Saturday, May 26, 2012

Song #202 of 9999 - Sabbath Bloody Sabbath by Black Sabbath

Song #202 of 9999

Title: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Artist: Black Sabbath
Year: 1973
Album: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

I've always found Black Sabbath to be such a curious band. The title track to their 1973 release Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is a good example of why. Here's this fantastic heavy riff that opens the tune (supposedly the "riff that saved Black Sabbath"—more on that later), announcing one of the most demonic-sounding bands of the 1970s heavy metal scene, and then 40 seconds later, they're playing what sounds like smooth jazz. It's such an unusual juxtaposition but I find it endearing. American metal bands would never attempt such a thing because a) they wouldn't have the first clue about how to do it and b) good old American machismo would never allow them such liberties.

So apparently guitarist Tony Iommi was suffering a severe case of writer's block prior to the recording of this record and the band's substance abuse problems were mounting while they waited for him to work it out. So the band did the only logical thing: they rented a castle in Gloustershire and set up shop in the dungeons looking for inspiration. (Which apparently worked!) While the opening riff is the catchy hook, I really like the one that follows the guitar solo around 3:18. This sludgy riff, played with the lowest string tuned to C#, predates Mettalica by more than ten years but it seems like it would fit right in on Master of Puppets. My favorite thing about it is how the major third that ends the riff sounds so dissonant in contrast to the minor third it is built around. I may be getting a bit too technical for the style, but for a band that made their name by consistently emphasizing the tritone, I think it's worth mentioning.

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