Black Sabbath Took Offense to Being Called a Heavy Metal Band

Sven Mandel, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
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There’s a good chance that heavy metal would never have existed if not for Black Sabbath’s first album.

There had certainly been some heavy rock bands up until that point like Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix’s heavier stuff, but the minute that everyone heard the first few notes of the first Sabbath record, we knew that there was something more to rock music that was heavier than the likes of the Rolling Stones. If you were to ask Sabbath themselves though, they were never that keen on the label in the early days, though. 

While the early days of the phrase ‘heavy metal’ might stem from garage bands at the time like the MC5, Tony Iommi mentioned that the first time he heard the term was from a radio DJ, going on to say that:

 “We called it heavy rock. The term heavy metal came about from a journalist when I came back from America in the ’70s. He said ‘you’re playing heavy metal’ and I said ‘no, it’s heavy rock — what’s that?

Geezer Butler shared a similar sentiment when questioned by Metal Evolution, saying “We just thought of ourselves as a hard rock band at the time. That’s what we liked. The first [time] I heard us being called heavy metal was someone being derogatory towards us.

I read this review when we were on tour criticizing us and it said that ‘it sounded like a load of heavy metal being dropped.’ Not musically whatsoever.”

More than anything though, Geezer said he didn’t like the term because he didn’t want to be confined to one genre, remarking later that:

 “Everyone likes to put you into certain pigeon holes, so we sort of got used to it. And then instead of it being derogatory, it became a whole lifestyle.

While the goal may have been to make strange music that had some darkness in the mix, Geezer always talked about Sabbath sticking to what they liked, saying:

 “To us it just felt like an extension of the bands that we liked, like Hendrix, Cream and Robert Johnson. We just made songs for ourselves. We didn’t think ‘this is rock’ or ‘this is metal’ or anything like that; it was just music to us.

They may not have considered themselves hard rock at the time, but by the time bands like Judas Priest started to emerge, you could tell something had changed.

Without even realizing it, Sabbath seemed to invent an entirely new genre without even trying. You can watch Geezer discuss his issues with the heavy metal moniker in his own words below: