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definition - Black_Sabbath_(album)

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Black Sabbath (album)

Black Sabbath
Studio album by Black Sabbath
Released 13 February 1970 (1970-02-13)
Recorded November 1969[1]
Regent Sound Studios, London
Genre Heavy metal
Length 38:12
Label Vertigo
Producer Rodger Bain
Black Sabbath chronology
Black Sabbath
Singles from Black Sabbath
  1. "Evil Woman"
  2. "Black Sabbath"
  3. "N.I.B."
  4. "The Wizard"

Black Sabbath is the debut studio album by English heavy metal band Black Sabbath. Released on 13 February 1970 in the United Kingdom, and later on 1 June 1970 in the United States, the album reached number eight on the UK Albums Chart and has been categorized as the first major album to be credited with the development of the heavy metal genre.[2]



In August 1969 the band, who were then known as Earth, decided to change their name to Black Sabbath. This was because there was another band also known as Earth, and also as homage to the 1963 classic Mario Bava terror film starring Boris Karloff.[3] Around the same time they recorded and distributed a demo version of their eponymous song. In November 1969 they recorded their debut single, "Evil Woman", released in January 1970, and recorded and mixed the remaining seven songs that would appear on their debut album. According to guitarist Tony Iommi, "We just went in the studio and did it in a day, we played our live set and that was it. We actually thought a whole day was quite a long time, then off we went the next day to play for £20 in Switzerland."[4]

Iommi recalls recording live: "We thought 'We have two days to do it and one of the days is mixing.' So we played live. Ozzy was singing at the same time, we just put him in a separate booth and off we went. We never had a second run of most of the stuff."[5]

  Music and lyrics

Musically and lyrically the album was considered quite "dark" for the time. The first song on the album is based almost entirely on a tritone interval played at slow tempo on the electric guitar. The song's lyrics concern a "figure in black" which bass player Geezer Butler claims to have seen after waking up from a nightmare.

Similarly, the lyrics of the song "N.I.B." are written from the point of view of Lucifer. Contrary to popular belief, the name of that song is not an abbreviation for "Nativity in Black". Osbourne said in his autobiography that it is merely a reference to drummer Bill Ward's pointed goatee at the time, which was shaped as a pen-nib.[6]

Lyrics of two other songs on the album were written about mythical themed stories. "Behind the Wall of Sleep" is a reference to the H. P. Lovecraft short story Beyond the Wall of Sleep, while "The Wizard" was inspired by the character of Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings.[7] The latter includes harmonica performed by vocalist Ozzy Osbourne.

Both the songs "Warning" and "Evil Woman" are covers of blues rock songs, with lyrics regarding relationships. The first was written and performed by Aynsley Dunbar's Retaliation, and the second was written and performed by the band Crow.


The album cover features a depiction of Mapledurham Watermill, situated on the River Thames in Oxfordshire, England. Standing in front of the watermill is a figure dressed in black.[8] The silhouette of a raven is visible among the trees on the back cover. On the original release, the inner gate-fold sleeve featured an inverted cross with a poem written inside of it.[9] Allegedly, the band were upset when they discovered this, as it fueled allegations that they were Satanists or Occultists; however, in Osbourne's recent biography, "I Am Ozzy", he says that to the best of his knowledge nobody was upset with the inclusion. The album was not packaged with a gate-fold cover in the U.S.


Released on Friday the 13th February 1970 by Vertigo Records, Black Sabbath reached number eight on the UK Album Chart.[10] Following its US release in June 1970 by Warner Bros. Records, the album reached number 23 on the Billboard 200, where it remained for over a year, selling a million copies.[11][12]


The album has been credited for pioneering heavy metal,[2] stoner rock,[13] doom metal,[14] and goth.[15] In 1989, Kerrang! magazine listed the album at No. 31 among the "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time".[16] In 2003, the album was ranked number 241 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[17]

  Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[18]
Robert Christgau C−[19]
Rolling Stone unfavourable[20]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars[21]
Sputnikmusic 4.0/5[22]
Prog Archives 4.2/5 stars[18]
Ultimate Guitar 9.6/10 stars[18]

While the album was a commercial success and is now lauded as perhaps the first true heavy metal album,[2] upon its release it was widely panned by critics. In a review for Rolling Stone magazine, rock critic Lester Bangs felt Sabbath was "just like Cream! But worse." Bangs dismissed Black Sabbath as "a shuck—despite the murky songtitles and some inane lyrics that sound like Vanilla Fudge paying doggerel tribute to Aleister Crowley, the album has nothing to do with spiritualism, the occult, or anything much except stiff recitations of Cream clichés".[20] Robert Christgau wrote in The Village Voice that the album was "the worst of the counterculture on a plastic platter".[19]

With the passage of time, reviews have become more positive. Steve Huey, for example, wrote for Allmusic that "Sabbath's slowed-down, murky guitar rock bludgeons the listener in an almost hallucinatory fashion, reveling in its own dazed, druggy state of consciousness", commenting that the album featured "plenty of metal classics".[18] Mike Stagno of Sputnikmusic stated that "both fans of blues influenced hard rock and heavy metal of all sorts should find something they like on the album".[22]

  Track listing

All songs credited to Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward and Ozzy Osbourne, except "Evil Woman" (Larry Weigand, Dick Weigand and David Wagner) and "Warning" (Dunbar/Dmochowski/Hickling/Moorshead).

European edition
No. Title Length
1. "Black Sabbath"   6:20
2. "The Wizard"   4:24
3. "Behind the Wall of Sleep"   3:37
4. "N.I.B."   6:08
5. "Evil Woman" (Crow cover) 3:25
6. "Sleeping Village"   3:46
7. "Warning"   10:28
8. "Wicked World" (1996 reissue bonus track) 4:47
2009 Deluxe Edition disc two
No. Title Length
1. "Wicked World" (single b-side, TF1067) 4:44
2. "Black Sabbath" (studio out-take) 6:22
3. "Black Sabbath" (instrumental) 6:13
4. "The Wizard" (studio out-take) 4:46
5. "Behind the Wall of Sleep" (studio out-take) 3:41
6. "N.I.B." (instrumental) 6:08
7. "Evil Woman" (alternative version) 3:47
8. "Sleeping Village" (intro) 3:45
9. "The Warning" (part 1) 6:58
North American edition
No. Title Length
1. "Black Sabbath"   6:20
2. "The Wizard"   4:22
3. "Wasp/Behind the Wall of Sleep/Bassically/N.I.B."   9:44
4. "Wicked World"   4:47
5. "A Bit of Finger/Sleeping Village/Warning"   14:15
6. "Evil Woman" (2004 reissue bonus track) 3:25

Original North American Warner Bros. Records pressings of Black Sabbath quote incorrect running times for "Wicked World" and the "Warning" medley (4:30 and 14:32, respectively). These pressings also credit the album's original songs using the band members' given names: Anthony (actually Frank) Iommi, John Osbourne, Terence Butler, and William Ward.


Black Sabbath
Additional personnel

  Release history

Region Date Label Format Catalog
United Kingdom 13 February 1970 Vertigo LP VO 6
1992 Castle CD CA196
United States 1 June 1970 Warner Bros. LP 1871
1 July 1988 CD 2-1871
Europe remastered 2 July 2009 Sanctuary double CD 2700819

  See also


  1. ^ "Black Sabbath Biography | The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum". Rockhall.com. http://rockhall.com/inductees/black-sabbath/bio/. Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  2. ^ a b c Black Sabbath, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. 2007, 2007, http://www.rockhall.com/inductee/black-sabbath, retrieved 2008-04-29 
  3. ^ "Rock Band Name Origins at WHAT'S IN A NAME". Library.thinkquest.org. http://library.thinkquest.org/4626/rock.htm. Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  4. ^ Black, Johnny (14 March 2009), "Black celebration: the holy grail of Black Sabbath", Music Week, http://www.musicweek.com/story.asp?sectioncode=2&storycode=1037239, retrieved 13 November 2009 
  5. ^ Rosen 1996, p. 38
  6. ^ Osbourne, Ozzy; Chris Ayres (2009), I Am Ozzy, United Kingdom: Sphere, p. 86, ISBN [[Special:BookSources/9871847443465|9871847443465]] 
  7. ^ Neeley, Sir Wendell (April 2005), 20 Questions with Geezer Butler, Metal Sludge 26 April 2005, http://www.metalsludge.tv/home/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=256&Itemid=52, retrieved 2008-04-29 
  8. ^ Cope, Andrew L. (2010), Black Sabbath and the rise of heavy metal music, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., p. 34, ISBN 978-0-7546-6881-7, http://books.google.com/books?id=AfdTGdVhp7AC&pg=PA34, retrieved 26 October 2010 
  9. ^ Black Sabbath at Black Sabbath Online
  10. ^ "UK chart history - Black Sabbath Black Sabbath". www.chartstats.com. http://www.chartstats.com/release.php?release=36860. Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  11. ^ Ruhlmann, William, AMG Biography, Allmusic, http://www.allmusic.com/artist/p3693, retrieved 2008-02-14 
  12. ^ Rolling Stone Biography, RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/blacksabbath/biography, retrieved 2008-02-14 
  13. ^ Kolsterman, Chuck; Mlner, Greg; Pappademas, Alex (April 2003), "15 Most Influential Albums...", Spin, http://books.google.com/books?id=nCou4cnn-ZkC&pg=PA84&dq=soundgarden+stoner+rock&cd=5#v=onepage&q=soundgarden%20stoner%20rock&f=false 
  14. ^ Scaruffi, Piero (2003). A History of Rock Music 1951-2000, pg. 105. "Black Sabbath (2), a highly influential band, further deteriorated the degree of skills required for playing hard-rock, but their distorted and booming riffs, their monster grooves, their martial rhythms, their monotonous singing and their horror themes, that evoked the vision of a futuristic medieval universe, laid the foundations for black metal and doom-metal."
  15. ^ Baddeley 2002, pp. 263–4
  16. ^ Hotten, Jon (21 January 1989), "Black Sabbath 'Black Sabbath'", Kerrang!, 222, London, UK: Spotlight Publications Ltd. 
  17. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (201-300)", Rolling Stone, http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/5938174/the_rs_500_greatest_albums_of_all_time/3, retrieved 13 August 2009 
  18. ^ a b c d Huey, Steve. "Album review Black Sabbath". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/album/r1998. Retrieved 6 September 2009. 
  19. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "Review Black Sabbath". Robert Christgau. http://www.robertchristgau.com/get_album.php?id=6408. Retrieved 6 September 2009. 
  20. ^ a b Bangs, Lester (17 September 1970). "Album reviews Black Sabbath". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/albumreviews/black-sabbath-19700917. Retrieved 6 September 2009. 
  21. ^ "Black Sabbath: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/artists/black-sabbath/albumguide. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  22. ^ a b Stagno, Mike. "Review Black Sabbath". www.sputnikmusic.com. http://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/8742/Black-Sabbath-Black-Sabbath/. Retrieved 18 November 2011. 
  23. ^ "Black Sabbath (album) review". Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/500-greatest-albums-of-all-time-19691231/black-sabbath-black-sabbath-19691231. 


  • Rosen, Steven (1996), The Story of Black Sabbath: Wheels of Confusion, Castle Communications, ISBN 1-86074-149-5 
  • Christe, Ian (2003), Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal, HarperCollins, ISBN 978-0-380-81127-4 
  • Baddeley, Gavin (2002), Gothic Chic: A Connoisseur's Guide to Dark Culture, London: Plexus Publishing Limited, ISBN 0-85965-308-0 


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