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Black Sabbath
Warner 1871
Released: May 1970
Chart Peak: #23
Weeks Charted: 65
Certified Platinum: 10/13/86

Bill WardGeezer ButlerTony IommiOzzy OsbourneMagic has finally wormed out of the drug attached stigma, come out from behind the "psychedelic" album covers and pretentious arrangements and found its way into a hard rock environment. Black Sabbath (the name of the group, their first album, and the first cut on the album), is frightening, frenzied, driving, satanical and excellently played, arranged and produced. Four musicians who I have never heard of before lay down one of the heaviest magic-music statements you'll ever hear.

This album is a far cry from 90 percent of the junk that gets passed off as rock these days. From the opening thunderstorm of the last scream you hear only solid head-throbbing original rhythms, designed to reinforce your perception of the supernatural, evil powers that roam the earth. After listening to Ozzie Osbourne's vocals, which are unlike any previous style, one can't help wonder about Lucifer and the powers of darkness.

This is definitely not a good time album and you probably won't hear it on many radio stations. It's too dangerous for 12 and 13 year olds to get into. Go out and get it, but stay in your magic circle when you listen to it.

- Mike Dillon, Hit Parader, 3/71.

Bonus Reviews!

With Dark Shadows a long-running afternoon TV-serial success among teenagers (it is the show that asks the question, "Can a vampire find true love by promising to stick to a diet of solids?"), I'm surprised there haven't been more albums such as Black Sabbath. It is a fair amount of fun and might even be slightly spooky for a pre-teen audience. It starts off with some well-made special effects -- wind, thunder, and rain so constant and concentrated that it finally gets a bit embarrassing as it begins to sound less and less like rain -- and then lets loose on a lot of heavy, shattering, ominous chords. That's about all there is to it, folks, for several bands. Ossie Osbourne's shouted vocals are mostly agonized repetitions of lines like "I'm goin' through fear, I'm goin' through fear...."

- Peter Reilly, Stereo Review, 12/70.

The worst of the counterculture on a plastic platter -- bullshit necromancy, drug-impaired reaction time, long solos, everything. They claim to oppose war, but if I don't believe in loving my enemies I don't believe in loving my allies either, and I've been worried something like this was going to happen since the first time I saw a numerology column in an underground newspaper. C-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

Their debut album set the tone with the title cut, "The Wizard," "Wasp," and "Warning." * * * *

- Cub Koda, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Black Sabbath, the band's opening salvo, includes the wicked psycho-blooze instrumental "The Wizard." * * * *

- Thor Christensen, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

On this list for its enormous influence rather than its scintillating musical qualities, Black Sabbath's debut album is as weighty in reputation as in its sonic depth. With its opening eponymous song routinely hailed as the unholy-trinity anthem ("Black Sabbath," on Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath) that kickstarted heavy metal, the dark, dark sleeve art and the sludgy production seeping all over the basic, bludgeoning songs, the record still sounds supremely evil toady. In reality, Messrs. Osbourne, Iommi, Butler, and Ward have explained on many occasions, the album sounds grim because they recorded it in two days with a tiny budget -- and what is more, recorded it as a live band, volume peaks and all. Guitarist Tony Iommi, his fretting fingers infamously disfigured in an industrial accident, tuned his guitar down half a step to E flat and in doing so accentuated the song's crushing sound even further. The then-scary, now-laughable lyrics dealing with death and darkness only added to the brew.

While the two extended song suites keep the album from sounding mundane -- and prove that the musicians had what it took to be inventive -- it is the individual songs that reveal most to the listener. Where "Black Sabbath" is all about grime and graveyard dirt, "N.I.B." has stood the test of time and remains a Sabbath live staple for its subtler qualities.

Drink it all in, the gloomy atmosphere and the dark introspection, this is, after all, the world's first heavy metal record.

- Joel McIver, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

Recorded in a single 12-hour blurt, this lumbering debut conjured up a new, sludgy sound: the birth pains of heavy metal. The slide guitar on "Wizard" and the grungy boogie of "Wicked World" were wicked indeed, and the title track was so evil it scared the band itself.

Black Sabbath was chosen as the 355th greatest album of all time in a Rolling Stone magazine poll of artists, producers, critics and music industry figures in Oct. 2020.

- Rolling Stone, 10/20.

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