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Released: February 13, 1970

Rating: 4.300 (average of 5 ratings)

Genre: hard rock/metal

Quotable: “Lauded as perhaps the first true heavy metal album.” WK

Album Tracks (European edition):

  1. Black Sabbath
  2. The Wizard
  3. Behind the Wall of Sleep
  4. N.I.B.
  5. Evil Woman, Don’t Play Your Games with Me
  6. Sleeping Village
  7. Warning

Album Tracks (North American edition):

  1. Black Sabbath
  2. The Wizard
  3. Wasp/ Behind the Wall of Sleep/ Bassically/ N.I.B.
  4. Wicked World
  5. A Bit of Finger/ Sleeping Village/ Warning

Sales (in millions):

sales in U.S. only 1.0
sales in U.K. only - estimated --
sales in all of Europe as determined by IFPI – click here to go to their site. --
sales worldwide - estimated 1.0


peak on U.S. Billboard album chart 23
peak on U.K. album chart 8

Singles/Hit Songs:

  • Evil Woman, Don’t Play Your Games with Me (1/70) --

Notes: A 1996 reissue added “Wicked World” to the European version. A 2004 reissue added “Evil Woman” to the North American edition.


Rated one of the top 1000 albums of all time by Dave’s Music Database. Click to learn more.

Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath
“Lauded as perhaps the first true heavy metal album,” WK it was initially “widely panned by critics.” WK Rolling Stone critic Lester Bangs said, “despite the murky songtitles and some inane lyrics that sound like Vanilla Fudge paying doggerel tribute to Aleister Crowley, the album has nothing to do with spiritualism, the occult, or anything much except stiff recitations of Cream clichés.” WK The Village Voice critic Robert Christgau called it “the worst of the counterculture on a plastic platter.” WK

Certainly, Black Sabbath’s debut is “given over to lengthy songs and suite-like pieces where individual songs blur together and riffs pound away one after another, frequently under extended jams. There isn’t much variety in tempo, mood, or the band’s simple, blues-derived musical vocabulary, but that’s not the point.” SH In fact, it shouldn’t be much surprise that the album varies so little in tone. Guitarist Tony Iommi has said of the recording process that the band “just went in the studio and did it in a day; we played our live set and that was it. We actually thought a whole day was quite a long time.” WK

The result is that “Sabbath’s slowed-down, murky guitar rock bludgeons the listener in an almost hallucinatory fashion, reveling in its own dazed, druggy state of consciousness.” SH To its credit, “musically and lyrically the album was considered quite dark for the time.” WK Black Sabbath also manage to “make their obsessions with evil and black magic seem like more than just stereotypical heavy metal posturing because of the dim, suffocating musical atmosphere the band frames them in.” SH

“The apocalyptic title trackSH kicks things off with “gothic overtones” LF as “thunderstorms and foreboding church bells introduce Ozzy Osbourne’s howl and Tony Iommi’s sludgy guitar.” LF The song “is based almost entirely on a tritone interval played at slow tempo on the electric guitar.” WK Lyrically, it focuses on a “‘figure in black’ which bass player Geezer Butler claims to have seen after waking up from a nightmare.” WK

“The raucous defiling of Cream” LF on N.I.B. is injected with lyrics “written from the point of view of Lucifer,” WK enhancing the misconception that the title is an acronym for “Nativity in Black.” However, Iommi has said in interviews that it was just a reference to drummer Bill Ward’s goatee, which was shaped like a pen-nib. WK

“Lyrics of two other songs on the album were written about supernatural-themed stories. Behind the Wall of Sleep is a reference to the H. P. Lovecraft short story ‘Beyond the Wall of Sleep’, while The Wizard,” WK with its “blues-heavy riffs,” LF “was inspired by the character of Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings.” WK

“Both the songs Warning and Evil Woman are covers of blues songs, with lyrics regarding relationships. The first was written and performed by Aynsley Dunbar's Retaliation, and the second was written and performed by the band Crow.” WK

The North American edition of the album also included “the soon-to-be-famous chord-progression stylings” LF of Wasp and “the grunge-boogie of Wicked World.” LF However, that version of the album also squeezes “Behind the Wall of Sleep”, “N.I.B.”, Sleeping Village, and “Warning” into extended medleys instead of letting them stand on their own.

In the end, “there is too much wanking here to quality the collection as the must-have Black Sabbath record (that prize would have to go to Paranoid),” LF “but there are plenty of metal classics already here.” SH

Review Source(s):

Related DMDB Link(s):

Next Album: Paranoid (1970)

N.I.B. (live video)

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Last updated March 27, 2011.