Black Sabbath’s debut LP turned 50 years old in February 2020. The band did not release an expensive box set to mark the occasion (they left that for the October anniversary of ‘Paranoid’, where the 5LP reissue was prohibitively expensive and the CD box set was just a quick repackaging of the 40th anniversary edition). There wasn’t even a notable vinyl reissue of the seminal debut recording – but to be fair, as welcomed as that would have been, no vinyl pressings sound anywhere near as good as the original Vertigo spiral label edition. Instead, fans and press were invited in limited numbers to go to a pre-arranged location in London and listen to the album in pitch darkness.
Rock fans and critics have long debated over what constituted “the birth of heavy metal”. Some will claim its roots stem from Dave Davies’s brilliant power chords on those early Kinks singles. Others suggest that the musical genre began to take shape at the end of 1966 when Jimi Hendrix pushed the boundaries and experimented with the sounds an electric guitar could make. Perhaps metal’s origins lie with Deep Purple, as they took 60s beat group and psychedelic sounds into a much more intense direction…? The speed and power could even derive from ‘Communication Breakdown’ from Led Zeppelin’s 1969 debut LP. Although Zeppelin have always been keen to distance themselves from the leather trousered, heavier sounds which came later, there’s an obvious root there.
On February 13th 1970, an album was released that would change the world. Black Sabbath’s self-titled debut album was without question one of the heaviest things the world had heard at the start of a new era for rock music.