“Nothing sounded like it at the time. Nothing sounds like it now. It’s a beast!”: meet the doom metal legend who obsessively collects vinyl versions of Black Sabbath‘s debut album

Leif Edling
Candlemass’s Leif Edling surrounded by his epic Black Sabbath collection (Image credit: Leif Edling)

As the bassist and driving force behind Swedish doom heavyweights Candlemass, Leif Edling doesn’t hide the debt he owes to Black Sabbath, and their landmark 1970 debut album in particular.

“Black Sabbath’s first album was so important,” says Edling, whose own band helped shape the modern doom scene via such classics as 1986’s Epicus Doomicus Metallicus and 1987’s Nightfall. “It had an impact on everybody at that time. If you were interested in hard and heavy rock music, you couldn’t ignore it. I grew up with it, and it had a huge impact on me. Nothing sounded like it at the time. Nothing sounds like it now. It’s a beast!”

Except Edling’s admiration of Black Sabbath goes above and beyond the call of duty. Where most people are content to own a copy or two on CD or LP, the 60-year-old owns a staggering 71 different vinyl versions of that one record, from original copies to reissues to international versions. His dedication to the album is ironic, given it’s not even his favourite Sabbath album.

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is my favourite,” he says. “It’s got everything. The songs, the sound, the production… it doesn’t have one lame second on it.”

Still, we’re here to talk about that debut and Edling’s impressive, if slightly odd obsession with it. So, what is this that stands before us?

What made you want to collect 71 different vinyl versions of Black Sabbath’s debut album?

Many years ago I went to a friend’s place to buy some Rush records off him. I bought their first album, on the Moon label, and the Not Fade Away single. But what really caught my eye was his Yes collection. Not only did he have a huge number of Yes records, but he also collected Relayer specifically. I thought it was madness, but a bit brilliant too, so I stole his crazy idea and started to buy the first Sabbath whenever I saw it. It was the one that started metal so to speak, and extremely groundbreaking. Nice cover too.

When did you first hear Sabbath?

Actually, it all started with Paranoid. My mother gave me a copy when I was eight or nine years old – this was somewhere around 1971 or 1972. A friend that lived a few houses away from me played it and I was hooked immediately. His big brother owned it, and he also had the first Black Sabbath album. It scared the shit out of me with the cover, the rain and bell in the intro, the ominous atmosphere. I was spellbound. Couldn’t resist it!

I didn’t own my first copy of Black Sabbath until years later. When I was 14, in 1977, I started to take the train to Stockholm and the record shops there. I bought a used beaten up copy of it that I still have. A couple of years later, when the NEMS versions turned up, I bought one of those. They were cheap but sounded better than my scratched and dirty original.

Candlemass’s Leif Edling with Black Sabbath‘s Tony Iommi in 1992

Leif Edling with Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi in 1992 (Image credit: Leif Edling)

How did you go from owning one copy of Black Sabbath to owning 71 copies?

I’ve collected Sabbath pretty much all my life. Back in the day, I could only afford to occasionally buy the albums when they came out, but I moved to Stockholm from the suburb of Upplands Väsby when I was 25 and started to go to record fares and second hand shops. My collection also started to grow when we were out on tour with Candlemass. Every time we came home from the States I had a  big heap of records with me.

I still go to record fairs, still go to the second hand shops in Stockholm, still buy vinyl on our travels abroad, not to mention ebay. I still enjoy buying records, and take Saturdays off sometimes to go around the record shops of Stockholm. I don’t find much Sabbath that I don’t have already, but it’s nice to go record digging and there’s always stuff to buy.

Do you specifically collect different pressings of Black Sabbath – international versions, reissues, coloured vinyl versions? Or do you just buy any old copy of the album you come across in a second record shop?

Well, after a while I couldn’t remember what I had or not, so when I saw a copy of the Black Sabbath album, I bought it. Of course I ended up with a bunch of the same pressings after a while. But most of those I just swapped away on the next record excursion, so no big problem. I still have some extra copies but I really don’t care. Most of them are unique anyway – pressings from Singapore, Taiwan, South America, Israel, Spain, Australia, Korea, Russia, etc. I’ve got most of the pressings of the first album, but I’m sure there’s still pressings out there that I don’t have. So I’m not gonna relax just yet.

What’s the rarest or most unusual version of the album you own?

Maybe the first UK pressing with the Phillips credit. Some years ago, they discovered that a true first press should have “A Phillips record product“ written under ‘Vertigo’ on the label. Not that many records exist with this credit. The Vertigo label didn’t exactly believe in Sabbath when they released the first record, and I’m sure they didn’t press too many. But when it started to sell, they need more vinyls fast, and the Phillips credit got omitted from the label of the record on the pressings that followed. 

Do you have a specific favourite?

I’ve got two new favourites, actually. One US radio promo in super shape. It cost me €700 last year. And one Japanese red label promo. That one I got for my 60th birthday and it cost around €1200. It’s very, very rare. It’s considered one of the Sabbath holy grails. I feel very fortunate to have it.

Have you got any signed copies of the album?

I never met Black Sabbath before they broke up with Ozzy, so I had to buy a signed copy on ebay. I did it many years ago and it didn’t cost me too much. But it’s beautifully signed and looks great. I do have nicely signed copies of all the Sabbath albums up to [1992’s] Dehumanizer.

Has anybody come up to you after a gig or in the street and given you a copy of Black Sabbath because they knew you collected them?

Not yet, but hopefully some day. I’m not Michael Åkerfeldt from Opeth! He gets unique and expensive records thrown at him for next to nothing when he’s on tour. I’m not in his league. I’ve got more Sabbath than him, but he’s got a massive hard rock/prog collection.

Where do you keep these albums? Are they in display cases?

I have a room in my house full of vinyl. It’s my favourite place on the planet. There’s two big shelves there and a few small ones, plus a bunch of crates on the floor because I don’t have room for all the vinyl I have. So I have to have the rest of the records in the basement and a separate storage unit.

Have you played them all, or are some off limits?

No, I hate that. No white laboratory gloves here! Of course I play all the records – even my first pressings, They do sound a bit better than the later pressings. The first pressing of Master Of Reality that I have sounds fantastic. Massive! Later on they lost some of the warmth in the sound, but nowadays they’re restored to its former glory. I love to put those first pressings on – Sabbath, Rainbow, Heep, Zeppelin. Love them on vinyl, man.

Part of Leif Edling’s vinyl collection

Part of Leif Edling’s vinyl collection (Image credit: Leif Edling)

Are you like a wine connoisseur - if you hear a copy of Black Sabbath‘s first album, can you tell which country it was from or what year it’s a reissue from?

Maybe. But it’s difficult. Both the US versions and the German versions sound nearly as good as the UK versions. But the Japanese pressings are easy. They all lack a bit of bass. Maybe bass wasn’t trendy in Japan in the 70s. I can sing the note of which key the next song starts in though, when the current one fades away. Does that count?

You’ve met the members of Black Sabbath over the years. Did you tell them that you collected their first album?

I’ve met all of them, but never mentioned this special ‘interest’ of mine. I met Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler at a hotel in Stockholm when they were doing promo for Dehumanizer and I did mention that I had a big Sabbath collection. I brought some stuff that they signed and were baffled about some of the rarest stuff I had. Geezer signed some bootlegs as well, and laughed about the fact that they get a bit ripped off when people press these unlawful records. He didn’t seem to have a problem with it. He was absolutely great to hang with and had a super sense of humour. Tony was extremely cool too.

Care to share how much you you’ve spent on the albums in total?

I have no idea and I don’t care. People restore cars, buy expensive clothes. I collect records and Sabbath. I bought a big part of my Black Sabbath collection in the late 80s and in the 90s, when vinyl was cheap, so most records I’ve got for not so much money – all the first pressings, promos, bootlegs, singles, posters. When I find something today that I don’t have, it will be expensive. It’s OK – the other records were cheap!

Another thing with my Black Sabbath collection is that the value of it goes up all the time. The prices of Sabbath stuff are insane now. Not very realistic if you ask me. But on the other hand, the cab meter I have installed on my collection is constantly ticking and going up…

Candlemass’s Leif Edling at Black Sabbath album location Mapledurham Mill

Leif Edling at Mapledurham Mill, as pictured on the cover of Black Sabbath’s debut album (Image credit: Leif Edling)

What do you family and friends think of you collection?

My wife is a DJ and she’s got nearly as many records as I have, so fortunately she’s in favour of the record madness. We’ve got records pretty much everywhere in the house. I took a shower the other day and had to throw out a bunch of record boxes from the bathroom.

Isn’t it weird to collect so many copies of the same album? You know that other albums are available to buy, right?

Yeah, I do. I have many versions of Paranoid, Vol.4, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, etc. I just bought some US first pressings of Vol. 4, Born Again and Heaven And Hell, in even better condition. My Judas Priest, Motörhead, Scorpions, Hawkwind, B.Ö.C., Lizzy and Zeppelin collections are OK too, but not massive.

You recently celebrated your 60th birthday. What are your plans for your collection when you’re gone?

One of my mates asked me the other day what I am gonna do with the collection after I'm dead. The question totally took me off guard and I didn't know what to answer. I wish I could take it with me like the old pharaohs took their treasures with them on their final journey. Imagine being in your coffin totally surrounded by your favourite record. Not bad! That would be heaven to me! But I'm not sure that would be possible.

But my wife saw on the internet that you can send your ashes to a certain place and they'll make a record out of it. Your favourite song pressed with your burned ash! That's so awesome!! I might just do that! I can't take my collection with me when I die, so this is the next best thing, Song? A hint: ‘Please let me die in Solitude‘ [a lyric from Candlemass’s doom classic Solitude]. Or maybe Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath from Black Sabbath

Candlemass’s latest album, Sweet Evil Sun, is out now

Dave Everley

Dave Everley has been writing about and occasionally humming along to music since the early 90s. During that time, he has been Deputy Editor on Kerrang! and Classic Rock, Associate Editor on Q magazine and staff writer/tea boy on Raw, not necessarily in that order. He has written for Metal Hammer, Louder, Prog, the Observer, Select, Mojo, the Evening Standard and the totally legendary Ultrakill. He is still waiting for Billy Gibbons to send him a bottle of hot sauce he was promised several years ago.