of Doom
, a bass-and-guitar shared song, shows that while the lyrics are not the focal point, they otherwise paint the atmosphere well, the former a spectacular show of anti-war aggression (In the fields the bodies burning / As the war machine keeps turning / Death and hatred to mankind), and the latter an anti-drug effective picture (First it was the bomb / Vietnam napalm / Disillusioning, you push the needle in).
While these songs rely on instruments, Planet Caravan
is purely based on atmospheric nature, it is otherwise on the most unfitting tracks on the album. With a slow, more peaceful bass-and-guitar melody, Osbourne's lyrics have more of an underwater feel (I've heard it's not synthesizers that do that, nor sound effects), and they describe traveling the universe (Silver starlight breaks down the night / And so we pass on by the crimson eye of great god Mars / As we travel the universe ), makes it the most unique of the album.
Said uniqueness is copied on Electric Funeral
. Featuring a nine-note wah-wah pedal riff, the lyrics describe a post-nuclear world, ravaged by warfare. The vocals do an amazing job of capturing the post-apocalyptic feel (Storm coming, you'd better hide from the atomic tide / Plastic flowers, melting sun / Fading moon falls upon / Burning globe of oxy'n fire, like electric funeral pyre), and the frenzied midtempo section finally showcases some bass lines and a fast-paced drum section.
I'll be completely honest: I was skeptical of Paranoid the minute I heard it. Re-listening to the album, was I overcome with the same sense of awe and nostalgia that millions around the world have felt? (Okay, that's an overstatement). Yes and no. Paranoid
is brilliant. This album managed to keep a legacy going for years, along with its predecessor and successor. And yet, I feel there is a lot of over-exaggerated praise for it, as I feel that it is not the single greatest album of all time, or the best of heavy metal. But, in terms of metal, it comes closer than most, and it definitely did the genre justice. So I'd be lying if I said that I didn't consider it their best: it is still the metal record by which all others must be judged.
So, yeah, it's really bloody good.
4.6 / 5
(I hate giving ratings like these)
Dark, heavy, and atmospheric
Consistently changes mood
Uh...... sort of overrated?