For Those About To Doom, We Question You ……….. Get In The Ring Part One   16 comments

Ed, our honorable editor, had a really great idea, so here is our first installment in a series where we want to inspire debate regarding doom, stoner, heavy psych and the likes. Apart from the reviews, interviews and news updates, it’s always nice to run discussions. So please, let us know what you think!
 When laymen friends, uninitiated to the secret depths of the mighty riff, listen to doom metal, stoner etcetera, one thing they won’t fail to point out is: wow, this is very similar to Black Sabbath! Everybody knows Black Sabbath of course, and a comparison of stoner music and Sabbath can be a fine starting point for a discussion. However, for a lot of people, Black Sabbath is no more than ‘Black Sabbath’, the band: a rowdy, heavy rock band with nothing more to offer than what you see and hear on a surface level.
 So, to what extent can a whole genre be pigeonholed to offspring of different Sabbathians (Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Coven, Black Widow, Atomic Rooster, etcetera) and is this really a fruitful starting point? This is of course also a question about doom music’s history. Do we really do doom & stoner any justice when we reduce a whole genre to a couple of Gods? Or is there really one common denominator? Did Black Sabbath survive as the fittest in the primordial swamp of rock, metal and heavy psychedelics in the late sixties, early seventies where it came from? And is doom maybe the pinnacle of Sabbath’s creation? ( Sandrijn van den Oever )

The debate over Black Sabbath’s role in Heavy Metal is of course old news, message boards all over the internet are still filled with these discussions. There is no doubting that along with Judas Priest they are the single most important metal act to emerge from the 70’s in terms of influence but their influence on Doom Metal is even more profound. Doom Metal is the oldest surviving style of Metal after Iommi made the use of vibrato, tritone or what some people call “diabolus in musica” fashionable in 1970. This in conjunction with down-tuned guitar, slow tempos, pessimistic lyrics and very dark atmosphere, they were totally unique within the framework of the hippified early 70’s who were still coming to grips with the realization that the hippie dream was never going to become reality.

The Sabbathian role in Doom Metal didn’t become an essential element till Doom finally became more popular in the later part of the 80’s and early 90’s because before then there was only a mere handful of doom bands but even those were mostly Sabbath clones ( Witchfinder General, Trouble ). These days all the more popular sub-genres of Doom ( Traditional, Epic, Stoner and Funeral Doom ) all look to Sabbath for inspiration and in a lot of cases simply rework the Sabbath riffs. Sometimes I wonder if Doom Metal would even exist without Iommi, Butler, Osbourne & Ward, I doubt it but if it did it would have been most likely invented 20 years later and therefore wouldn’t have the rich heritage it has now. Is Sabbathism a kind of Doom Metal religion or as Sandrijn already pointed out, are we simply desperate to pigeon hole bands and thus stifling their creative juices? Furthermore is it down to limited technical musical abilities that bands follow the Sabbath blueprint of doom to the letter or were Black Sabbath really JUST THAT GOOD? ( Ed Barnard )

Oh no no, please God help me


Posted October 1, 2010 by doommantia in Black Sabbath

16 responses to “For Those About To Doom, We Question You ……….. Get In The Ring Part One

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  1. I think they were really that good but also ripped off to death, I think I have heard the Iron Man and Into The Void riffs copied doom bands at least 50 times, maybe sped up, slowed down or with a couple of extra notes added but basically it those riffs. Its also interesting that only Sabbath could spawn terms like Sabbathism and Sabbathian, it is like a religion. Great article.

  2. i think that people react to what life surrounds them with. and sometimes we are reactionary with a dark tone. whem it comes to rock, or modern music, sabbath just happened to be the ones that did it first. of course they liked scary stuff, black sabbath was a karloff flick. edgar allen poe wrote spooky dark stories. wagner was around way before sabbath…he was DOOM back then…so those 4 dudes that played the blues (and that right there says some thing too, the blues don't mean yer happy!)chose to play scary music, like making a scary movie, or story. with the invention of powerful amps, of course yer gonna crank the hell out of them to get yer point across!! and playing guitar as i do, there are certain things you have to do to get your translation of those dark feelings across. so it just happened those were the 4 dudes, pissed, and wanted everyone to GET what they had in their heads…they just happened to be first. and others before us…and now WE carry the torch!!! DOOM!! ~ dave k. ~YIDHRA~

  3. I agree with the post above but I also have to say the Sabbath reference used in reviews is overkill. Just because a band plays slow and heavy doesn't make them A Sabbath clone but reviewers dwell on it all the time. Just as many bands rip off Zeppelin but you don't hear that mentioned too often.

  4. Yeah I think you are right and I am guilty of it too, I will have to watch that more closely in the future. Its almost like there should be another sub-genre Sabbath doom, oh forgot that I don't want to give anyone any ideas. The last thing we need is yet another sub-genre!

  5. Haha, Sabbath Doom or Doom Doom 😛

    I always loved this quote by Al Cisneros:

    In Butler there`s a great refuge. In Ward we have safety. In Iommi we are provided solace. The clarity is provided in the first four releases.

  6. Considering the Sabbath sound was part pure luck and part necessary because of Iommi's hand injury ( the tuning down etc ) their story is truly amazing. Also funny that Iommi, Butler and Co listen to very little Metal themselves especially Doom Metal. Sabbath is a starting point for so many musicians as Iron Man etc are very easy riffs to learn and people say you always go back to your early influences so that is maybe one of the reasons they have had such an impact. Also Doom Metal is very limited to what you can do so the Sabbath comparisons will always come up if you are playing real slow riffs but I have also been thinking about the amount of bands that get the Sabbath “tag” and a lot of the time its just a lazy reference point. I personally have spoken to bands who don't even listen to Sabbath anymore but they still get compared to them in reviews. I think once those riffs are in your psyche you are stuck with them forever and they will come out in your playing no matter how hard you try to avoid it.

  7. I actually think there are very few bands today that are anything like early Black Sabbath (except perhaps for bands like Maligno and Orchid who sound very promising). It's such an easy reference to put in your bio/influences but just because your guitarist downtunes, your singer has a few 'depressive' lyrics and you play a few riffs doesn't mean you can compare yourselves to the originators of that sound.

    The original Sabbath line-up had the advantages of Bill Ward's knowledge of jazz and swing to give him an unmatched groove, Geezer's very organic sounding bass, imaginative runs and ability to write simple but direct-to-the-point lyrics, Tony's ingenious improvised sound due to his accident, his mastery of the Riff learnt from listening to his favourite jazz ensembles, his Clapton-inspired lead runs, and Ozzy's ability to fit the lyrics to the riffs with his own melodies, not to mention THAT wailing voice. I would also suggest that they weren't out to necessarily create a sinister atmosphere, it was just their reaction to the love and peace vibes of the hippies, amongst whom they felt out of place, being working class lads from Aston in the UK Midlands. They wanted to be a rock'n'roll band and get success like any other band but the 'doomy' sound was what their environment inspired in them.

    How many 'doom' bands starting out today have paid their dues in other forms of (not necessarliy rock) music before forming their present outfits? Most of them seem to me to be only interested in getting the most monstrously heavy downtuned sound/volume and playing as if they are on bad medication with impenetrable singing and lyrics. No swing, no groove, and ultimately no songs that you can remember. Transitory outfits that will most likely be forgotten in a few years because they never went out of their way to find their own sound. Take a look at the video of Sabbath playing in Paris in 1970 – they sound like a heavy jazz outfit underneath the riffage, and that was at the core of their sound, the groove, and I can't really hear any present doom outfit taking risks to make an album as 'progressive' as 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath'.

    Anyway, interesting conversation going on here – thanks for the space to offload some thoughts (great blog by the way).

  8. Thanks John,
    You summed it up better than I ever could, the points you raise are points that I raise in conversations all the time. Sabbath had a musical background in Jazz and Blues and that element comes through in their songs, this is something most modern doom bands lack. You never hear albums like Sabbath Bloody Sabbath being made these days. Most bands only take the most basic elements of the Sabbath sound and run with it, forgetting about all the rest.

    Geezer's lyrics are still unmatched in terms of vision and meaning. The worst is the endless stream of doom bands singing about getting high and making no real lyrics of any lasting quality. Again its another reason they are so idolized by the doom community and perhaps will always be the benchmark that bands will inspire to reach but few will achieve in their lifetime.

    Having said that I love a hell of a lot of modern doom but its still very rare to find a band with the grooves and progressive qualities of Sabbath. I am glad you mentioned Orchid because they are one band that has that potential, another is Noctum from Sweden.

  9. John M., great view on the matter!

  10. I used to think Sabbath was overrated till I got into Doom Metal, now I know how great they were and still are. Apart from a few songs, I really don't see them as being a Doom band but that just shows me how great songs like Black Sabbath, Into The Void and the like are as every band seems to be influenced those same few riffs.

  11. Sabbath were the architects of metal and doom, I can't imagine doom metal existing without them. Also Sabbath and maybe 2 or 3 others were the only 'real' metal in the 70's. Pentagram and most others were just hard rock bands, nothing more.

  12. I know a local band who whenever they stuck for a riff, they put on a Sabbath CD and they automatically find a riff to use lol.

  13. I knew a band years ago that would do that with Sabbath and Judas Priest. In fact once they ripped off the Priest song Starbreaker, change the lyrics to Lawbreaker and no one ever spotted it ha ha. They did the same thing almost with Iron Man, they used the same riff but played it at double time and again no one said anything. Its amazing what you can get away with, I hear Sabbath riffs in doom all the time. Its just different variations of the riffs but its still basically the same notes, chords etc.

  14. I guess this article is asking the question “Has the sabbath worship gone too far”? In my opinion to a point it has, how many ways can you reinvent the Master Of Reality riffs. Its been done to death, I would much rather hear a band going out of their way to avoid copying Sabbath than just another bunch of Iommi fanboys.

  15. Sorry, I'm late with my comment.
    I was an early teenager (I was 12 – how do you call it?) when I first heard Black Sabbath in the mid Seventies, just after the release of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. That album (in a tape) was my first encounter with that band.
    It was not the first “heavy band” I was hearing in my home environment, but they hooked me for life instantaneously and in a measure that I still remember the moments and the day in which I had found that tape and listened to it for the very first time.
    What hooked me in their way of playing was the ability of creating an atmosphere, particularly that sinister atmosphere that was rather new for most of the music of that period.
    My impression is that the ability of creating or evoking an atmosphere is not common to all skilled musicians. You don't need a full orchestra or extreme noise, etc to make it. And pure and perfect technique helps but is not enough.
    Well, as the previous comments pointed out, Black Sabbath surely developed a genre, either intentionally or casually, but I think they established a certain type of atmosphere in heavy music.
    As commented above, Black Sabbath were not playing that differently from other bands and were not playing that heavier (some of their tracks are definitely melodic). But I think they managed to add a spice to their sound and to interpret the dark side of the musical revolution taking place in that decade.
    Above I wrote that they “developed” a genre, because I'm not completely convinced that they invented doom from the scratch. What the vinyl vintage collectors have been posting in these last two years on various blogs devoted to the exploration of the 60's and 70's hints that there were several impressive, obscure proto-doom bands coeval with Black sabbath. So maybe Black Sabbath interpreted and fully developed something that was already in the air, and they, and we, were lucky because they became famous and the genre spread like a disease!
    And the sick vocals by Ozzy were perfect. He never sang well but his dissonant acid voice was just perfect.
    I guess also the choice of the band's name was well made: it sounds nasty and quite evoking and it fit with the coeval widespread making of horror movies.

  16. Thanks Mari, very well written. You should write something for this site as well. I love your work.

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