You don’t know metal until you have heard the classic Black Sabbath Paranoid album. It is probably the most quintessential Black Sabbath album and certainly one of the most influential heavy metal albums of all time. Although the first ever Black Sabbath album, Black Sabbath, was already considered a success and the birth of heavy metal as we know it, it took the release of the album Paranoid to refine the group’s musical style.
First off, the song writing process in Paranoid, especially for the title track, was much more systematic than in Black Sabbath: Guitarist Tony Iommi would start with one of his killer massive roaring riffs. Vocalist Ozzy Osbourne then worked on the melody for the vocals, followed by bassist Geezer Butler who would write most of the lyrics. Drummer Bill Ward would then top it off with a pounding beat to complement Butler’s thunderous bass.
It was probably thanks to this organized songwriting that Paranoid sounded so tight and flawless. It was heavy metal, without any redundant rage or unnecessary distortion. It was perfectly smooth, with a bit of eerie, a bit of doom, and a lot of dark. It wasn’t just heavy metal, it was something else altogether, like the band members were tasked to deliver warnings of doom to the world.
Paranoid focused on topics about war, drug abuse, death and destruction. Ozzy Osbourne recalled in his autobiography “I Am Ozzy”: “Geezer came up with these heavy duty lyrics about death and destruction. No wonder we never got any chicks at our gigs. Geezer just wasn’t interested in your average ‘I love you’ pop song […]”.
The song “War Pigs” was originally called “Walpurgis”, which was quickly turned down by their record company for being too Satanic. A perfect opening track that promised so much more coming further down the track list, this song is one of the most memorable songs about war, destruction and the real Satans among us.
“Paranoid” talked about the effects of drugs on the addict, making him confused between depression and paranoia. “Iron Man” was about a man who travels to the future and sees the apocalyptic destruction on mankind. Upon travelling back to the present, he was turned to steel by the magnetic field, rendered mute and unable to communicate about the apocalypse to anyone. “Electric Funeral” was a haunting track warning about a disaster caused by nuclear weapons.
Paranoid features some of the most iconic and recognizable riffs and melodies by Black Sabbath. The guitar riffs in “War Pigs”, “Paranoid” and “Iron Man”, as well the melodies for the vocals, are now among the most easily identified riffs and melodies anywhere.
The only times when notable effects were used were in “Planet Caravan” and “Iron Man” (I shivered upon hearing the twistedly distorted “I Am Iron Man!”). Apart from these, most of the tracks were straight recordings with extremely tight instrumentals topped with Ozzy’s eerie and haunting vocals.
Paranoid is without any doubt the best Black Sabbath albums ever, but more importantly one of the most important heavy metal albums of all time. From the signature riffs and melodies to the lyrics which go beyond their time and age, Paranoid is truly the landmark in the history of heavy metal.
Black Sabbath Paranoid
- War Pigs
- Planet Caravan
- Iron Man
- Electric Funeral
- Hand of Doom
- Rat Salad
- Fairies Wear Boots
Written by Gin