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Black Sabbath at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas July 27, 2013

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Home » Features » Black Sabbath: Iron Men

Black Sabbath: Iron Men

As the pioneers of heavy metal, Black Sabbath pushed the boundaries of the expanding metal scene with their dark themed music and heavy riffs. Their self-titled debut album set the tone for the future of metal, laying the foundation for up and coming metal bands to develop their own expansive subgenres. From the New Wave of British Heavy Metal that brought bands like Iron Maiden to the forefront, to thrash metal’s mainstream appeal with Slayer and Metallica, Black Sabbath’s tree of influence reaches far and wide.

Sludge Metal

Derived from the influence of hardcore punk and doom metal, sludge metal justly deserves its moniker. While rough and gradual in its style, distortion is the genre’s signature sound. This was achieved unintentionally by guitarist Tony Iommi as a result of an accident that cut off the tips of his fingers. To make guitar playing easier on his hand, Iommi switched to lighter strings and down-tuned the guitar to lessen string tension. To stay in tune with Iommi’s guitar, bassist Geezer Butler reciprocated and the overall band sound became heavier and abrasive. This sound was most exemplified in their early work, notably the 1971 album “Masters of Reality.” When the band introduced sludge metal to the newborn metal scene, Black Sabbath made a profound impact on bands like Melvins, Black Tusk and Mastodon.

New Wave of British Heavy Metal

After Black Sabbath dominated the early 1970s with their first three albums “Black Sabbath,” “Paranoid” and “Masters of Reality,” their work inspired bands to expand on the foundation they built. Black Sabbath’s early work sparked a heavy metal revival in the late 1970s known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, commonly abbreviated as NWOBHM. Not to be confused with the pop-punk synthesized sound of New Wave or other genres of metal, NWOBHM is characterized by its fast-paced songs with a heavy use of power chords and lyrical influence from mythological and fantasy works in literature. Bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest,
Diamond Head and Saxon were at the forefront of NWOBHM. While these bands and their peers eventually evolved into their own metal genres following the years of NWOBHM’s dominance, they all owe an immense measure of gratitude to the influential power of Black Sabbath.

Thrash Metal 

A discussion about thrash metal cannot begin without mentioning the Big Four of thrash metal: Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax and Metallica. These four bands highlight a genre fast and aggressive in nature composed of rapid and low guitar riffs, and a common use of two bass drums to compliment thrash’s frenzied sound. Black Sabbath was a major force in launching thrash metal with the 1975 album “Sabotage.” The influential song “Symptom of the Universe” is cited as an early thrash metal favorite that inspired many of the genre’s aggressive characteristics.

With the entirety of metal’s subgenres and regionalized sounds, metal has come a long way since Black Sabbath’s self-eponymous album was released over 43 years ago. Through all of the world tours and masterwork albums heard by millions of fans over the years, Black Sabbath’s influence still lives strong today. With the release of their new album “13,” Black Sabbath has added yet another “awesomely doomy spectacle” to their esteemed catalog, as described by Will Hermes of Rolling Stone. This new album “shows that the genre Sabbath helped birth remains timeless.” Metal fans can truly appreciate that metal as it is known today would be impossible without Black Sabbath. In turn, Austin metal fans could appreciate these classic hits throughout the years thanks to KLBJ-FM, Austin’s leading heritage rock station. Together with their sponsors Blue Moon and South Point Nissan, KLBJ-FM will celebrate their 40th anniversary with the godfathers of heavy rock and metal. Don’t miss KLBJ-FM’s 40th anniversary with the original and greatest heavy metal band of all time when they take the Frank Erwin Center stage Saturday, July 27!

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