Old Music Tuesday: Black Sabbath's 'Vol. 4' : All Songs Considered As a young child in the '70s, All Songs Considered's Robin Hilton was terrified of Black Sabbath, but has since grown to love the band. The group's classic album Vol. 4 is celebrating it's 40th anniversary this year.
NPR logo Old Music Tuesday: Black Sabbath's 'Vol. 4'

Old Music Tuesday: Black Sabbath's 'Vol. 4'

Note: This week's All Songs Considered offers a preview of the upcoming Maryland Deathfest.

Cover art for Vol. 4
Courtesy of the artist

As a small child in the '70s, metal bands absolutely horrified me. I didn't grow up in a particularly religious family at all, but I understood that, let's face it, if you listened to metal you were probably going to hell because everyone knew those bands were messengers for the Prince of Darkness.

I guess elementary school was a very impressionable time for me because I basically believed every urban myth all the other kids told me. Led Zeppelin, I was told, used back-masking on "Stairway To Heaven" to trick us into praising the devil. Someone else said AC/DC stood for "antichrist/Devil child." The band Kiss was actually an acronym for "Knights In Satan's Service." There were countless tales like this.

But of all the bands I feared, none were more terrifying than Black Sabbath. The name alone sent chills through me. Everyone knew lead singer Ozzy Osbourne, during a concert, once threw a box of puppies into the audience and told everyone the band wouldn't play until all those puppies were dead. (He didn't). Everyone also knew the members of Black Sabbath had sold their souls to Satan in exchange for fame. (Pretty sure they didn't). And everyone knew Osbourne had bitten a bat's head off (okay, that one is true, but he didn't think it was real and it was after he left Black Sabbath anyway).

Fortunately, thanks to an older brother and other wiser friends, I eventually grew up to love Black Sabbath. This year we celebrate the (unbelievably) 40th anniversary of the band's classic record Vol. 4. Here's the (so awesome) opening cut, "Wheels Of Confusion/The Straightener."


I'm pretty sure God has forgiven me for loving this so much. Besides, as Ozzy Osbourne told Rolling Stone's David Fricke years after leaving Black Sabbath, despite the band's inextricable ties to the occult, black magic and Satan, the group "couldn't conjure up a fart."

For more on all-things-metal, check out this week's episode of All Songs Considered as we preview the upcoming Maryland Deathfest, with NPR Music's resident metal fiend and Viking berserker, Lars Gotrich, and metal writer Kim Kelly

You can also get more fantastic metal and outer-sound music picks from Lars in our Viking's Choice series.