Who invented metal? It’s a question that, if I’m honest, I’d never really bothered to ask myself… until today. It’s now been 47 years since Black Sabbath, arguably the grandaddies of heavy metal, released their eponymous debut album.
Over the years there has been some to-ing and fro-ing on whether it’s fair and just to give the English rockers all the credit. Rock was a pretty well-established genre at this point, but when exactly did this more sinister subset emerge? In the interest of balanced journalism, and in you having to make up your own damn mind, we thought we’d pull together an equal parts for and against on why Black Sabbath may have been the genesis of metal.
Were Black Sabbath really the forefathers of metal, heavy metal and everything in between? We take a look at Ozzy Osbourne’s nightmare band and how they shaped musical history.
Black Sabbath’s Black Sabbath came out on the sabbath – Friday 13, 1970 (get it? Black. Sabbath. Friday. 13. Things are always better when spelled out in minute detail). Prior to this record we’d heard glimmerings of metal, little teasers and appetite wetters from the likes of The Who, Led Zeppelin and even Jimi Hendrix.
They showed us the showmanship, emotion and intensity that could be communicated through their instruments; the frenetic energy of electric guitars and the blistering drum beats paired with monstrous vocals – they’re all things we’d experienced, in parts, before the 70’s kicked off.
When they first emerged, Sabbath fell under the umbrella of hard rock, a genre people knew and understood at the time, but this umbrella was spread thin. Bands crossed genres – rock, hard rock, psychedelic, blues – it was hard to pin one band to one brand of music, and that was kind of a beautiful thing, but the boys of Black Sabbath weren’t as confused on what they were trying to portray.
Their sound was loud, abrasive and completely unbridled. The disturbingly brutal vocals of Ozzy Osbourne and the power guitar riffings of Tony Ionni and Geezer Butler combined flawlessly with a neatly cultivated satanic aura and a completely lawless behaviour on and off stage *bites head off live bat*
Their music was stricken with otherworldly sound effects and lyrics so dark they sounded as though they could have brought forth Lucifer himself, but is that devil worshipping darkness so intrinsic to heavy metal?
If metal were an essay, and Black Sabbath had written it, there would have to be some footnotes.
The genre didn’t just emerge one Friday in 1970 with the release of their pivotal album, there were already inklings of it, you just have to plug in a quick Google search on metal to see that there are divisive chat room forums, articles and even a rather unhelpful Wikipedia page which all throw credit to Led Zeppelin, Blue Cheer, Iron Butterfly and Deep Purple for their contributions to the genre.
The fairly named Metal: A Headbangers Journey doco cites Blue Cheer’s 1968 single Summertime Blues as the birth-track of metal, and one even goes as far to say that it wasn’t until Judas Priest striped away all elements of blues in the mid-70’s that true heavy metal was born.
So there you have it, clear as mud. You’re welcome.