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Black Sabbath is a band from Birmingham, England, who are considered to be the pioneers of Heavy Metal (sharing credit with Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple), formed by singer John "Ozzy" Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Terrence "Geezer" Butler, and drummer Bill Ward.
They started out in 1968 as a blues band called "Earth" until changing their style to a darker tone. Apocryphally, this was the result of one of the band members seeing a queue for a horror film at a cinema and commenting how people pay to be scared.
Their first two albums, Black Sabbath and Paranoid (both released in 1970) brought them great popularity with songs like "Black Sabbath", "War Pigs", "Paranoid" and "Iron Man". Due to their darker style, they initially received no radio play, and Vertigo Records had to bribe radio stations to play "Iron Man", which scraped the US charts. Their next albums Master of Reality and Volume 4 spawned a new batch of classics such as "Sweet Leaf", "Children of the Grave", "Into the Void", "Supernaut" and "Snowblind". It wasn't until their fifth album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath that they finally got positive reviews from the mainstream media (even if critics have reversed themselves and retroactively praised the other four albums).
In 1979, Ozzy Osbourne was fired from the band as his increasingly erratic behavior rendered him generally unreliable. On the advice of the band's manager, Sharon Arden (who would later become Sharon Osbourne), the group recruited Ronnie James Dio, formerly of Heavy Mithril bands Elf and Rainbow, as their new lead singer. Dio's tenure lasted only three years, but he was generally regarded as a brilliant frontman in his own right, and his 1980 debut with the band Heaven and Hell is an all-time classic.
From 1982-1984, former Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan joined the Black Sabbath for the Born Again album and a tour that most notably included the DP song Smoke On The Water as part of the encore, an unusual move for Black Sabbath.
The band saw several line-up changes (including a reunion of the Dio-era lineup in 1991) until the original four reunited in 1997. As Ozzy again drifted away from the band in the mid-2000s to focus on his solo career and semi-retirement, the other members reunited with Dio and performed under the name Heaven and Hell, until Dio's death in 2010.
In the state of limbo the band was after Dio's death, the original lineup had confirmed its reunion, with a new album and a tour on the way, but Iommi's early stages of lymphoma had to halt all their summer tour dates as Black Sabbath except for Download Festival, with "Ozzy and Friends" performing most of the dates due to Iommi's condition.
In May of 2012 drummer Bill Ward broke from the band, citing contractual differences, leaving the band to perform its first show in Birmingham with Ozzy's current drummer Tommy Clufetos.
- Ozzy Osbourne - vocals, harmonica (1969-1979, 1997-2005, 2011-present)
- Tony Iommi - guitar, sometimes piano and flute (1969-present)
- Geezer Butler - bass (1969-1985, 1991-1994, 1997-present)
- Bill Ward - drums, occasional vocals (1969-1980, 1983, 1985, 1994, 1997-1998, 1999-2006, 2011-present)
- Ronnie James Dio - vocals (1979-1982, 1991-1992, 2007-2010)
- Vinny Appice - drums (1980-1982, 1991-1992, 1998-1999, 2007-2011)
- Tony Martin - vocals (1987-1991, 1993-1997)
(a complete list of bandmembers is here)
Albums (and notable songs)
Ozzy Osbourne era;
- February 1970 - Black Sabbath: "Black Sabbath", "The Wizard, "N.I.B."
- September 1970 - Paranoid: "Iron Man", "War Pigs", "Paranoid"
- July 1971 - Master of Reality: "Sweet Leaf", "Children of the Grave", "Into the Void"
- September 1972 - Volume 4: "Wheels of Confusion", "Snowblind", "Supernaut"
- December 1973 - Sabbath Bloody Sabbath: "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", "A National Acrobat"
- July 1975 - Sabotage: "Hole in the Sky", "Symptom of the Universe"
- September 1976 - Technical Ecstasy: "It's Alright"
- September 1978 - Never Say Die!: "Never Say Die", "Air Dance", "Johnny Blade"
Ronnie James Dio era;
- April 1980 - Heaven and Hell: "Neon Knights", "Heaven and Hell", "Children of the Sea"
- November 1981 - Mob Rules: "The Mob Rules", "Falling Off the Edge of the World", "Country Girl", "Turn Up the Night"
- 1992 - Dehumanizer: "Computer God", "Time Machine", "I"
- 2009 - The Devil You Know: "Bible Black" (as Heaven and Hell)
- 1983 - Born Again "Zero the Hero", "Disturbing the Priest"
- 1986 - Seventh Star: "Turn to Stone", "Seventh Star", "Angry Heart"
Tony Martin era
- 1987 - The Eternal Idol: "Lost Forever", "The Shining", "Glory Ride"
- 1989 - Headless Cross: "Call of the Wild", "Headless Cross", "When Death Calls"
- 1990 - Tyr: "The Law Maker", "Jerusalem", "Valhalla"
- 1994 - Cross Purposes: "Immaculate Deception", "Virtual Death", "Dying for Love"
- 1995 - Forbidden: "Can't Get Close Enough", "Shaking Off the Chains", "Sick and Tired", "Kiss Of Death"
Black Sabbath provides examples of the following tropes:
- After the End: "Electric Funeral" tells the story of the remnants of humanity struggling to survive after a nuclear war.
- Album Filler: "Paranoid" subverts this. Originally it was a quick filler Tony Iommi threw together for the album they wanted to call War Pigs. Then the company made them change the title. It ended as one of the band's (and, by extension, Heavy Metal's) anthems.
- Big No: At every verse end in "Black Sabbath", Ozzy tacks in one. While it creates an atmospheric effect, it's absolutely frightening in the song's video.
- Black Sheep Hit: "Paranoid", "Changes".
- Buried Alive: They have a song with the same title.
- Christian Rock: Averted. "After Forever", according to the band, was actually a song addressed to people who didn't 'get' the fact that their occult content was just a marketing ploy, rather than a stealth parody of Christian music.
- Chronological Album Title: Black Sabbath Vol. 4
- Crapsack World: Their first two or three albums, mostly.
- Darker and Edgier: The reason they received little radio play and were accused by Moral Guardians of being satanists.
- Despair Event Horizon: The subject of "Paranoid".
- Doom Metal: Often cited as the Ur Example, due to their slower, more brooding sound compared to other early metal bands.
- Drugs Are Bad: "Hand of Doom", "Killing Yourself to Live", "Snowblind". It really depends what drug we're talking about. It's well-known that Ozzy was stoned out of his mind while making Sabotage.
- Epic Rocking: Over the 8 minutes mark: "Warning", (10:32) "Wheels of Confusion", (8:00) "Megalomania", (9:40) and "The Writ". (8:10)
- Evil Laugh: On the opening of "Disturbing the Priest".
- For Doom the Bell Tolls: On "Black Sabbath".
- Fun with Acronyms: Subverted. "N.I.B." officially does not stand for anything, and was coined from Geezer Butler's assertion that Bill Ward's goatee looked like the nib of a fountain pen. It has since been declared by listeners to stand for "Nativity In Black". Comes in full circle, with the 1994 and 2000's Cover Albums being called "Nativity In Black, Vol. 1 and 2".
- The Grim Reaper: Featured on the cover of Forbidden.
- The cover of Dehumanizer has a robot grim reaper.
- Heavy Metal - Among its founding fathers, with far-reaching influences - the vocal intro to "Iron Man" is often cited as the first death-growl, "Black Sabbath" and/or "Into the Void" is considered to be the first doom metal song, and "Symptom of the Universe" has been called the first thrash metal song.
- Heavy Mithril: "The Wizard" is the Trope Maker, and "Children of the Sea" from Heaven and Hell is similarly classic.
- "I Am" Song: "I".
- I Thought That Was: "Iron Man" has nothing to do with the superhero. However, it's easily applied either way, right down to "Or if he moves will he fall?" This hasn't stopped the song from being used in played in The Movie's trailers and credits. The novelization of the first film states that, In-Universe, Tony Stark named himself after the song.
- Last Chorus Slow-Down: "Never Say Die".
- Love Redeems: "N.I.B." is a song about Satan falling in love and turning away from his evil ways.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Generally range from 5-7. They were the 10 for their day however.
- Nightmare Sequence: "Nightmare".
- Non-Appearing Title: Their most famous song, "Paranoid".
- Ode to Intoxication:
- "Sweet Leaf" is a pro-marijuana song, and opens with a loop of Tony Iommi coughing immediately after taking a hit. The band were on pretty much every drug throughout the early and mid-'70s; Iommi later stated he had once taken LSD every day for two and a half years straight during that time.
- "Snowblind" is about cocaine. Originally the plan was for Ozzy to scream "COCAINE!" between the verses to make it obvious, but Executive Meddling nixed that idea. It is still audibly whispered at about 0:41 into the song, and he continued to scream it when performed live. For what it's worth the band used quite a copious quantity of cocaine at this point in their career, the band thank "the great COKE-Cola Company" in the lyrics, and Geezer Butler had a sticker on his bass saying "Enjoy Co Caine" around that time.
- One-Letter Title: "I".
- Precision F-Strike: Featured on "Guilty as Hell".
- Protest Song: Too many to list.
- Punctuated for Emphasis: "I! AM! IRON MAN!"
- Rhyming with Itself: The first verse of "War Pigs" (Needless to say, as it's Ozzy singing, they pull it off):
Generals gathered in their masses
Just like witches at black masses
- Satan: The Devil is mentioned in several Black Sabbath songs. However, he is always portrayed as something to be feared and avoided (despite claims from some parental and religious groups that Black Sabbath's music promoted Satan worship).
- Self-Titled Album
- Stable Time Loop: The song "Iron Man" is about a person who travels through time "for the future of mankind" only to find that the world is destroyed in an apocalyptic event. Deciding to return to his present to warn the people of the coming disaster, he gets "trapped in a magnetic field" which turns his skin into metal. Thus, when he warns the people of the present, they are frightened by his appearance and too afraid to listen to him. Then, out of frustration that no one heeds his warnings about the forthcoming apocalypse, he causes the apocalypse.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: Several, including (from the first five albums alone) "Changes", "Planet Caravan", "Orchid", "Solitude", "Laguna Sunrise", and "Fluff".
- Take That:
- "Digital Bitch" from Born Again is thought to be about Sharon Osbourne.
- The "demon baby" on the cover of the album was also nicknamed "Aimee" within the band, after Ozzy & Sharon's daughter who was born right around the time the album was released.
- Three Chords and the Truth
- Trans Atlantic Equivalent: The band's style, lyrical content and preceived preoccupations were equated to those of American heavy goth-rock pioneers the Blue Oyster Cult. Aware that musical critics were directly comparing both bands, their managements bundled them together on a joint tour, dubbed The Black And Blue Tour. It was never repeated.
- Trope Codifier: For the entire Heavy Metal genre.
- Weird Moon: "Black Moon".
- Also mentioned in "Heaven and Hell", even though this is just Ronnie singing about Jedi Mind Tricks:
And they'll tell you black is really white
The moon is just the sun at night
- Word Salad Lyrics: Dominant from Volume 4 and onwards, likely a result of the band being on all sorts of drugs.
- Aerith and Bob: The original lineup. Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and ...Bill Ward.
- Animated Music Video: The Video for "Get a Grip" from Forbidden.
- The Band Minus the Face: The post-Ozzy years.
- Band Toon: Animated versions of the Sabs starred in a parody of this trope on TV Funhouse.
- Butt Monkey: Bill was this in the original lineup. Tony, in his book, admits to setting Bill's beard on fire more than once. Usually it sputtered out on its own in a couple seconds and didn't bother him. But once, ah... it didn't. They still picked on the poor guy, but Tony never again set fire to him.
- Determinator: Tony Iommi. First he loses 2 fingertips on his fretting hand- no big deal, melt down soap bottles to make fake ones and downtune your guitar (and create music history in the process). Then some 50 years later he gets lymphoma. No big deal, go back to England to continue treatment, ship your bandmates out there with you so you can still work on the album, and still plan to tour that summer. Badass incarnate right there.
- Disability Superpower: Tony Iommi's signature low-tuned guitar style, which almost every subsequent heavy metal band emulates, evolved as a result of him losing two fingertips in an industrial accident and struggling to find a way to play that wasn't unbearably painful, ultimately stringing his guitar with banjo strings and making himself a pair of prosthetic fingertips from melted-down soap bottles. (He was largely inspired by Django Reinhardt, who similarly adapted to playing guitar after two of his fingers were paralyzed.)
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: The original four- Ozzy is Sanguine, Geezer is Choleric, Tony is Melancholic, and Bill is Phlegmatic... usually. Ronnie James Dio was both Sanguine and Choleric.
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: The band took its name from a Boris Karloff movie from 1963.
- Handicapped Badass: Tony Iommi, who made the most of the loss of his fingertips by tuning down his guitar, and invented a whole new style in the process.
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Bill Ward and Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Ronnie James Dio, Geezer and Tony Iommi.
- Our Angels Are Different: The cover of Heaven and Hell shows a bunch of angels smoking and playing poker.
- Porn Stache: Tony and Geezer back in The Seventies.
- Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll: The guys in Black Sabbath did a lot of drugs back in the 1970s. Ozzy even claims that during the peak of Black Sabbath's popularity he did acid every day for over two years.
- The Southpaw: Tony Iommi.
- Springtime for Hitler: The album cover of Born Again was designed by Steve Joule, who deliberately tried to make it as distasteful as possible. He wanted to be rejected from the design commission, as he was also retained on a lucrative contract by Ozzy Osbourne's organisation for his sleeve designs. To Joule's horror and surprise, Iommi and Butler approved the image for the album.
- The Stoic: Tony Iommi. He spends most of his time focused purely on his instrument instead of showmanship. This is most obvious in some live videos with Ozzy, who would clap and cheer and jump around beside Tony, who simply stood there (occasionally adopting a power stance). His stage presence is much closer to that of a jazz player than a rock player, which fits given his roots. And all that while wearing a black leather trenchcoat under the hot lights. Must have Kool-Aid for blood.
- He's only stoic most of the time. Every now and then, he makes what musicians call guitar faces and what normal people call jizz-in-my-pants faces.
- Those Two Guys: Geezer and Bill tend to get overshadowed by Tony's guitar mastery despite his handicap and Ozzy's... everything.
- Unwilling Roboticisation: On the cover of aptly titled Dehumanizer.
- Ur Example: Although bands like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple paved the way, many people consider Black Sabbath to be the world's first true Heavy Metal band.