Don’t any of you goddamned heathens listen to Black Sabbath anymore? I was driving home late and happened upon “War Pigs” — a.k.a. one of their six salvos that still receives regular radio play. I got transfixed by the music, as always, and just took a second to ponder, Hey, isn’t that something? That’s impressive, right? This song I’ve heard at least 10,000 times in my life still has the power to captivate. Bill Ward — a.k.a. the reason jazz belongs in metal — brilliantly drives the tune, which you could listen to three times for every subtle instrumental bit between he, Geezer and Tony. Yet the reins are in Ozzy’s hands as he wails the words we all know by heart, and sing back live every time. If you don’t know the words (or worse, do know them and stay silent), kindly leave, learn and return.
Did the next band on ballsthewire102.3highvoltagerockballs measure up? No, Drowning Pool, you did not. So how come? Isn’t their name spooky and badass enough? Were they not on WWF Forceable Entry? Actually, I got it. You know what it is—really? Their name has a sense of finitude, and confusing finitude at that. A “drowning pool” always struck me as a thing with a purpose. Thus, a literal pool for drowning people. I don’t have or want or need one, so I can’t relate to the fucking band on that core level, you know what I mean? And speaking of names—regardless of merit, sometimes shit gets a little too nerdy (Spock’s Beard), hard to pronounce (Rwake), fanciful (Fairyland), pretentious (Thought Industry), or absurdly/overtly offensive (any of the 40+ Anal______ bands). So yeah… to coin the phrase just sung on my recent run through the discog: “Why should we even care?”. When you talk “black sabbath” — shoot, that could be conjuring demons, burying loved ones, attending Southern Baptist revivals, anything can happen. That has a sense of infinitiude. Also, isn’t the name satisfying to say? Those nice short A’s, the assonance, the fact that your face forces a smile; all equal awesome. But Drowning Pool sounds awfully close to ‘brown stool’, and actually, are there any good uses of the ‘-ool’ sound? Unless you’re Ghoul or Tool, it won’t work. Karnivool barely skates by, but I still feel silly when I name them aloud.
Whoa… okay, reel it back. Little tangental there.
I was gonna talk about the heavy Christian themes in Master of Reality, especially considering 2011 marks its 40-year anniversary, but Cosmo Lee beat me to it back in July. (Ps&btw, I was both psyched and intrigued that the one song he included was “Lord of This World” by Helmet, a band whose covers I have defended before.) MoR is part of the second Sabbath quadrant (you can group the Ozzy years in equal fourths—possibly more on that in the future); I am listening to the latter half of that quadrant, my favorite: Black Sabbath Vol. 4. By far the most diverse, it still maintains cohesion while never succumbing to grandiose trappings. I, however, will get a bit verbose. It includes (in order) stark stories of maturation; boisterous liberation; contemplative longing; tasteful sonic experiments; adventurous acid trips; pitiless remorse for addiction; disillusioning dissertations; Iommi’s finest, most complete instrumental; another take on relationships that encourages reconciliation; and the empowering, confrontational conclusion, with the heaviest riff on Vol.4, maybe even the heaviest of any Sabbath album. It’s not the best album to introduce the band (Black Sabbath, or especially Paranoid hold that distinction) but it’s the one that sticks strongest over the years.
Admittedly, this is more of a rant (note the new Category), and I intend to complete a proper analysis for the ‘Archetype‘ series. Here’s a link to We Sold Our Soul for Rock ‘n’ Roll, the best-of album that got the ball rolling for me, and really made me want to explore the back catalogue. I wonder if I take the band for granted, because I can’t imagine Metal without them, but the way some of the new kids sound, you wonder what has crept in and what stays on the sidelines. Well, I hope you goddamned heathens listen to Black Sabbath — because however much you like them now, they’re still more important than you give them credit for.