You could argue that Pentagram was the first metal band. Or that Blue Cheer's "Summertime Blues" featured the first heavy, distorted riff on wax. My personal go-to genre creation story: the actual term "heavy metal," first used in a 1971 review of Sir Lord Baltimore's Kingdom Come in Creem.
But as Cosmo Lee at the righteous Invisible Oranges blog points out, Saturday (Feb. 13) is the 40th anniversary of Black Sabbath's crushing self-titled debut:
Without it, you and I would not be gathered here today. There would be no Big Four, Peaceville Three, !T.O.O.H.!, or "One." There would be no Wacken, Venom, Voivod, or Vader. No Bathory, Beherit, Behemoth, or Belial (Aus, Aus, Bra, Chl, Col, Cze, Fin, Gbr, Sgp, Slv, USA, USA). No Decibel, Terrorizer, or, um, Revolver. No metal maniacs. No Fenriz. No Abbath. No Wino. No Doro. No Danzig. No blastbeats. No mosh. No fun. We would wear lighter-colored clothes. The world would be a darker place.
If you don't get all the references, that's okay. Point is: In 1970, Black Sabbath was the album that launched a thousand demonic riffs. Even the tritone that opens "Black Sabbath" (duh duhnn ddddduuuun) has been historically called diabolus in musica ("the devil in music"). Years later, I'm still terrified by the "figure in black" that haunts Ozzy Osbourne's tortured wails.
Speaking of Ozzy, NPR's Scott Simon recently interviewed the Prince of Darkness for an upcoming Weekend Edition Saturday segment. It's about his new biography, I Am Ozzy, and not about Black Sabbath. But reading it last night, I got a kick out of the opening: "They said I would never write this book. [Turn the page.] Well, f—- 'em — 'cos here it is. [Turn the page.] All I have to do now is remember something... [Turn the page.] [Blank page.] Bollocks. I can't remember anything." Hilarity ensues.
So blow up the black balloons, stick a tombstone in the cake and raise your devil horns high for Black Sabbath. May your grim robes enshroud terror for another 40 years and more.
courtesy of the artist
"What is this that stands before me?"