BLACK SABBATH - Black Sabbath
Old School !! Released Feb 13/70 (Vertigo)
Let's get it out of the way up front. This is undoubtedly the first heavy metal album ever issued, the seed that has eventually evolved into a metal tree with innumerable different branches. Claims that Deep Purple and Uriah Heep were actually the first are negated by two very important facts: In Rock and Very 'Eavy ... Very 'Umble were both released four months after the Sab's debut and, more importantly, they are hard rock albums. Not metal. Case closed.
Getting off my soap box, let's consider the debut metal rounder beyond its obvious historical importance. First up we have the self-titled track, basically creating the doom metal template right out of the gate. A blare of harmonica then signals the beginning of 'The Wizard' before thundering chord progressions and tons of drum fills introduce the world to the beloved sound of heavy metal. 'Behind The Wall Of Sleep' continues the evolution of the form, a twisted blues piece with a beyond-catchy chord progression. Geezer Butler is let loose on the next track, 'N.I.B.', opening with a bass solo before we are pasted to the wall by Iommi and an enthusiastic Ozzy "Oh, Yeah!" proclamation. Ominous, frightening atmosphere permeates throughout, the Sabs blubbering and bashing away seemingly in bliss over their creation. End of a very enjoyable and expansive side one.
Over to side two and the band loses its way somewhat. 'Wicked World' starts things off well enough as an early metal pounder, but there's a sniff of dated 60's references that hold it back. Then we're onto the concluding 'A Bit Of Finger/Sleeping Village/Warning' near fifteen-minute suite (I'm going by my original vinyl release) which is an overlong, jammy mess, coming across as filler. It's like the band realized they only had 25-minutes of material and had to fill out the platter.
So, in retrospect, there's no denying the importance of this record in the creation and evolution of heavy metal, but it wasn't until the following year's Master Of Reality that Sabbath perfected the form.