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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"War Pigs"

Black Sabbath - "War Pigs" (1970)

Not my favorite song of theirs, but it is on the same side. ;-)

Oh, I had forgotten how slow and dramatic this starts. This is a great song, don't mistake the opening line of this review. Hell, the entire album Paranoid might very well be the definitive blueprint for Heavy Metal. The first side of the album alone has three of the trademark songs of the era. Of course it also has a dreamy hippie-friendly psychedelic track about floating through the universe with your lover while accompanied by bongos. But let's cut them some slack, it was 1970 and no one really knew what direction music was going in. They get to have that one.  Back to the music.

This is the lead off track to the album, and they really set a tone of despair and wasteland at the beginning. The WWII era air raid sirens really drive home the war/destruction feel. After the intro, the song is very separated. I mean that each of the instruments takes focus for a second, but not too much overlapping until they break into the jam portion with the two shorter verses in the middle. Then we get what many outlets have ranked as one of the greatest guitar solos in Heavy Metal. Tony Iommi is the only guitarist on the track, he layers himself to create the dense multi-part solo that helped define him as the most influential and greatest metal guitarist of all time. Then, we get the quiet high hat that has segued us before and we are back to vocalist Ozzy Osbourne and his wail telling us that the only way the War Pigs lose their power is when the hand of God calls us all to judgement at the end times. His last lines in the song evoke Satan, not to praise him, but to show where the merciless sinners will find themselves. The song however has more than two minutes left. The first half of that is a typical metal ending, working on the same chords and themes, and heading towards a fade out. But then we get "Luke's Wall"

American releases of Paranoid originally had this track titled "War Pigs/Luke's Wall". Well, Luke's Wall was the name of the section of the song at the end, starting around 6:30 that sounds hopeful, like a hero might be lifting himself out of the ashes. It was named after two members of the band's road crew named Luke and Wall. It gives us some hope that we may not be at the end of the story just yet. Then of course there's the weird sped up few seconds at the end that sound like someone wound the tape up too fast. I don't know what that's supposed to symbolize. Possibly the destruction of the hopeful hero in a bomb blast?

You want to hear some great covers? Of course you do. First we have a band named Elf, that is until they became Rainbow. This cover is live in 1972, just two years after the original. It sounds a lot like the original as well. so why include it? Well, lead singer of Elf, and then Rainbow Ronnie James Dio, eventually became the lead singer of Black Sabbath from 1979 to 1982 before going solo as Dio. So this vocalist eventually played the song live with the original band members at least for a short time. Also the guitar solo is pretty sweet. Most original sound is kind of a tie. We've got Hayseed Dixie with a bluegrass inspired cover that is great, and I love a mandolin, but the Alice Donut jazz band meets metal band sound is so creative. I just think it sounds like they needed a little more practice. But it is hard to hate a band with a trombone in it. I have found a favorite however. This version of War Pigs by The Dresden Dolls has more energy in it than the original, and that's saying something.

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