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The Dark Knights Rise: The Epic Story Of Black Sabbath In the 70s

How four unlikely revolutionaries changed music forever.

For all its superstitious connotations, Friday, February 13, 1970 was an inauspicious day. The world kept turning as it always had. Politicians clashed, wars were fought in the name of religion, science continued its inexorable march forward, people were born, people died.

Actually, that’s not strictly true. Friday, February 13, 1970 was auspicious for one reason. It was the day that Black Sabbath released their first album and diverted the course of music forever.

These four former hippies from the streets of working-class Birmingham weren’t the first band to cotton on to the artistic and commercial value of turning up their amps – Led Zeppelin and Free both beat them to it. But Sabbath swapped those bands’ carnal fixations for something more apocalyptic and ominous.

They were a band of their times. A reaction to the lysergic libertarianism of the 60s, their songs were scorched with imagery of war, horror, mental illness and death. If Zeppelin were epic fantasists, then Sabbath were a shot of harsh reality.

But it was the music that separated them from all the other bands crawling from rock’s primordial soup. Darker and heavier than anything that had come before, Sabbath were a four-man industrial revolution whose aftershocks can still be felt today.

Their original visionary incarnation spanned the whole of the 70s, though it was the six landmark albums they released between 1970 and 1975 that cemented their reputation as one of the founding fathers of heavy metal and hard rock. The chaos that surrounded them was mirrored in their songs, even as the same chaos was pulling them apart.

There’s another Friday, February the 13th in 2015, but it’s unlikely any band will release a record on that day that will echo down the ages like the first Black Sabbath record did. Forty-five years on from that magnificent debut, this is the story of a decade in which four lunatics from Birmingham changed everything.

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