Black Sabbath is one of the best-known heavy metal bands to emerge from England in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Their legacy can be contributed to a number of factors, although the vocals of Ozzy Osbourne and those of his 1979 replacement Ronnie James Dio are certainly among the chief reasons for the band’s continued prominence as figureheads of rock and roll history. Heavy metal bands that emerged primarily during the 1980s, such as Iron Maiden, are often cited to have been strongly influenced by Sabbath and its various lineups.
Considering the band has worked for over fifty years, with just a brief hiatus from 2006 to 2011, it comes as no surprise that they have covered just about every theme that might apply to heavy metal. Like a fair amount of heavy metal music, their songs have covered dark themes such as death, violence, and the seven deadly sins. But they also have somewhat lighter numbers, focusing on beauty and the happier aspects of life. They also have songs that manage to evoke both light and dark themes, such as “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.”
Since the band’s major heyday was in the 1970s, it’s difficult not to compare them to other influential bands who performed around the same time. Many of these bands, such as Pink Floyd, were known for creating complex masterpieces that grew in scope as a person listened to them more and more. Bands often tried to change the tone of their music by employing more instruments, or changing from electric to acoustic guitar. Black Sabbath, on the other hand, attempted to create music with complex themes that arose from relative musical simplicity. They would do what they would with guitar, bass, drums and vocals, and that was where they left it.
No heavy metal band would be complete without guitar and vocals, and Sabbath had these locked down. No matter which era of Sabbath you listen to, either Ozzy or Dio has the voice to make the music soar above the competition. Tony Iommi, the band’s most consistent member, is arguably the greatest guitar player to grace the heavy metal scene in the 1970s. Of course, Black Sabbath didn’t get famous by neglecting their drums or their bass line, which were manned by Bill Ward and Geezer Butler, respectively. The two worked in tandem to ensure that each and every one of the band’s songs had the rhythm necessary to keep their fans rocking out constantly through every concert set. Butler also wrote many of the lyrics for which the band is known.
Black Sabbath has recorded a number of classic songs in their time, two of the most notable being the early hits “Iron Man” and “War Pigs.” While the band is most commonly referred to as a heavy metal band, they have occasionally been labeled as other genres such as progressive rock and acid rock. They were influenced by other major British bands of their time, such as the Beatles and Cream, although they most definitely developed their own stylistic approach to music and lyrics.
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