Music is the soundtrack to our lives. And on Christmas Day 2012, four days after the world was supposed to end, GuysNation columnist Bryan Lienesch was given the book ‘1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die’. As he flipped through it, an idea dawned on him right then and there: he would attempt to knock all 1,001 albums off his list. Not just before he dies, but as fast as life would allow.

This is the Bucket Beats List.

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

For all intents and purposes, Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ is the Mecca of metal. The Church of the Nativity. The Kong Miao. The Masjid Al-Haram. Whatever your religion, headbangers, past and present, have worshipped these 50 minutes or so of music.

And what’s not to like? Right off the bat, the anti-war anthem ‘War Pigs’ is a heavy tour de force that finally gives the anti-Vietnam movement the dark musical tone past protest pieces have lacked. It’s 8-plus-minute runtime makes it an onslaught of jaw-dropping riffs that come in with the sort of shock and awe the verses so adamantly speak against across the Pacific.

Then there’s the album’s titular track, an equally dark ditty that expresses the depression of alienated and misunderstood youth. The irony? This powerful poem of variance became so widely accepted that it skyrocketed to #12 on U.S. charts and officially brought the British heroes of heavy metal stateside.

Black Sabbath ParanoidThose two songs along with ‘Iron Man’, which has seen a new rise in mainstream fame ever since the Robert Downey, Jr. character came to the big screen, are a trio of heavy metal hits that have stood the test of time. Not only that, but with only 8 tracks on the release, they nearly make up half the album.

But it’s the other five songs, the quintet often forgotten about, that hold some real strokes of ingenuity.

As awesome as the beats of the three hits are, the eerie and foreboding opening tone of Electric Funeral is as good or even better. The song itself, a Terminator-esque condemnation of the modern military complex, sounds like Marilyn Manson’s ‘Sweet Dreams’ if it were given a 1984-like overhaul. Some of the notes guitarist Tony Iommi hits in the strain are as pulse-pounding as the weapons of mass destruction Ozzy’s singing about.

As bleak as those four tracks are, though, they don’t hold a candle (or perhaps a scythe?) to the drug and warmonger whammy that is ‘Hand of Doom’. Slowly and methodically documenting the narcotic-induced death of the frustrated dissident to society, it’s almost like The Velvet Underground’s ‘Heroin’ but with none of the self-medicating romanticization and infinitely more despair. After hearing the rock refrain you almost want to prescribe the four band members Prozac as soon as possible. I know, another drug. You see the irony?

There’s no doubt that the songs (which were all written collectively by the entire band) have a way with words, albeit a dark one, but the real genius of the record, as I’ve already said, is the incessant face-meltage it lays on you.

People will be (and have been) quick to praise Iommi here, but the success, quite frankly, is a collaborative one. As great as Iommi’s guitar licks are, they would be a shell of themselves if it were not for the fist-clenched thumping drummer Bill Ward lays down. His role in the opening  to ‘Iron Man’ is the stuff of legend and the constantly-changing dynamic of his riffs in War Pigs makes the virtual 10 minutes fly by.

It’s all so good, in fact, that the polar-opposite rhythm of ‘Planet Caravan’, a soft, jazz-like midnight melody, leaves you screaming, “No, what are you doing!” instead of “Thank goodness, I needed a break!”

Black Sabbath further tries to highlight their frantic instrument work in the wordless ‘Rat Salad’, but everything else before it is so close to perfection that it renders the two and a half minute instrumental rather forgettable.

All in all, even if metal isn’t your thing, ‘Paranoid’ is worth a listen. So many great artists have attributed the album as one of their primary points of inspiration that the record’s influential significance is almost as dizzying to the mind as the heavy metal itself.

Favorite tracks?
3. Electric Funeral
2. Iron Man
1. Paranoid

Least favorite tracks?
3. Planet Caravan
2. Rat Salad
1. Faeries Wear Boots/Jack the Stripper

Do you really need to listen to this album before you die?
Yes. As I already said, even if it isn’t your cup of tea, it’s a piece of music history

When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure to follow him @bclienesch for social media shenanigans!