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Makings of Metal Music Can be Traced to Black Sabbath

In popular discussions about hard rock and its musical offshoots—metal and punk—Led Zeppelin reigns supreme. For example, VH1’s Top 100 Greatest Hard Rock Artists list places Led Zeppelin in the first spot with Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, AC/DC and Metallica in the following positions. While I agree that Led Zeppelin is the most influential band across hard rock genres and in its infiltration into popular culture, I posit that Black Sabbath has played the bigger role in metal’s specific history.

The basic characteristics of metal—the dissonant vocals, the infernal riffs, the taboo lyrics—can all be traced back to Black Sabbath. Many a Gentile will find Ozzy Osbourne’s voice, along with his antics, to be crass and distasteful. A real metalhead will appreciate these qualities and the innate malevolence in his voice. The guy was born to be a metal singer.


It all started with the son of a candy-shop owner named Toni Iommi. This young Italian man had managed to crop two of his right-hand fingertips in a metal factory that he had been working at. Despite the blazing pain, Iommi wanted to play his guitar so he decided to work with what he has. To ease the tension in his fingers, Iommi tuned his guitar to a lower key signature and that brought about what ‘we’ call the master notes of Heavy Metal. These master notes (three adjacent whole tones) propelled a grotesque beautiful tune with a cold accent. It was not something you heard; it was no longer American rhythm and blues nor was it bop beats. This was the beginning of absolute amplification, doomsday and the creation of an alternative lifestyle. This is the foundation of Heavy Metal music.