It’s easy nowadays to see Ozzy Osbourne as a faded reality star and a figure of fun, but if we’re to look at what put his name on the cultural map, his time in Black Sabbath, the picture very quickly changes. One of the most recognisable voices in rock history punctuating some of the best-loved songs in the metal genre, his eerie and imposing vocal style helped catapult Black Sabbath to massive success in the 1970s. The album under the microscope here is 1970’s “Paranoid.”
The opener ‘War Pigs’ is the perfect curtain raiser for the LP, Osbourne’s signature vocals crying over these deep, powerful guitar chords. Followed by ‘Paranoid’, Sabbath’s best-known song. Guitarist Tony Iommi’s iconic riff introduces the track, which is an indication of why Sabbath had so much popular appeal. Like Metallica who came after them, their knack for combining an authentic metal sound with melodies that the masses would gravitate towards has hardly been matched to such a degree since.
‘Iron Man,’ which closes the first side, is another shining example of this, the riff in this song so instantly recognisable. Side two opens with ‘Electric Funeral,’ a hazy number before the explosive ‘Hand of Doom,’ a sign of the power of Sabbath’s rhythm section, the combination of bass and drums on this track is just top drawer. ‘Fairies Wear Boots’ closes things off, a sonic kaleidoscope of everything preceding it on the record. Despite only being 41 minutes and 8 songs, it feels like you’ve listened to something as comprehensive as an album twice that length.
“Paranoid” is one of those great albums that has such huge crossover appeal, but that doesn’t detract from its supreme quality. Its popularity comes from the fact that it’s a brilliant album. There are so many facets to what made Black Sabbath great, all of which are on display in this album.