The Mosh Pit 2.05.10: The History Of Metal - 1971
Posted by Dan Haggerty on 02.05.2010
In our ongoing look at the history of metal, this week we witness the arrival of Alice Cooper and the live show that changed music forever. Plus we have reviews of classic albums from Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Budgie, and one of rock and rolls highest selling albums of all time: Led Zeppelin’s IV. All of this and more as we look at the year that was 1971!
We've looked at how heavy metal slowly came from the rock and roll culture of the 60's and the bands that gave us the first albums in 1970. So that is pretty much it until Judas Priest, right?
There is a lot going on and plenty of great music to cover. From the bands that would inspire the golden era of metal in the 80's, to the first guitar shred, to the duel leads that metal would become known, to the great names that would inspire the shooting match still to come.
Take 1971 for instance. This year is one that flies under the radar yet it is the one that metal started taking its steps towards a cultural phenomena. Black Sabbath might have broken rock and roll's neck, but Alice Cooper would be the one to take its corpse on tour and display it to a new generation of kids.
But first, the head bangers union!
DUDE, how the hell can you exclude Judas Priest's Stained Class from that top 5 list? JUDAS FUCKING PRIEST. I'm shocked and convinced you really have no in-depth knowledge of metal at all. ~ Posted By: WhatAreYouThinking?!
Actually, I'm shocked and embarrassed to not now this. Since I'm working the Judas Priest section that is going to come soon, I guess I better adjust the Priest timeline accordingly:
1970: Downing and Hill form Judas Priest when the same band breaks up (and they pick up that band's singer Atkins)
1971: Judas Priest releases their fourth studio album: Stained Class
1973: Rob Halford is with one of his early bands called Hiroshima
1973: Glen Tipton's first band The Flying Hat Band records a demo and an unreleased studio album
1974: Judas Priest needs a new singer and hires Halford while the label wants another musician so they also hire Tipton
1974: Judas Priest releases their debut Rocka Rolla
And know we know (and knowing is half the battle).
Once again, great reading mate. Keep rumbling. Yes we've all listened to Paranoid over and over again, but bloody hell...it's worth it! And to the comments section, Stained Class was released in '78 not '70. Judas Priest's first album Rocka Rolla was released only in 1974. ~ Posted By: Cyber
Yea, the problem is that the songs have been shoved down my throat for 30 plus years. But pound for pound, the album still rules even if I return to it in wide circles. Plus the deep cuts still rock as well!
-Great column, cant wait for next week! ~ Posted By: DHX
*thumbs up* ~ Posted By: The 8th Samurai
That is why the teaser is there! Thanks guys and I hope you continue to enjoy the ride.
1. The definition of what is metal will change for each decade as the genre has evolved slowly over 40 years. What was considered heavy in the 70's is vastly different than what we consider heavy today.
2. If a group qualifies under rule one then their entire catalog is fair game.
3. There is a TON of history, information, and bands 40+years of music history. Not if, but when I don't cover something that you think should be covered drop me an email or hit the comment section.
4. I'm doing a decade recap every ten weeks – To add in things you and I think of after the fact.
5. Have fun. I'm doing this because I love this stuff, and I hope your reading it for the same reason.
The History Of Metal: 1971
With a lot of noise a new disenfranchised generation of musicians unleashing hard rock onto the soundscape of the late 60's, from there it would finally get retooled under the guidance of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple in 1970. Heavy metal itself was born, but it was rough and without definition. Other bands would hit with a song or two, but most just found ways to take rock and the blues (and psychedelic rock) into louder and lower places. However you cut it though, things changed in 1970 as a portion of the rock and roll river got diverted through Death Valley.
As we move into 1971, we find many of the bands backing off from the path they just found. One would continue to make heavy as hell music, some new bands inspired by the albums we have talked about formed to begin their journey into the 70's, and one band would take the idea of heavy metal to heart and splatter it live to an unsuspecting American audience.
"We Play Rock And Roll"
Heavy metal, which as a term was not widely bandied about at this time, was a name bands actually avoided. Sabbath didn't acknowledge the name and just considered themselves hard rock or a heavy rock and roll band. Deep Purple was emphatic against the idea of being a metal band when asked in an interview, and simply said they were a tough rock band that played what they wanted. Blackmore cringed from being typecast that way, considering the idea demeaning for any technical or classically trained musician.
And before we hate on people for thinking that, which is no different than any metal fan will hear today despite the fact thrash or death bands do more in one minute than most bands do in an entire song, it is important to remember that the idea of metal was still forming. It was only a year old and people really didn't know or understand what was getting unleashed. Black Sabbath was widely regarded as a fad of all things that would pass and may people thought it had done just that by the mid 70's when punk hit the scene.
Metal is, depending on who you ask, either the term derived from Steppenwolf's " classic "Born To Be Wild" or Iron Butterfly who named an album "Heavy". Although that was a hippie colloquialism for the dense psych they played, based on the common slang phrase "heavy man…", but the idea slowly stuck. Other suggestions as the origin exist as well, but those are the most popular.
Most importantly, while Deep Purple gave us the opus In Rock, in reality Black Sabbath's first two albums from 1970 had become the poster child of what heavy metal proper was. That was the image, and while we all can agree that is not a bad thing, in 1971 the reality was that was the only thing it could mean to people. A loud heavy music that was tied to a band and possibly a fad; and let's face it, "Black Sabbath" might be iconic and evil to this day but to a guitarist that riff structure was pretty basic. It would be like giving a Physics teacher basic math and telling him he was to make this more than its parts. It wouldn't fly, and to people like Blackmore, the idea of being associated with three note melodies, even if catchy on "Paranoid", wasn't something he wanted to be associated with. The man had a vast classical knowledge of music and wanted to be known for virtuosity with the axe as the legends that came from the same English underground music scene he did in the 60's.
Basically musicians looked at three notes and missed the forest for the trees.
And I'm picking on Blackmore, because his unbending reputation for excellence and song construction, this attitude for perfection would cause issues in various bands is well documented. Still love the man but the reality he is difficult because he wants to be the best, admirable if you're the fan hearing the great licks but less so if you're a band mate getting his chops busted for not nailing the part.
And this attitude really didn't start with the likes of Page or Blackmore, but was a perception which is tied critics who would on occasion joke that Toni Iommi "Only knows three notes". Obviously the critics were missing the forest for the tress here, but it is indicative of the critical panning the idea of metal was getting since it only had one band and a handful of songs to represent it. You expect the people at Rolling Stone Magazine to hate on metal since it improved upon, and then promptly ignored, all the 60's bands they continue to champion to this day. But when your top guitar slingers on the scene distance themselves from the form, or even criticize it, the idea will gain traction.
In the long run, this was healthy as bands like Deep Purple just did what they wanted, and without realizing it continued to improve rock, hard rock, and metal by virtue of the music that kept rolling out of the studio. Despite insisting on not being metal, the band was set to record the most memorable metal riff in history as well as set the stage of arena bands to soar with powerful leads, a blaze of mighty solos, and ripping melodies.
In 1971, after crossing the line with the metallic In Rock however, Deep Purple retreated some sonically with the lighter Fireball. Still a tough rock album with classics on it but it would also see the infusion of more rock and folky elements including a country song(?). Uriah Heep would also do the same thing, releasing two albums this year with the first, Salisbury, being less riff thump and a lot more pschedlic rock, the band embracing some prog revelations and 60's primary colors. Although they would return with the seminal Look At Yourself later that year but we'll get to that shortly. The important idea is that metal was something bands happened upon but briefly stepped back from, as if the evolution of music at this point was inevitable yet these bands where still products of the hard rock movement which became evident as they explored many directions with the open ended idea of music in the 70's.
Or maybe the vision they saw shell shocked them and they took a few brief steps back to reassess themselves, only Sabbath being brazen enough to embrace the vision they made.
Heavy metal was unleashed upon the world, but outside of a few albums it would continue to also be hard rock, loud rock, some diminishing psych as the decade moved forth, along with the emerging prog scene and basically pick up elements that where also going on at the time.
Outside of Black Sabbath, no one would come forward to really unify the sound for another five years into what we would think as definitive heavy metal and through these early years it shows in the music.
But the open ended idea of metal and hard rock would also produce some classics as well…
"Actually, They Scared Us"
That quote would come from Black Sabbath when the band was asked about the fans that would show up believing the devil worshiping image some associated with Sabbath. In atypical fashion, people listened to the horror bases songs of the band and had a knee jerk reaction to the lyrics without bothering to actually pay attention to what was being said. A problem Ozzy would have is his early solo career and actually a problem metal itself would continue to struggle with. Of course, by the 90's metal did itself no favors in this regard, but we'll get to Norway in about 20 years. Here, Black Sabbath was ground zero and to the band it didn't make any sense.
With a name live Black Sabbath honoring a supposed dark ritual and the song in question regarding the summoning of Satin himself, people actually thought the band was preaching the virtue of the devil. Here are the lyrics:
What is this that stands before me?
Figure in black which points at me
Turn 'round quick, and start to run
Find out I'm the chosen one
If you read the lyrics, it becomes obvious that the band wasn't glorifying the idea of Satan but basically predicting Ozzy's future marriage to Sharon.
Ahem. Sorry, couldn't resist.
Actually, the band is in full horror story mode portraying such an evil ritual but showing it to be bad, much like a slasher film not objectifying the violence but trying to scare someone through the drama and vivid imagery. The song N.I.B would also be a target for calling out Lucifer by name, another silly thing because you would think good Christian folk would actually champion a song that is in reality about Satan redeeming himself and becoming a good person by virtue of falling in love with a mortal women.
But despite reality Sabbath was starting to get people actually showing up in dark outfits and preaching devil worship. The band was actually scared of these people, and after a threat from a zealous fan to curse them when they told him it was just a show, they started to change up the lyrics more and ware the crosses you see in many pictures. Iommi's father actually made them for the whole band and the guys wore them just in case the freaky people would send something wicked their way.
By 1971, the band continued to pursue this lyrical style but did it in a more subdued and poetic way. Here are the lyrics to "Lord of this World":
Your world was made for you by someone above
but you chose evil ways instead of love.
You made me master of the world where you exist
the soul I took from you was not even missed.
So the band is using the same imagery to paint the same picture, in this case the world was given to each person by a force of good and basically we've fucked it up. Satan is there but not mentioned by name but no mistaking the intent. He is the symbol for man's corruption.
This would be a split in style that would continue through metal for years to come. Some bands would play with the satanic imagery to make a point (or just make a lot of noise), others would take the ideas without the imagery and just go straight to the issues. And in ten years, one band will open the idea of taking Sabbath to the next step by going back to hell and glorifying the issue.
Thus you have the full lyrical range metal would eventually have in dealing with its subject matter. From serious to symbol to issue oriented tales.
The Villains of Rock And Roll
A group called Alice Cooper comprising Vincent Furnier on vocals & harmonica, Glen Buxton on lead guitar, Michael Bruce on rhythm guitar & keyboards, Dennis Dunaway on bass, and Neal Smith on drums would get heir start in 1969 but would struggle until 1971 to enter the lexicon of rock and roll. And for the record Vincent would be the singers real name, for a number of years he would be surprised when people would call him Alice simply because that was the name of the band. It wasn't until 1975, when he assumed control of the band as the only original member, that he would took the name for himself.
But for now, the young group of troubadours was Alice Cooper the band and they were trudging through a fairly indifferent LA music scene that "didn't get them". But with the backing of Frank Zappa and his private label, the band took their caustic psychedelic rock and roll forward, slowly honing their craft. They had the "privilege" of opening for Pink Floyd's first tour of the States, watching Sid melt down on stage. Another band they hooked up with in the slum house they scrapped by in was GTO who gave the band their image by getting smashed with the guys and playing dress up along with make up. This would stick with Vincent because he saw the potential of really stirring up controversy by playing a questionably gendered spectacle on stage. We can thank the film Barbarella and Anita Pallenberg who played the roll of the Great Tyrant with those bladed gloves for giving Vinvent the idea of Alice Cooper as front man. After seeing her in that cult film the man knew how he wanted to look on stage.
Soon the guys had an image for having a front man that was androgynous, quite the taboo for the end of the 60's. By the time they hit 1970 they moved to Detroit to "be in a music scene that would get us" and had fully embraced their image. The band, with its glamour look and make up would become the first rock band to really put forth the "glam look". This is in appearance as the music was still to come in a few years privilege of another band. Here, the guys had the look, but they where developing their rock into hard rock and preparing to take concerts to a whole new level.
By now, the band was starting to hone their live act into a ruckus of noise and theatrics, slowly putting together what we would soon be Alice Cooper live as we would know it. The band had two albums behind them and one left to go as Zappa's label was purchased by Warner. Frankly, the band's first two albums didn't show up on the radar. The guys only being casually known locally for their live antics, their inability to get over being the reason for moving to Detroit.
The label sent in veteran producer Bob Ezrin who would sharpen their sound in the studio. As 1971 came the band would release their third album Love It To Death. Backed by popular hit single (the first for the band), "I'm Eighteen", the guys finally made waves. Not only was the song a hit, but it resonated with people due to the continuing backlash against the draft.
The band realized they where onto something live, and decided to take their look and push the limits on entertaining people. When you went to an Alice Cooper show, you would go to see an event. The band took stock of themselves, their look and attitude, and promptly realized that they weren't going to outdo the rock heroes dominating the stage at the time. If they where going to go big time, they needed to embrace their look in a way to do it.
So they asked, "If rock and roll had heroes who were the bad guys?" Why did we need rock heroes?
Rock and roll was missing a real villain. So Alice Cooper took it upon themselves to develop the show that would make them the villains. They could touch on dark subjects like Sabbath, but more importantly use the live venue to take the idea and paint a vivid visual. Why sing about a serpent when you can just unleash one onstage, so we got the famous boa constrictor that would accompany the band.
If you ever get the chance, check out Alice Cooper's autobiography. The stories are damn funny, one being the snake getting lost in a hotels plumbing system for a week before emerging from a toilet that was unfortunately being used at the time.
Anyway, shock and horror were the themes of the day. Black Sabbath took the horror show concept into their songs; Alice Cooper recreated it on stage. Sabbath would sing about murder, Alice Cooper would kill someone on stage. Sabbath would sing about corruption so Cooper would show the corrupt on stage. Sci-fi tales? Check. Women gone bad? Check. And on and on.
By the time 1971 ended, the band would have two hit albums underneath them and gain a ton of notoriety for having the most outrageous live show that was in every sense of the word wrong. It would go very wrong at one show when the audience tossed a live chicken on stage. Cooper thought the bird could fly so he tossed it up into the air to release it, where it promptly fell back into the crowd that proceeded to go into a frenzy (first mosh pit?) and rip the poor bird to shreds. THAT got the band national media attention, which did wonders in promoting their show. Frank Zappa called Cooper the next day and asked him if the story was true. When Cooper told Zappa the truth, Zappa said (god bless the crazy man), "Well, whatever you do, don't tell anyone you didn't do it."
As the 70's would march on, Cooper would continue to up the ante on the show. Soon the band was executing their lead singer nightly by guillotine, hanging, or even electric chair. Brides would be stabbed and haunt the singer and seek revenge. Slowly the band got more outrageous with the show, but always the theme was there. The singer would be showman and madman who would be the villain, and through it he would eventually get it in the end. It was pretty much your average Saturday horror matinee movie brought to the stage and set to rock and roll. Pretty kick ass idea actually.
The critics, of course, hated it. Politicians tried to ban them from playing.
The critics never bothered the band, as they shouldn't. But, when one legend of the stage went to the band's show Cooper did sweat the man's opinion. Of all people, Groucho Marx came one night and brought May West (how's that for a date) with him to see the band. Where the band didn't give a rip about some critic, Vincent considered Marx a legend of live entrainment from the early days of the stage. Marx went backstage after the show and Cooper feared a real crushing comment. Instead, Marx shook his hand and said "Great vaudeville show".
Not only did the right person "get it", but he got it even better than the band and with that vote of confidence they never looked back.
In 1973 the band cataloged the highest grossing show in history, toppling the Rolling Stones no less at the time from that lofty perch.
Eventually, despite band issues Vincent would take over and become Alice Cooper and push on. In those words from Marx is the mantra of what a live spectacle is, just go in and have fun to entertain people. It's not what people think of you, but if they enjoyed their evening at your show. Forty years later and rock and roll, hard rock, and metal can thank the band Alice Cooper for changing the idea of the concert spectacle. Bands like KISS would be directly influenced by the idea as well as many more to come. Anyone who takes the time to make the concert as much of (or more of) a show than a performance can thank Cooper. Is the music important? Of course it is. The band had many classics to come as well, and we'll be getting to them real soon, but when you went to see the band it was something extra.
Sabbath might have created heavy metal while Deep Purple plugged it in, but it took Alice Cooper to load the idea as entertainment into a syringe and shoot it into the veins of a new generation. Cooper might have been a rock and roll band, but they took the image of metal and popularized it.
Forty years later and the man is still coming to a venue near you to put on a "great vaudeville show".
Top Metal Albums From 1971
Outside of one definable pure metal classic, if anything 1971 is a slight back step in heaviness. In many ways, the idea of metal was still growing and trying wrap its muse around the ideas Sabbath and Purple created in 1970. That being said, there is still plenty of great music that can be called metal, hard rock, or rock with all the upgrades to make it part of the emerging scene. Here are a few quality albums to check out.
Alice Cooper - Love It To Death
After the drifting rock and psych of the previous two albums, the guys returned with their third album to break into the conscious (nightmare?) or pop culture. With a harder edge, although still very much rock and roll, Alice Cooper would popularize the idea of tougher rock with a catchy rhythm and take the country by storm via their infamous live revue. Heavy live and in attitude, this is rock and roll with a twist. "I'm Eighteen" being the band's breakout hit, the guys packing a troubled rhythm and Vincent's wail of caught between the realities of being a man and a child. "It's My Body" is basically the guitars of the Sunset Strip seen from Woodstock. "Hallowed Be Thy Name" is the bands first real metallic song, it creeping out and haunting the corners of the imagination. Always dug "Black JuJu" as well, that tribal drums pattern and the haunting vocals descending (ready for a live performance!) into a creepy spoken part, the band playing in the land of voodoo and vaudeville perfectly.
Easily missed for the big ones to come, and certainly a little dated, but come on it's the Cooper album that really started it all. Collectors must and the music is fun and worth the spin. Actually, in hindsight, this is less dated than some of the man's 80's albums, so I take that back. Either way, check it out as it is a good album.
Thin Lizzy - Thin Lizzy
And thus begins a grand tradition that would release some of the greatest music to be unleashed in rock history. The guys from Ireland mixing folk melodies and rock sensibilities to become outlawed poets of the highest order. Here, on the debut, the iconic image of Thin Lizzy is still to come, the band having one lead and one acoustic rhythm guitar. The songs are more traditional and folksy, sublime and distant as if the band was naïve guns singing to themselves while traveling the dirt roads to the big city and hopefully their big break. Not a lot of thumping, but certainly a pleasant respite in the hands of people showing why they are going to be huge. This band would deliver rocking scorchers but all is more at ease here. Think Van Morrison or Steele Dan more that Led Zeppelin. But these folk journeys are backed by the bands always straight from the heart delivery that rocks and strolls in ways that makes you interested in the journey.
Budgie - Budgie
So we come finally to Budgie, the first metal power trio that would quietly enter the year with their self titled debut. What you get is loud blues, 60's rock, and a deliberate stab at heavy metal that would briefly put the band in contention on the heavy-o-meter with Sabbath and Purple. Think Led Zeppelin II but less country ride and more metal, huge weighty riffs drowning out the high end. Nothing earth shattering to the scene, but the twists between classic rock rhythms and the urge to jam out at Woodstock, the idea on paper sounding rather dated until you year the rippling guitar tone backing up such high cholesterol riffs. Great album, early classic of the genre, and collectible thanks to it being the first of many quality 70's albums from the guys.
Deep Purple - Fireball
A lost album of sorts, not due to quality but being tucked between two certified classic in 1970's In Rock and the album we'll get to next year, Fireball is the perfect metaphor for the 70's as the band steps away from the metal sheen they unleashed one album earlier to experiment around rocks perimeter. With the metal you get blues, some surprising psyche, and even some country music. For an album the band did fast between tours with little time to write, it has to be the most creative in sheer range. Metal high note would be "Fireball" which takes Sabbath's speed metal "Paranoid" and defines the category to it's proper form, predicting many a long haired metal act to hit in a decade. "No One Came" also blisters. But from here you get the band going in interesting (and frankly a few poor) directions that showcases a band more concerned with doing the kind of music they wanted. Good album though, just a little different for the place in the catalog and easily missed for the same reason.
Alice Cooper - Killer
After Love It Death earlier in the same year, our favorite five shock rockers come back with the tightened rock and roll gone wrong album that would become their trademark. More rock, tougher, fuzzed out ideas that were a bit more about the mission than any real metal statement. In many ways, this makes Alice Cooper the preamble to KISS, live show as event and all, although Alice Cooper always managed to be of the fans for the fans. This is tough rock that walked up to the metal playing field in style only to fully cross in theatrics. Not that anyone cared or noticed, the album breaking rules left and right and planting the horror show of Sabbath into the minds of people even though the actual guitar notes lacked that bands bottom end.
A few progressive numbers surprisingly segregating the rock anthems, the songs displaying the bands late 60's ideas but wonderfully produced and full of pageantry; things are clean and forward here and it shows. A few metallic sounding surprises come about also, the non prog numbers hitting good cruising speed with songs like the churning "Desperado" which features a rare Vincent low register cackle and is serpentine in a menacing manner. Probably one of the band's most dastardly numbers that goes for the throat without planting tongue firmly in cheek.
This is a decidedly American take on the hard rock revolution landing from England, "Under My Wheels" basically being the sober version of the underground with American economy built into the rhythm, something I'm sure veteran producer Bob Ezrin is responsible for distilling out of the guys. This being the key to the sound and the band, England shooting the idea of metal across the bow of America while mainland Europe just kept on retooling hard rock into leaner and meaner machinery, only for Alice Cooper to raise a pirate flag on his ship of ghouls to fire rock fisted anthems back at them. It was state of the art music on both sides and in the middle both would merge and flow to influence bands of many stripes and colors.
Uriah Heep - Look At Yourself
After a strange but energized reprieve in the bands other release this year, Salisbury, they guys storm back to release the first in a great run of albums. Look At Yourself shaking off the experiments and 60's and taking their debut to new heights. More guitars, more chords, more organs, and frankly tons of bombast that fully put the band into metal ideology. It's like the band went on an all day binge of coffee before walking into the studio, the total cluster chaos resulting in every member of the band going off beginning to end in a total show stopping performance. You could accuse them of showing off, which they really are, accept the songs spread out on the record couldn't have been given life any other way.
Sure, you get a few stragglers of the psychedelic era, even if loud, but when this album pounds it cripples the competition. Songs like "Tears In My Eyes" packing such a swinging axe riff that even Iommi must have stopped to admire the show. The title track delivers low blows left and right. "Shadows of Grief" is religion gone wrong in highs and lows, soaring to depths. And finally, hard to believe but "Love Machine" actually improves on Deep Purple's contribution to metal (to date) by fully unleashing power metal on the world.
In a different time this would have been the album of the year, but despite the awesome scorched into vinyl this year would see the releases from two bands that are just that damn good.
Black Sabbath - Master Of Reality
After a whirlwind year of two releases that no less that invented a whole genre of music, sent critics reeling to their mugs of bitter traditions and typewriters to fire off condemnation, the four from Birmingham was the one band that not only embraced what they had done, but here on Master of Reality actually improved the idea of metal.
Armed with a down tuned tone of evil proportions sent through equipment with enough high end gain to distort the lowest frequencies a punter could bare, the band released songs ground by the millstone of constant touring that would become mile stones in the evolution of metal. While some of the overt themes of the first release are not present, the band wanting to make their point without people missing the point due to semantics, the ideas are there rumbling away disposing the Summer of Love once and for all as a smoke and mirror show. There is a reason this is called Master of Reality and that is couched in the bands willingness to throw the curtain back on mankind the pop culture event and display the demons hiding behind the curtain.
Here we have the first of Sabbath's intros, in fact getting two of them with acoustic washes and trembling solace. After one drug induced journey in "solitude" that haunts the corners of reality, you have five songs that no less than permanently breaks rock and roll's spine and sends tradition off to the corner in a fetal position.
"Sweat Leaf" jars you into the album with, in fact, Iommi coughing due to inhaling to much smoke. While the title actually comes from a pack of cigarettes Ward had purchased from Dublin, it is in fact about the enjoyment of everyone's favorite unbranded smoke. Although, by this time the band was given money and time to record an album so they started binging on more potent chemicals. The song none the less is a riff shaker that thumps with a catchy melody and Ozzy's worship of the green stuff cackling merrily, separated by a tremendous run in the middle.
"After Forever" blends Iommis evil labyrinth riffs with a faster driving melody, a fully retooled merge of "Paranoid" and "Iron Man" that gives definable rhythms through rapid fire riffs, another first for the new genre. Sonically it creates runs and valleys full of depth for the trouble, not as popular or a standout due to it's multitasking but certainly a tremendous song that advances the originals to the next level. "Lord Of This World" is just too damn catchy of a guitar riff that lumbers with its own weight, almost bouncing along despite being the center of gravity. "The soul I took from you was not even missed" indeed. It flies under the radar and breaks things when your not looking.
One of my favs, "Children of the Grave" has a gallop that predicts the entire damn British invasion nine years coming while Ward's drum pattern still gives me chills. I mean, no studio tricks or loops here folks, the man is just rolling that rhythm for the whole run, pushing the song forward through sheer brute force. Toss in Ozzy casting damnation on the fate of our youth in the face of mankind's choices, and that diving power chord shot from Tony, and this is just one for the record books. I could stand in front of the stage with both arms raising the horns and bang my head for as long as the band could keep playing. I'd probably pass out first but dammit I'd still be going in my coma induced sleep!
Finally, the heaviest damn thing for the band to release yet, which means for our purposes the heaviest song to ever be released in the first one thousand and seventy ones years of the common era, "Into The Void" drops the bomb on your ass. Where the other four songs left you black and blue, "Into the Void" grabs your skull like a bowling ball and smashes it into the nearest hard object. The rhythm is built on more riffs that advances the last two albums into a striding gallop that rocks as much as it churns forward, the fact Butler down tuned his bass when Iommi's did his paying dividends. This innocuous melody building and increasing in speed line Ravel converting to the dark side before kicking back into a guitar jam to close the show, a mini-suite of jamming with purpose.
Black Sabbath created metal while Paranoid was the first metal album proper. Master of Reality proved the form was here to stay by delivering a killing blow.
Led Zeppelin - IV
And yes, the proper title of the album in the esteem of the band is Untitled, but IV is the most common cultural reference and also "symbols" or "Zoso". If you look at the cover, you'll notice that it features no album title or band name. This was intentionally done, not because of the anti-corporate reasons that have become urban legend, but simply because the band got a little sick of critics saying the band's name and hype was generating their popularity. To prove the point it was about the music the band released this album with no reference to names at all so the music would be the only thing people would associate with the album. The music would stand on its own, so to speak.
The label did have a conniption however, being unable to catalog it or advertise it, various reference names coming to the surface quickly which is why IV is well entrenched.
Still, obviously the music would still be associated with the band but I can see the point and appreciate the artistic side trying to assert itself. The fact is, no matter how the band tried to make that point through the gate fold, this album would go on it assert itself artistically anyways precisely because of the music. The gilded four releasing what has become their most iconic statement, an album that doesn't have songs so much as separate kingdoms that would go on to embed themselves into the psyche of our culture. Yea and verily, some will happily point to other albums as being their favorite, me included, but no one, and I mean no one, can ignore that in total this album is not only the vast majority of mankind's favorite Zep LP but that the tracks have earned the right to do so. Outside of Michael Jackson's Thriller and The Eagles' Greatest Hits, this album has crossed the sales counter more times then any other album in history here in the States. When you take into account the dubious standards of tracking music 39 years ago, the fact even becomes more impressive. Led Zeppelin went from hard rock influence, loud boisterous band for drinking kids, and basically everything wrong with "Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll" to become larger than life legends. They did it the hard way by making people want the music.
And the music is exactly what does the talking here, even under a nonexistent production job that forces the music to stand stark and naked to the ear, these kingdoms of song craft are laid out like the some total of human musically history. The songs are laid out to be completely unlinked and unassociated, each rubbing against the other as if to toss the listener across a new border. I'm still not sure if it is the product of musical genius or simply the uncaring credos of artists that refuse to do anything but what they want, damn convention and the consequences. In my mind, it's both, the former being the product of the band actually doing the later.
Side one is the band's signature call to arms. "Black Dog" opens the album with a pounding groove that thumps out the beefiest riff the band had performed yet, and when combined with the swinging rhythm probably unmatched. "Rock and Roll" is the band's tribute to the early days of rock, and for my money the ultimate statement on the subject. After the mystical and beautifully surreal Hobbit journey through mountain passes and Elvin vales in "Battle of Evermore", the band ends the most famous side in vinyl history with "Stairway to Heaven". Yes, anyone with a radio in the past 40 years is likely a be over this song, but the fact it stands CONTINUOUSLY as the number one radio song of all time and most voted despite never being released as a single tells the tale of just how huge this song is. Between poetic verses and acoustic license, the song builds like any great Bach classic composition in rock form until axes break out into one of rock and roll's greatest solos of all time.
Side two, however, is the side that hasn't been killed by the radio and yet holds the same magic. If anything, side two is the go to side because every nook and cranny hasn't been surgically hardwired into our heads from cradle to grave. It still contains the same song craft but the sheer joy of hearing it as a proper album onto itself allows the brilliant songs to unravel and be explored unbiased. "Misty Mountain Hop" is another bruiser that jumps out, less beefy than side one's opener but making up for it with drive and groove. Other songs display the jewels we began to love on III, like "Going to California" with its soft acoustic pageantry that takes you through the countryside without making you feel the ride; soft, sublime, and beautiful. "Four Sticks" is a great unheralded Zep rock song that is subdued for its strong structure and performance, while in a just world "When The Levee Breaks" should have gotten the same radio treatment of side one. It's a monster in composure that does everything the first two albums tried to say, but does so without the pure amps propelling it so Jones and Bonham can hand the rhythms section to you personally. But then again, maybe leaving side two un-violated by the FM airwaves is to our favor here, insuring that El Dorado doesn't go unspoiled so we can secretly enjoy the treasures at our leisure.
Where Led Zeppelin I and II rewrote the rules for rock and punted hard rock into an international consortium, the third album really brought out the artists that would mark the golden era of the band. This is the album that literally hit the earth like the hammer of the gods, scattering critics and unbelievers to footnote status and making Page, Plant, Bonham, and Jones legends. People can say they don't like the band or this album, but after 1971 they had to say it while driving a country mile around the hole this left after impact. ‘Nuff said.
And through all of this, an overzealous Frank Zappa fan would accidently burn down a casino. The fire would inspire the lyrics to the most popular riff in heavy metal history.