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Black Sabbath - "Classic Albums: Black Sabbath – Paranoid" (DVD)

Black Sabbath - "Classic Albums: Black Sabbath – Paranoid" DVD cover image

"Classic Albums: Black Sabbath – Paranoid" track listing:

1. Early Sabbath
2. War Pigs
3. Iron Man
4. Planet Caravan
5. Electric Funeral
6. Hand Of Doom
7. Fairies Wear Boots
8. Paranoid

Bonus Material
1. Musical Influences
2. 1st US Tour
3. No Returns
4. Play In A Day The Iommi Way
5. Did Give Up The Day Job
6. Paranoid
7. Geezer's Bargain Bassment
8. Rat Salad
9. Bill's Traps
10. Planet Caravan
11. The Backing Track Tapes

Reviewed by on July 20, 2010

"'Classic Albums: Black Sabbath - Paranoid' is a must for metal fans interested in learning how the genre came to be."

Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" is arguably the album that defined heavy metal. With its latest "Classic Albums" DVD, Eagle Rock Entertainment has created the definitive account of that album's creation. Whether you're a Sabbath fan, a heavy metal historian or just someone interested in how music is recorded and created, you'll find plenty to love here.

The DVD dispenses with the story of how the band formed, instead beginning with its transition from the 12-bar-blues band known as Earth, into Black Sabbath, following the writing of "Wicked World" and the track, "Black Sabbath." We also get a small look into the recording of Sabbath's self-titled debut album, and a listen to "N.I.B." and "Black Sabbath."

From there, it's a track-by-track look at the writing and recording of "Paranoid," with guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Terry "Geezer" Butler and drummer Bill Ward occasionally demonstrating how the parts were played, supplemented with interviews with them and singer Ozzy Osbourne. There are also interviews and segments with engineer Tom Allom, as well as comments from such heavy metal notables as Henry Rollins and Kerrang! Editor Phil Alexander.

One of the things I found particularly interesting was hearing Geezer Butler, who wrote most of the lyrics, discussing how much of the material on the album was influenced by the Vietnam war. On the obvious side, there's "War Pigs," with its "generals gathered in their masses just like witches at black masses." On the less obvious side, the anti-heroin warning "Hand Of Doom" was inspired by concerts Sabbath played for traumatized American soldiers who were at what Butler calls "a halfway house" in England, en route back to the States from Vietnam. Even "Iron Man," with its time-traveling killer, is partly inspired by Butler's concern for what was going to happen to the planet.

Tony Iommi's monster riffs are on full display here, with the camera providing plenty of closeups for those wanting to get a good look at how to play tracks like "Paranoid," "War Pigs" and "Electric Funeral." A particularly interesting tidbit delivered during the discussion of the "War Pigs" solo deals with Iommi making the choice to have his lowest string keep ringing out to add depth.

In recent years, Ozzy Osbourne has come under fire for his supposed lack of input during the songwriting process. Though Iommi and Butler both state that Butler wrote most of the words, they and Ward also credit Ozzy with coming up with most of the vocal melodies for the disc. Tom Allom also plays back early versions of "Paranoid" and "Planet Caravan," featuring Ozzy's guide vocals with totally different lyrics. In the discussion of "Iron Man," Ozzy flatly states that if he couldn't come up with anything better, he would just sing along with Iommi's riffs, a la, "Iron Man" and "Electric Funeral."

Though Ozzy and others heap praise on the Sabbath rhythm section throughout the disc, regrettably, drummer Bill Ward's featured track on the "Paranoid" album, the instrumental "Rat Salad," gets bumped into the bonus features, along with "Bill's Traps," which has Ward demonstrating some of the techniques he used on tracks like "Fairies Wear Boots" and "Hand Of Doom."

Another bonus section, "Geezer's Bargain Bassment," will give you an even greater appreciation of how integral Butler's bass parts are to the Sabbath sound, with a version of "Iron Man" that almost has funk tinges to it without Iommi's thunderous guitar line.

The "Musical Influences" section contained few surprises (the Beatles, Jack Bruce from Cream), though it was interesting that Iommi seemed to have picked instrumental acts (the Shadows and jazz great Django Reinhardt) as his primary influences.

Most of the take-it-or-leave-it stuff, like a discussion of Ozzy's job tuning car horns at a factory, and a Warner Bros. executive talking about how well Sabbath's early albums sold, is relegated to the bonus features, which is a good thing.

"Classic Albums: Black Sabbath - Paranoid" is a must for metal fans interested in learning how the genre came to be. More than that, though, it's an intriguing and entertaining portrait of how music is created and recorded that will appeal to fans across genres.

Highs: The main documentary is expertly filmed and edited, with thoroughly entertaining and informative interviews and performances.

Lows: There is some filler in the bonus materials, which you're not likely to watch more than once.

Bottom line: The album that defined metal gets a documentary worthy of its stature.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)