War Pigs, originally meant to be titled Walpurgis, is a takedown of politicians playing chess with young lives without getting their hands dirty themselves. When accusations of being in league with the Devil arose around the band’s image and the song’s ‘Satan laughing spreads his wings’ line, Geezer Butler’s attitude in response was, “Satan isn't a spiritual thing, it's warmongers. That's who the real Satanists are, all these people who are running the banks and the world and trying to get the working class to fight the wars for them.”
Even more chilling is Hand Of Doom. When Ozzy sings ‘Disillusioning, you push the needle in’, he’s talking about men returning from Vietnam who, having been drafted and sent to kill in a poorly-managed war in a country most couldn’t point to on a map, were dumped by the U.S. government. A number, damaged by their experiences, began using hard drugs like smack to deal with it.
Add the nuclear warning of Electric Funeral, and Paranoid is a record that went where others were not. For some, the message was loud and clear, for others, the absolute perfection of the music was all. And fairly enough. The stoned, acoustic strum of Planet Caravan is, after all, about little more than two souls flying through space together. Iron Man is a vessel for One Of The Greatest Riffs Of All Time. Rat Salad is an electrifying jam where Bill Ward, for that moment, is the best drummer on Earth.
But, atop their debut, Paranoid confirmed wholly that Sabbath were different than their peers. They were sinister, dark, evil, a reflection of what they saw around them, heavy in both volume and subject, threatening, challenging. But at the same time, Paranoid is magical, mystical, an occasionally hazy dream. But never do these contradict one another, never do they tangle. Fifty years on, Paranoid remains the perfect album by the perfect band.
Black Sabbath's new Paranoid: Super Deluxe Edition vinyl boxset is out October 9 via BMG.
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