Today we’ll be continuing our week of metal music with a look at a band who pioneered the genre of heavy metal. Black Sabbath had a tremendous influence on other metal bands that came after. To their detractors in the ’70s and ’80s, Black Sabbath was synonymous with Satanism.
Yesterday, we looked at Mastodon and their “Moby Dick” inspired metal in “Blood and Thunder”. We saw how metal lyrics can be quite poetic, even while screamed through a mic.
No doubt today’s song will seem like a big step back, and it is, in a way. “War Pigs” was released nearly fifty years ago. But while it doesn’t match the same driving intensity of “Blood and Thunder”, it laid the groundwork for it.
“War Pigs” is the opening track to Black Sabbath’s 1970 album “Paranoid”, running just under eight minutes long. If you haven’t heard it, that may just be enough evidence that you’ve been living under a rock for most of your life. That, or your parents were nice, conservative religious folk who didn’t want their children brainwashed by the devil’s music.
“War Pigs” is a droning, heavy metal, anti-war classic. Throughout the song, the lyrics continue to draw connections between the evils of war and those of satanism, witches, and demons.
From their adopted throne of all things unholy, Black Sabbath points out the real evils in the world in “War Pigs”. From the first verse, they serve up a powerful analogy for the men who start wars.
“Generals gathered in their masses,
Just like witches at black masses
Evil minds that plot destruction,
Sorcerer of death’s construction”
The next verse pounds this message home even more. The analogy falls away to a wicked riff as Ozzy’s belts out:
“Politicians hide themselves away
They only started the war
Why should they go out to fight?
They leave that role for the poor, yeah”
Each verse is punctuated by the now iconic “War Pigs” riff. And the second, by a well-timed, face-melting solo, which comes back to the original pattern of the first verse. By the end of the first verse, Black Sabbath gives the war pigs a fitting end.
“Day of judgement, God is calling
On their knees the war pigs crawling,
Begging mercies for their sins
Satan, laughing, spreads his wings
Oh Lord yeah”
Here’s a fun fact for you: the original title for the song was “Walpurgis”, which refers to a festival in paganism and witchcraft. Basically, it’s like Christmas for Satanists. The title was changed to “War Pigs” so that it’d be more accessible.
It’s a bit ironic that some people mistake this song for being evil and promoting satanism, since it’s a song about protesting real evil in the world, not imagined myths or supernatural fantasies. The misinterpretations were most likely caused by Black Sabbath’s reputation. Just another example that you shouldn’t believe everything you hear. Experience for yourselves. Judge for yourselves. Critical thinking is nice.
Anyway, that pretty much wraps up our discussion for today. Hope you enjoyed the walk through “War Pigs”. Tomorrow, we’ll continue with our week of metal.