How Doom Metal was born: 50 Years Of Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’

Released on this day half a century ago, find out what made the album such a staple for the metal community.

Today marks half a century since Black Sabbath released their monumental second album, Paranoid– but what was it that made the album so successful?

Recorded just four months after the release of Sabbath’s debut, self-titled album, Paranoid launched the band further into stardom and further helped pioneer the Metal genre; inspiring a new generation of musicians.

Although churned out remarkably quickly in comparison to most albums, Paranoid is still considered to be one of the greatest anti-war albums ever written- covering issues such as political injustice, mental health and substance abuse in the short space of just eight songs.

Whilst credited with pioneering Heavy Metal and creating the genre of Doom Metal, the album itself seemed to do something more than create a new sound- it reflected political issues in a way unseen since Bob Dylan’s prime. Sending shockwaves across the globe with its controversial message, it was the only album of Sabbath’s to reach number one on the UK Charts, up until the release of their 2013 album, 13.  

Wrongly aligned with satanism throughout their career, Sabbath withheld a lot more depth than many critics at the time gave them credit for; depth that was perfectly encompassed in this second release.

Openly despised by the Christian community and even accused of causing a young nurse to commit suicide, the chart-topping album unquestionably stood out from the masses of easy-listening that filled the music scene. Neglecting the sex-driven lyrics of bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath instead chose to speak out against the ongoing war in Vietnam- attacking figures of power and discussing what they considered to be the underlying corruption in society.

Their only ever Top 20 hit and reaching number 4 on the UK charts, ‘Paranoid’ was not intended to be the title of the album. Initially due to be named ‘War Pigs’, the album’s title was ultimately changed due to the controversy it was predicted to provoke regarding the Vietnam War. 

Whilst the band’s controversial political views are shown most famously in ‘War Pigs’, which openly speaks out against politicians exploiting individuals through war, little attention is paid to its progressive counterpart- ‘Hand of Doom’. A track filled with integrity and often overshadowed, the lyrics to ‘Hand of Doom’ shed light on the rising rate of suicide and drug abuse amongst distressed soldiers returning from war- a topic vastly ignored by the media at the time.

Not just war-orientated, Paranoid is highly praised as being ahead of its time, addressing issues of mental health- especially in men- at a time where it was considered taboo. For instance, ‘Iron Man’ tackled issues of isolation and loneliness, whereas ‘Paranoid’ centred around bassist, Geezer Butler’s struggle with depression and self-harm. 

Revealing his battle with mental health over the years, Butler confessed that ‘Paranoid’ intended to draw attention to the lack of discussion regarding mental health during the 1960s and 1970s; confessing that, without Black Sabbath, he would have attempted suicide.  

Tackling these controversial issues at the time, Paranoid brought a new definition of metal into the industry- addressing topics that others would shy away from and using new technology to capture a sound not yet heard before.

Opting for a more droning sound, the grainy, rustic effects captured in the album set Black Sabbath apart from every other artist in the industry. 

For instance, ‘Planet Caravan’ blended the unique sound of their debut album with the popular psychedelic genre of the time. Using Osbourne’s distorted vocals and Iommi’s droning tone, the genre of Doom Metal as born, paving the way for bands including Type O Negative and inspiring a cover from Pantera.

With the release of Paranoid, there is little doubt that Black Sabbath revolutionised the music industry as a whole for decades to come. Capturing the distinctive sound they generated in their debut album, the band expanded their horizons, incorporating influences from the Psychedelic genre with the political activism of Bob Dylan- ultimately becoming one of the most influential bands of all time.

From tackling controversial, taboo topics including war, drug abuse and mental health, to exploring new techniques of recording, Paranoid instantly became a once-in-a-lifetime album which reshaped the industry and laid the foundation for countless bands yet to come.

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