When laymen friends, uninitiated to the secret depths of the mighty riff, listen to doom metal, stoner etcetera, one thing they won’t fail to point out is: wow, this is very similar to Black Sabbath! Everybody knows Black Sabbath of course, and a comparison of stoner music and Sabbath can be a fine starting point for a discussion. However, for a lot of people, Black Sabbath is no more than ‘Black Sabbath’, the band: a rowdy, heavy rock band with nothing more to offer than what you see and hear on a surface level.
So, to what extent can a whole genre be pigeonholed to offspring of different Sabbathians (Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Coven, Black Widow, Atomic Rooster, etcetera) and is this really a fruitful starting point? This is of course also a question about doom music’s history. Do we really do doom & stoner any justice when we reduce a whole genre to a couple of Gods? Or is there really one common denominator? Did Black Sabbath survive as the fittest in the primordial swamp of rock, metal and heavy psychedelics in the late sixties, early seventies where it came from? And is doom maybe the pinnacle of Sabbath’s creation? ( Sandrijn van den Oever )
The debate over Black Sabbath's role in Heavy Metal is of course old news, message boards all over the internet are still filled with these discussions. There is no doubting that along with Judas Priest they are the single most important metal act to emerge from the 70's in terms of influence but their influence on Doom Metal is even more profound. Doom Metal is the oldest surviving style of Metal after Iommi made the use of vibrato, tritone or what some people call "diabolus in musica" fashionable in 1970. This in conjunction with down-tuned guitar, slow tempos, pessimistic lyrics and very dark atmosphere, they were totally unique within the framework of the hippified early 70's who were still coming to grips with the realization that the hippie dream was never going to become reality.
The Sabbathian role in Doom Metal didn't become an essential element till Doom finally became more popular in the later part of the 80's and early 90's because before then there was only a mere handful of doom bands but even those were mostly Sabbath clones ( Witchfinder General, Trouble ). These days all the more popular sub-genres of Doom ( Traditional, Epic, Stoner and Funeral Doom ) all look to Sabbath for inspiration and in a lot of cases simply rework the Sabbath riffs. Sometimes I wonder if Doom Metal would even exist without Iommi, Butler, Osbourne & Ward, I doubt it but if it did it would have been most likely invented 20 years later and therefore wouldn't have the rich heritage it has now. Is Sabbathism a kind of Doom Metal religion or as Sandrijn already pointed out, are we simply desperate to pigeon hole bands and thus stifling their creative juices? Furthermore is it down to limited technical musical abilities that bands follow the Sabbath blueprint of doom to the letter or were Black Sabbath really JUST THAT GOOD? ( Ed Barnard )