Despite that I’m definitely a follower of heavy metal music, I tend to have a hard dealing with the grandfather of heavy metal, Black Sabbath. It’s not because of their music, I think the music is great. It’s their reputation as this band that was in league with the dark side and the devil, which the music press seems to continue in some way despite the fact this reputation has no basis on the band or its music,. I recently saw a program in which a music critic talks about a song from their 2013 album, 13, which was titled “God Is Dead?”, and he talks about how supposedly Sabbath used to shout “God is dead” (according to him) or something along those lines and were now somehow more mature and simply ask if God is dead instead. At this point you can expect my reaction is thus:
What the fuck was he talking about!?
Honestly, it still feels like people like him haven’t been paying attention, that they haven’t seen anything about Black Sabbath or critically analyzed the lyrics. I mean, if Black Sabbath honestly believed that God is dead, then can you explain the lyrics of their song After Forever, from their 1971 album Masters of Reality? If you looked at the lyrics objectively, then you’ll have realized that the lyrics don’t refer to Satanism at all. In fact, they are Christian. As another matter of fact, as I’m sure the learned individuals who read this blog will know, Black Sabbath were never attached to Satanism at all, and it’s not just songs that reflect it. The whole image of them being supposedly being Satanic, as I’m sure you may know, is not only a lie, it was pretty much leveled against them by people who knew nothing about the band or what they were singing about. It’s based entirely on their name and the dark tone of their music, and the fact there are people who don’t understand anything about it. It’s so bad, that it never occurs to some people that the crosses that Black Sabbath wear are right-side up rather than upside down.
I mean, it’s really quite baffling how musicians who went about wearing Christian crosses and put them on the stage could still be construed as Satanists, and it really speaks to level of ignorance present even in Christians. Not to mention, even if people were thinking of upside-down crosses, they’d still be thinking of Christian symbols. In Catholic Christianity, the upside-down cross is the sign of St. Peter, who is attested to be the founder of the first church, and it basically means “I am not worthy”, in reference to the story in which Peter is crucified upside-down instead of right-side up because he apparently felt he was unworthy to die in the same way as Jesus, to whom he was once a disciple. Pretty much all of the original line-up were Christian, and at least half of them Catholic.
Not to mention, whenever they talk about Satan/The Devil, it’s in a negative, Christian-influenced viewpoint, and right down to their self-titled song from their self-titled debut album, and that song talked about the Devil showing up and everyone being scared of him just like in the Middle Ages. I don’t think there was ever a metal band that sang about Satan in a celebratory fashion, and with genuine references to Satanism, until Venom showed up, and even then it was basically all for fun in their case. The same album had a song called N.I.B. which was also about the Devil (referred to as Lucifer), but it was about him falling in love and supposedly becoming “good” because of it. The second album, Paranoid, only has one song that has anything remotely to do with Satan, and it’s in traditional Christian context. Masters of Reality has a song called Lord of this World, in which the Devil is the evil overlord of this world, like he’s treated by Christians and their Bible. To be honest, I doubt religion and the devil are as highly talked about in Black Sabbath’s lyrics as people think, and people seem to be think that’s the bulk of what they talk about. A lot of their songs are about lots of other subjects including drug use, war, the horrors being inflicted upon mankind and the world by mankind itself, love (but not really in the same way all those pop and soul songs were doing it), and other subjects. I think the crosses and the name were all supposed to fit in with their dark, heavy, and striking sound, and I can only assume it worked even if not entirely the way they intended it.
Speaking of the Devil, I also suspect that Black Sabbath pretty much knew nothing about real Satanism and were entirely ignorant of it. Below is what Geezer Butler, Black Sabbath’s lyricist, stated on the BBC TV program Classic Albums about the song War Pigs.
“I wanted to write a song called ‘Walpurgis’ – you know, the Satanic version of Christmas – write it about that Satan isn’t a spiritual thing, it’s warmongers. That’s who the real Satanists are, all these people who are running the banks and the world and trying to get the working class to fight the wars for them.”
When you describe Walpurgis Night as basically Christmas for Satanists and warmongers as the “real” Satanists (never mind that here Satanists are confused with devil-worshipping cultists in the Christian sense), then your ignorance, nay stupidity, on the subject of Satanism becomes obvious, and I can’t find myself showing a lot of respect for people who are possessed of such ignorance. And that’s sad when you consider the virtues of the music itself, most prominently the way it challenged the hopes of the optimistic climate of the 1960’s and the tastes and expectations of “liberal” middle-class culture and the conservative mores and climate that may usually wag its finger at rock music in general, and the way it first introduced heaviness and darkness to music.