The Formative Years – Black Sabbath and Righteous Riffage
If one was to compile a list with the greatest riffs ever written, no doubt Black Sabbath would occupy quite a few spots at the more formidable end of the spectrum. Sometimes a band and their emissions are so great and prolific, that even epigones channelling their essence can appear attractive instantaneously by mere association or citing them as an influence.
Enter stoner rock and doom.
It was through cover versions of “Paranoid” by German punk bands in the late 1980s that I was first introduced to Toni Iommi idiosyncratic way of songwriting and it took not long to delve into Black Sabbath’s back catalogue and fall in love head over heels, without any vestige of my passion subsiding any time soon.
Over time, I was exposed to bands like Grief , Sleep and Eyehategod – bands that took the DNA Black Sabbath and created an ever more dirgy, powerful concoction that is immensely conducive to blazing up one’s mind, i.e. what is commonly classified as “doom” and constitutes one of the most powerful genres of underground music with its slowly building, crushing tsunamis of delightful heaviness.
I have always found it funny, how doom and dirge bands were perceived to be aggressive in nature by some of my comrades, when I found the listening experience to be immensely relaxing and satisfying, like a warm bath while under the influence of codeine.
It was through the Swiss label Off the Disk records, who released the first Infest 12” with the H.R. Giger cover, ABC Diabolo’s first 7” and other delicacies as Morbid Angel’s demo from the early 1990s on, that I was first exposed to Sleep and their tribute to Black Sabbath.
Their album Dopesmoker followed – not merely a telling title but a close to seventy minutes long exercise in meditation on heavy, drawn out riffing based on the essence of Black Sabbath but infusing it with their own style. Expertly executed and unrivalled to this day. Needless to say, any band or project a member of Sleep touched thereafter, did not let down either and it was fantastic to see Matt Pike incarnate in the third dimension with his current band High on Fire a few years ago.
Over time, some bands perfectioned their approach to a level that became borderline pornographic in term of auditory pleasure, with an example par excellence being Electric Wizard – a band that borderlines tectonic shifting doom glam.
If music carried calories, listening to Electric Wizard’s album “Funerapolis” would be the musical equivalent to having a cheese-laden lasagne with cookie dough ice-cream as desert.
An experience that does not waver to excite, hypnotize, and calm me down in equal measure.