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Black Sabbath - Paranoid
People who start wars end up in Hell
Published by kinzz
28-06-2007
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Black Sabbath - Paranoid

Since I just completed a Black Sabbath biography and now feel qualified to do the lecture circuit, allow me to wax eternal about the album "Paranoid". It was one of the defining moments of 70's hard rock, and while six thousand others have already rubbed their reviewing gland all over it, I'll not let that stop me from singing its praises.

By the time this album came out in late 1970 (in Britain anyway- it was released over here in early 1971), the band was a surprise success story. Their self-titled debut album, a dark and jazzy/bluesy thing that creeped people out, climbed up the charts in Britain and created a demand for more of Sabbath's evil art. They quickly got their butts into the studio and produced a follow-up album, one that was originally supposed to be titled "War Pigs". Which obviously did not happen.

Due to the fact that Vietnam was still taking place, the record company forced the band to accept the title "Paranoid", which completely clashes with the album cover (the guy with the helmet and sword is apparently a "war pig"- don't ask me, I just write here). If you read my review of "Black Sabbath", you'll know that the record company pushed these guys around a lot, even going so far as to include an inverted cross on that album's inner sleeve.

So "Paranoid" came out, and the world immediately rushed to hear what these mysterious guys from Birmingham might scare them with next. Judging from its place in music history, its performance on the charts, and its sales statistics, I think we can all agree that, like it or not, "Paranoid" was probably as good as it was ever gonna get for these freaky metal pessimists.

I grew up listening to "Paranoid", and it terrified me plenty as a child. I now turn the radio dial whenever "Iron Man" comes on for entirely different reasons, but back then, those riffs and that voice sounded like hellfire itself to my little ears. The feel of this album is a little less eerie than its predecessor, but it's still awfully dark for something that came out of the peace and love era. Instead of advocating happiness and brotherhood, these guys were hung up on nuclear annihilation, insanity, and boot-wearing fairies that dance with a glove.

Most of the songs need no introduction, especially the opening track. If you've never heard "War Pigs", you need to spend a little less time living in Mongolia. The song was originally "Walpurgis", the night on which witches hook up and do witchy things. However, something happened along the way, and instead we somehow got generals and politicians sending poor people off to die. The good news is that Satan shows up to stick his fiery hoof in their azzes by the end, which is something I'd quit my job to see. Somewhere the song transitions into "Luke's Wall", but I don't know what that's all about. Maybe he built it to keep Darth Vader out.

I have nothing new to say about "Paranoid" or "Iron Man". Those of us who played in rock bands pretty much cut our teeth on those two songs, and overexposure has resulted in hearing loss, kidney damage, and a frown that just won't go away (which, according to the lyrics of the former, must mean that I'm insane). The only thing I really like about "Iron Man" anymore is the solo at the end.

One song I'll never get tired of is the trippy space odyssey ballad known as "Planet Caravan". Ozzy sounds like he's singing from the bottom of a water bong, and for the longest time, I didn't even believe it was him. The light percussion and flute are wonderful little touches, and the lyrics find us drifting by the eye of the great god Mars. I hope he doesn't mind.

If descriptions of nuclear devastation get you down, then skip right by "Electric Funeral". The evil wah-wah, jazzy jam-out in the middle, and biting monotone of Ozzy's voice really hit my spot, but maybe I'm revealing too much about myself.

"Hand Of Doom" starts out as a smoky rimshot groove that turns into what could be considered early thrash. The music is more dynamic than on most of the other tracks, but the subject matter is as bright and sunny as ever. Here we have images of people being napalmed in Vietnam, and someone shooting up heroin to avoid the memories.

And you thought "Rat Salad" was just a yummy dish from China. It's actually a druggy 60's-style jam with a cool drum beat and fairly pointless guitar work.

And then we reach the end, the track that at least one person I know considers to be Sabbath's best. "Jack The Stripper" is just a prelude to "Fairies Wear Boots", another heavy, jazzed-up assault. Ozzy confesses (well, Geezer does actually, since he wrote all the lyrics then) that smoking and tripping is all that he does. I think those were Ozzy's leisure activities for the rest of the decade, with maybe drinking thrown in for variety. Jack The Stripper, by the way, was a British serial killer of the mid-1960's whose modus operandi was to asphyxiate prostitutes with his penis.

This album is much rockier and more modern sounding than the debut. I'm not sure which I like better; this one is tighter, less rambling, and just as dark, but it lacks that ominous supernatural feel of songs like "Black Sabbath" and "N.I.B.". Ozzy was growing exponentially as a singer, but still had that strange habit of following the guitar riff. Either way, both albums are absolutely indispensable for the fan of classic hard rock.

Shortly after "Paranoid" was released, the band embarked upon their first American tour and became mega-superstars. At this point in their career, they were all still friends, on top of the world, and reasonably able to keep themselves under control. The next time we meet up with them (skipping "Master Of Reality", which I reviewed aeons ago), they'll have moved to the place where Satan's angels go when they really want to flap their wings: Los Angeles.
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By Rock3 on 30-06-2007
Great story fella, a little Gem
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By peyton999 on 30-06-2007
Black Sabbath ......... LEGENDS

tats wat i can say ...........!!!
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By zagger on 02-07-2007
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Legendary stuff.. I still listen to tracks from this album, long may it tickle my mojo!!
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By Rock3 on 16-07-2007
News and access to complete concert videos of Black Sabbath can be found here
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