Why I ❤️ Black Sabbath‘s Black Sabbath, by Clutch’s Neil Fallon

Black Sabbath
(Image credit: Vertigo)

Neil Fallon

(Image credit: Press)

This is, of course, a subjective answer. But I have to say Black Sabbath’s Black Sabbath is the best metal album of the last 51 years. It is one of those albums we’ve all heard so much, it’s easy to grow deaf to it. And maybe even take it for granted at times.

It’s an exceptional album. Recorded in a single eight-hour session on October 16th, 1969, it captures something very elusive. It’s one thing to get a great performance, but to capture atmosphere, that’s a rare feat. And Black Sabbath has both. One could argue that Black Sabbath is, in certain regards, a live album, especially when it’s compared to the way music is recorded these days. 

I have a very vivid recollection of the first time I heard Black Sabbath. I was raised in a fairly observant Catholic family and when I heard Black Sabbath it scared the daylights out of me.  I felt like I was hearing something I wasn’t supposed to hear, and God help me if my parents found out.

I wouldn’t say there was an immediate impact on me other than fearing a deeper circle of hell at the time, but later on, it had a huge impact. JP learned to play drums by listening to Bill Ward. Needles to say, Ward’s playing, by way of JP [Jean-Paul Gaster, Clutch drummer] has had an immeasurable influence on what I do in Clutch. And further to that, when Clutch was first starting out, we were huge fans of bands that are collectively known as the Maryland Doom scene. Bands like Pentagram, The Obsessed, Internal Void, Wretched. None of those bands would have played as they did were it not for Black Sabbath.  

I don’t particularly care for music, any kind of music, that’s played overly straight. I like swing. Most of the bands that get lumped into what’s unfortunately known as “stoner rock” are bands that play with a heavy swing. That, for me, is what differentiates them from other metal bands. And that heavy swing goes straight back to Black Sabbath’s Black Sabbath and why I still listen to it regularly (despite any threat of fiery damnation). 

I’ve never met Osbourne, Iommi, Ward, or Butler. And if the day comes that I do, I’m not going to ask them a thing about the album. I like the veil of mystery. That’s what was so terrifying - and appealing - in the first place.