This week paid in tribute to Black Sabbath has been a fulfilling one for me personally. My goal was to reach out to as many people as I could and have them join me in a celebration of the hallmark band of heavy metal. It is difficult to believe that four full decades have come and gone since the US release of the breakthrough album in Black Sabbath's legacy. "Paranoid" is and forever shall be a cornerstone of heavy metal's foundation, a critical piece in its history. The album contains all the themes we as fans look for from albums in the genre's apex: longing, fear, cynicism, adventure, death, spirit, resolve, dread and however quietly, subtly or tongue-in-cheek, hope. Hope that if we sing songs of warning about the worst case scenario, maybe it won't come to pass. Hope that there are always bigger and more awesome sights around the next corner of our lives.
The feeling of fulfillment doesn't come because fans, friends and the generous musicians and personalities arrayed below helped me make the Black Sabbath Tribute complete. Rather, it comes from the feeling that on some level, people were following this all week, and it got them thinking and talking about some of the best, most influential music composed in the modern era. Perhaps they shared this with their friends, or had a conversation about music that started with Black Sabbath and wandered on into the night. Maybe someone picked up a guitar or a bass and played a few lines from memory. Even if all this just made someone reach to their shelf of albums, or CD's, or digital files and pick a Sabbath album and just listen, then the Tribute was a success. On a personal level, the knowledge that I may have been able to get people talking or thinking about and listening to music is tremendously rewarding.
Before we get too far down the doe-eyed road though, it bears repeating in simple terms: "Paranoid," and by extension Black Sabbath, kicks serious ass. Which is really why we're here.
All week we have been remembering Black Sabbath for perhaps their greatest quality, which is the ability to write memorable, mold-shattering riffs. It has additionally been promised that persons of greater stature than me would help me pay tribute to the first archetype of heavy metal. I simply asked them one question: "What is your favorite Black Sabbath riff and why?" Without further delay, I step aside and am humbled to present the responses that follow:
"“Children Of The Grave!” I think everything about that song kicks ass, the riffs are simply monstrous. In my opinion it set the building blocks for what later on became heavy metal. The riffs on that song just grab you by the balls and take you on a trip you never want to come back from. I remember listening to this track off a burned CD a friend of mine gave me in high school. It really made a lasting impact on my musical influences and preferences to this day. It was amazing and ever since then I can never forget that song."
-JERRY GARCIA - Bassist & Backing Vocals,BONDED BY BLOOD
"Oh for me it has to be the main riff from “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath!” I remember hearing it for the first time and thinking it was the darkest thing I had ever heard! Just goes to show simplicity is the way forward to capture the right atmosphere."
-PAUL ALLENDER - Guitarist, CRADLE OF FILTH
"Although there are so many brilliant Black Sabbath riffs, I'm going to say “Into The Void” is my favorite Sabbath riff. This riff is simple but has the authority of 1000 bulldozers. A fantastic definition of not only Black Sabbath, but heavy metal in general. Tony Iommi will always be the reigning king of the ultimate heavy metal riff."
-JEFF DUNCAN – Guitarist, ARMORED SAINT, DC4
"“Children of the Grave” [from] 1971. It’s hard to believe “Master of Reality” has been around for 40 years and it is still dark, heavy and catchy as anything since. “Children of the Grave” has my all-time favorite Sabbath riffs. Everything from the drop tuned chug of the remarkably thrashy intro riff combined with all the epic and primal drum work is total class. This song is truly original and metal as all hell."
-JOHN LAUX – Guitarist, WARBRINGER
"I don't think I've let a celebratory event go by in the last five years without playing "Sabbra Cadabra" at least once. There's something so beautiful and triumphant in that riff, it's like what you'd expect a battalion of horns to be playing after some ancient Roman conquest. It's my go-to song for winning, but it's gotten to the point where even for small victories -- snow days off from work, a good lunch, etc. -- I'll put it on. I expect before long I'll just find an excuse to listen to it every day, which, now that I think about it, would make every day a win on its own."
-JJ KOCZAN - Editor, THE OBELISK
""Sign of the Southern Cross." [It’s] other-worldy and towering like Zeus handing down bolts of thunder from Mt. Olympus."
-ANDY PAUL - Singer, SCREAM ARENA
"“Electric Funeral.” To most, the cornerstone “doom metal” riff is the main riff in “Iron Man.” For me it is the opening riff of “Electric Funeral.” It is so massive in scale and downright dark that it feels like an entire planet has been tossed onto my shoulders. The prototype riff for hundreds of bands to follow."
-MIKE BROWNE - Senior Project Manager, TOTAL ASSAULT
"About 3:18 into "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,” Tony Iommi reaches into his bottomless bag o' riffs and finds a monstrous grumble. The frets go zero, zero, three, two, three, two, three, zero - slopping out Morse code from hell, then clanging into a major third on the fourth fret. In Chinese, the words for "four" and "death" sound alike. Iommi & co. slam into death's note over and over again. "Where can you run to?" "What more can you do?" Not a damn thing. We are pinned and helpless, "dying just for you.""
-COSMO LEE – Editor, INVISIBLE ORANGES
"Mine is the riff to “Electric Funeral.” It’s dark and menacing and used to scare the bejesus out of me when I was a kid."
-ANDY HAUGHT - Singer, ZEROKING
"Picking one Black Sabbath riff as your favorite is as impossible a task as picking one flavor of ice cream at Baskin Robbins. They’re all great! However, there is always a standout… “…Was an illusion!!!...” and then the coolest busy, then grinding, then busy again riff. The, in essence, chorus riff of ‘Wheels Of Confusion’ from Sabbath’s “Vol. 4” album blew me away the first time I heard it and still runs through my head daily, decades later. This riff is so strong it stands alone, sans vox, as the chorus of the song… pure musical hook, courtesy: Black F’n Sabbath!"
-SHANE DAY - Guitarist, ZEROKING
"When it comes down to picking your favorite song from a band, you usually can name a couple off the top of your head. However it is even more difficult to sit there and think of your favorite "riff." So here I'm torn between several albums to go through and several songs to pick apart, but really one song when it "kicks in" the energy just flows through me and I close my eyes and feel the flow of SABBATH coursing through my veins. So my favorite song and riff from Black Sabbath would have to be the very beginning of “War Pigs” where it's just instrumental, that right there is pure and true METAL! SABBATH FOREVER!"
-PAUL FIRST - Bassist, ZEROKING
"Ok so...asking what my favorite Sabbath riff is…is like asking what my favorite flavor of ice cream is…um...all of ‘em! But the one that got me when I was a wee lad was “Sweet Leaf”…man when you hear that cough from Ozzy you know that riff is coming and pow right in the kisser with rock/metal goodness that even makes a non-smoker like myself wanna make love to sweet sweet Mary! AMEN!"
-VEGAS NACY – Singer, SELFISH NEEDY CREATURES
"Everyone knows Black Sabbath for their monolithic, sludgy, doom-laden riffs; the ones that defined heavy metal. Rightly so, but there was much more to Sabbath than the dark image and even darker sound. Lost to casual listeners is the musicality of the musicians, and the innate sense of melody Tony Iommi was able to weave into his riffs. No other guitarist to play heavy metal has ever been able to write riffs that were songs in and of themselves. “Country Girl” is a great riff for two reasons. It remained heavier than anyone else without resorting to thundering the lowest power chords, and it couldn't be improved by the late, great Ronnie James Dio. If one of the greatest singers in history thought it was good enough to sing along with, it's good enough for me."
-CHRISTOPHER M. COLAVITO – Author, “UNEMOTION”
"“Rat Salad” has an awesome drum track in it. Big influence from it and “Paranoid” being the first song I learned on guitar!"
-CAS CAVALERA – Son of Max Cavalera
"“War Pigs” is the ultimate heavy metal song. That song holds the true building blocks that all metal songs are based on. Every section of it has a different type of metal and is true genius. The greatest thing about that song is how young they were when they wrote it and how raw and honest it is with true reckless abandon and conviction. I can't say enough about war pigs, and how much one song has had so much influence on me. ”War Pigs” is the greatest heavy metal song of all time."
-MATT DUNCAN - Bassist, DC4
"The entire “Technical Ecstasy” album…and I mean the album…keyboards, synths…and it was still evil....as all hell."
-GARY "GAZ" CHROSNIAK – Production Manager (Alice In Chains, Godsmack, et al)
Speaking for myself, I truly hope that everyone reading this has enjoyed this week as much as I have assembling it and talking with people about it. It has been an exciting week to say the least. I hope that this has taken those who know and remember Black Sabbath down memory lane, and I sincerely hope those memories are good. For those not familiar, I hope the Tribute has turned you on to a band that deserves your fanhood. Please feel absolutely free to spread the links to the parts of this tribute around and get people you know talking.
As a parting shot, for myself and for Bloody Good Horror, I would like to thank everyone who took a minute to hear what I had to say and decide to help me with this Tribute. All the promoters, managers, public relations people, musicians, personalities, bloggers and anyone I may have missed who helped this come together have my sincere gratitude. Your dedication, skill and generosity have not gone unnoticed. Special thanks to Greg A for providing me with such a capable starting point. This has all been a blast.