Just six months after they stunned the world with their eponymous debut, creating as many fans as detractors, Black Sabbath returned in the studio to record their second album, tentatively called “War Pigs”. Now, everybody and his grandmother knows how the record company shat its pants at the idea of the record title and its clear implication of Vietnam war and how it was changed to “Paranoid” the last minute; everybody and his grandsister knows how the title track was written within almost half an hour in the studio, during the recording process, because the band didn’t have enough songs to fill the record and how it became their first smash hit; everybody and his grandbrother knows how whole sub-genres of metal have been grown out of variations of the iconic “Iron Man” riff –you know, the one that goesGRAAN–GRAAN–GRAN–GRAN–GRAN–GRANA–GRANA–GRAANA–GRAN–GRAN–GRAN, yeah, that one, sure thing, a phunky-ass riff, if there ever was one- and how “Fairies Wear Boots” is about some skinheads jumping the band, or Ozzy only, or someone else, ‘cause I’m still taking them damned drugs and my memory is a bit fuzzy…
Anyway, I KNOW that you know all these things and, most probably, a whole lot of other stuff ‘bout “Paranoid”, like when Ozzy took a dump between takes of certain songs, or what kind of cigarettes Geezer smoked, or what girl sucked Bill’s cock during an interval of the recording… I know that you probably know a WHOLE SHITLOAD of interesting or less interesting info about this record. Fuck, it’s a goddamn CLASSIC! Even wimps and pussy-asses know “Paranoid”. Even fucking music journalists accept its status and grudgingly acknowledge the whole arsenal of stylistic devices that Black Sabbath utilized here and which remain almost unchanged for heavy metal through the whole forty years that have passed since its release. So, since everybody knows all this stuff, what I’m gonna do here is try and tell you things that you subconsciously know about “Paranoid”, but, up till know, you haven’t given them the proper and deserved attention, lazy fucks that you are.
9,5. The band here slowly but surely sheds its blues influences, creating its own unique sound and what would later be called heavy metal. In all actuality, what the music sounds here the most is like a cross-breeding of Cream’s heavy jams, psychedelia with a twist and proto-progressive rock, all passed through excessively heavy distortion and amplification. There’s still some blues to be found, fer sho, but they’re totally slathered with the bands ambitious forays into long, multi-part songs and the all-around heaviness that permeates the record. If truth be told, there are three kinds of songs –plus a “fluke”- in this record: you gots your ravers (“Paranoid”), you gots your metal-prog-psychedelia (“War Pigs”, “Fairies Wear Boots” “Rat Salad”), you gots your heavy as fuck proto-doom (“Iron Man”, “Electric Funeral”, “Hand Of Doom”) and you gots your fluke; the surprisingly delicate, acoustic hippie ballad “Planet Caravan”.
So, songwriting-wise, you gots lotsa variation. Sound wise, though, this is as far removed from the murky satanic blues of the first record, as Liverpool F.C. is –currently speaking- of winning the Premier League championship; that is, way too far. For one, the heaviness is less oppressive and more aggressive here; the guitars, bass and drums combo doesn’t suffocate, instead it just seems to bludgeon the listener to submission. Also, the songs, even though pretty long, never meander and never sound as if the band’s just jamming. It might sound like a paradox –I mean “War Pigs” is almost 8 minutes long and “Hand Of Doom” is 7 minutes long and “Fairies…” 6-and-change minutes long-, but to me the song writing here seems more focused and, well, concise, without a single note sounding out of place. Thirdly, and most importantly, the band sounds more tight and confident: Ozzy moves from lower to upper-register singing fearlessly, Tony’s riffs are more unique and, even when the band swings –as on “Fairies…” which is my total highlight here, it does it in way that’s all of its own, full of aggression and Domination.
9,5. Obviously, the band had more money in its disposal this time and the results are pretty impressive. The sound is crisp and clear with great separation when needed and wondrous saturation –the “wall of sound” effect- when deciding to show puny humans what this “heavy” is all about. Also, everything sounds as organic as possible, without superfluous overdubs and/or effects, as if the band entered the studio, plugged in, Rodger Bain hit “record” and everything was go. Great, great production.
9,5. It’s Tony Iommi. He can do the slow. He can do the fast. He can do the mid-paced. He can do the impossibly heavy. He can solo evocatively and coherently. He can riff like god. He can play the piano and the flute. He can walk on water. He can do yo momma. Fuck, it’s Tony fuckin’ Iommi, man. Do you need to know anything else? And, if you do, how can you be so fucking dumb?
8. Ozzy’s voice became, within six months, more upper-register than in the first record. His confidence grew in leaps and bounds. His personality clearly stamps every fucking song here, virtually blowing whatever competition there was outta the water. So, yeah, Dio was a better singer, but Ozzy’s soulful and manic performance here is something to behold and hold in awe.
9,5. Oh, Geezer, when will they ever learn? When will they ever understand your importance? When will they comprehend the role you played in making this group of songs sound so motherfucking groovy and heavy? When will they ever admit that you were and still are the rock upon which Sabbath built their heavosity? I know that you don’t give a flying fuck, but, hey, I want you to know that I know, okay?
9,5. When was the last time that you’ve heard a drummer so versatile, so powerful, so heavy, so playful, so groovy, so metal? Bill’s here to show the ignoramuses all around how the heavy is done.
8,5. “I need someone to show me the things in life that I can’t find/I can’t see the things that make true happiness, I must be blind”. And “Your mind is full of pleasure/Your body’s looking ill/To you it’s shallow leisure/So drop the acid pill, don’t stop to think now”. Simplistic? Yeah. To the point? Fer sho. Poetry? No. Black Sabbath to the bone? Damn right.
6. I don’t really like it, even though I can acknowledge it as one of the most iconic heavy metal record covers ever.
4. No logo, just the band’s name in a ‘70s “giallo” font.
Got the vinyl for that one, too.
If you don’t own and worship “Paranoid” you just don’t know metal. Period.