DVD Review: Black Sabbath "Paranoid" (Classic Album)

DVD Review: Black Sabbath "Paranoid" (Classic Album)

All Access Review:  B+

A seismic shift occurs in Black Sabbath’s monolithic, sci-fi revenge fantasy “Iron Man” that few, outside of former Black Flag front man and spoken-word terrorist Henry Rollins, would ever notice. Swarmed under by Tony Iommi’s panzer division guitar riffs and Ozzy Osbourne’s freakishly sinister distorted vocals, the absolute brilliance of this little treasure often goes unnoticed, getting lost in a storm of gloomy power chords born of the factories of Sabbath’s home of Birmingham, England. Rollins, however, is amazed by this incredibly agile movement.

In the latest edition of Eagle Vision’s highly acclaimed “Classic Albums” series, a documentary that details the making of Sabbath’s archetypal heavy-metal LP, Paranoid, Rollins describes a slow, tantalizing descent in the bridge that shifts into a steep, sure-footed ascent that, according to Rollins, would “sprain” the brains of amateurs, and many professionals, who try to duplicate it. And he might be right.

Giving these small, but crucial, moments in a given work of genius their just due is part of what makes the “Classic Albums” series such vital companion pieces to transcendent albums like Paranoid and this one, in particular, goes to great lengths to make a case for the artist in question and the underappreciated musicality of Sabbath. Whether it’s sitting down with Iommi to dissect some of his most influential guitar parts or watching engineer Tony Allom replay tapes of Ozzy’s lyrical riffing over “Paranoid” in an attempt to refine the melody, this DVD offers incredible technical insight into how Sabbath constructed its undisputed masterpiece, even going so far as to explore the jazz influences of Iommi and drummer Bill Ward – namely, Django Reinhardt and Gene Krupa, respectively - and how they furtively plant these subtle trip wires to alert people to the fact that there’s something more at work here than just massive volume and power. Sabbath is out to blow your mind with how this fearsome foursome is in absolute control of its dynamics.

And lest you think it is all studio reconstruction and jargon that only a musician would understand, think again. As always, the makers of the “Classic Albums” series take pains to put Paranoid in its historical context and study the events in Sabbath’s life to that point that led up to the album that would provide a blueprint for heavy, and at times mind-bending (see the medicated psychedelia of “Planet Caravan”), rock. All four Sabbath members tell fascinating, and often very funny, stories about this heady time in their lives, and in-depth talks with bassist Geezer Butler and esteemed music writers explore the almost unbearable realism of the album’s lyrics and how Sabbath mirrored the madness of the times, especially Vietnam, as the dream of a hippie utopia died in a cruel, tortured fashion.

Again, “Classic Albums” has done what it set out to do, and in the process, it garners a little more respect for a band that was, at first, eviscerated by critics but in the end, has endured as one of hard rock’s most revered quartets. Maybe it ends a little abruptly, but that’s hardly reason to avoid picking this up.

- Peter Lindblad

Eagle Vision:  Black Sabbath:  "Paranoid" (Classic Album)

Be sure and check back in the coming week to read our interview with Bill Ward

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