Hail Satan!

I recently restarted a facebook account after being off it for a good two years, strictly for the sake of promoting this blog.  Of course, though, I got curious and looked up some old friends I may have not spoken to in a while, which led me to look up and ex-guitarist of mine, Matt Holbowitch.  I immediately was blindsided when the page read “Remembering Matt Holbowitch”; underneath it was a status written by a friend of his about memorial service arrangements and he left his phone number.

I called him after being in a state of shock for a few minutes and, while I won’t get into the details, it was a pretty shitty situation, causing Matt to take his own life.  While I’m sure I’ll get into how we met in another post, I couldn’t help but remember what turned out to be our last phone conversation two years ago.  He was living in Missouri, where he was a diesel mechanic, and he called me after I threw the horns up in response to a video he posted on facebook of him playing “Flight Of Icarus”.  He asked me what it would take for me to go down there to hang for a week and I told him not much, but I never followed up.

I wish he reached out to me if he was having problems.  Fuck, I wish I kept in touch with him.  Suicide was not the way out, especially when you’re the father to a two year old and a one year old.  If you are reading this and you want to take your own life, do yourself a favor and go find someone to talk to because burying that shit will do you no good in the long run.

In memory of him I decided to cover “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” for my first true electric guitar video.  Why that one?  Because this guy was so fucking metal that his first words were “Black Sabbath”.  Not momma, not dadda.  Black.  Sabbath.  I doubt you can just make that up.  Because of that alone I salute him and say hail Satan!

 

Matt Holbowitch 1977 – 2016

 

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Possibly the best Ozzfest lineup ever? Ozzfest live at the Tweeter Center August 26th 2004

So just over a year since my last concert I was invited by my then-bandmates, Chad and Idrees, to go with them to see Ozzfest at the Tweeter Center in Camden, NJ on August 26th, 2004.  And if you looked at the main stage line up for this tour alone it’s easy to see why.  Dimmu Borgir (fake, pretentious, symphonic black metal), Superjoint Ritual (Phil Anselmo acting even dumber than the last time I saw him), Black Label Society, Slayer, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath.  Yeah, Judas Priest was THE big deal at the time, with the band announcing the return of Rob Halford on vocals just ten months earlier and following the release of the band’s box set.  The three of us definitely had our musical differences – making me wonder how I didn’t quit them earlier – with me liking a little bit of everything yet leaning towards heavier stuff more and more, Idrees listening to Thrash and ONLY Thrash, and Chad being the Power Metal guy who was practically jerking off every night to all things Iron Maiden and Steve Vai; but who the fuck doesn’t even remotely like Judas Preist??  I’m waiting….

The morning of the show they were supposed to come to my house with Idrees’s dad driving to pick me up.  They were very late and whenever I called either of their cellphones no one picked up and it really irritated me.  When they finally did show up I do remember letting them both have it, although I don’t remember their lame excuse.  Idrees’s dad reminds me of a cross between Nile Rodgers and Isaac Hayes, Niles in the voice department and Isaac in looks, it was pretty funny just hearing him talk.  We arrived in Camden around 1pm due to shitty traffic once we got off the NJ Turnpike; ever been to Camden before?  No?  Ok, ever hear Chris Rock talk about why you should never anywhere that has a Martin Luther King Blvd?  Well, we were on it and we saw why.  Here’s an example of what we drove through to get to this place:

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Isn’t this just sexy?  I’d totally live here!

After maybe twenty minutes of my suddenly wishing we took Chris Rock’s advice and ran we finally got to the Tweeter Center, the huge outdoor arena placed in the location of the Armageddon we all apparently missed and right across the water from Philadelphia.  Idress’s really cool dad was going to spend his day at the New Jersey State Aquarium not to far down the road from us and right by the ferry that was bringing in drunken Philly trash for Ozzfest.  But I’ll get back to that later!

The three of us walked in to the horrible sounds of Otep on the second stage, having just missed God Forbid, who I really wanted to see.  They sadly broke up in 2013 but if you’ve never heard of them check out their 2004 album Gone Forever.  So we walked around for a bit, bought beads to throw at girls to have them show us their titties, etc.  We went back to the second stage because I wanted to see Lamb Of God.  They were literally five days away from release of their major label debut on Epic Records, Ashes Of The Wake, following the success of their last album, As The Palaces Burn, and it looked like they totally did a major gear upgrade with there being to big walls of speaker cabinets like only Slayer would do.

Chad and Idrees left me there because they weren’t fans of the band.  I think it was literally just too modern for either of them.  Lesson #1: if you’re only 19 years old – like these two knuckleheads were (I was a year older) – nothing is too modern for you.  Life’s too short to be THAT pretentious over music.  I may have just turned 32 but I still have an open mind!  Lamb Of God were absolutely awesome, playing a good chunk of their material from the last record as well as the first single off the new album, called “Laid To Rest”.  What I didn’t understand was Randy Blythe’s need to curse literally every other word – that’s not an exaggeration – as well as constantly saying he was in “Killadelphia” when we were actually across the water.  Dumbass.

My two dopey friends came back just in time to rescue me from Shitknot (I was a fan of them for a few years but 2004 was the year they broke my heart Godfather Part 2 style) and Hatebreed.  In fact, after LOG there were no others bands I wanted to see on the second stage at all!  So we had lots of time to kill.  While there I bought a BLS shirt that I still have today and the classic Slayer eagle shirt, which mysteriously disappeared on me a few years back.  I’m still pissed about that one, by the way.  While walking we came across a lot of that drunken Philly trash I mentioned before.  I’m talking a bunch of ridiculously sunburnt dudes in Eagles jerseys (the football season had just started) yelling out in unison “E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!!!!”….over….and over….and over again.  We also found a good spot at the guard rail on the lawn, where we could throw beads at bitches AND have a pretty good few of all the bands.

After while it was finally time for the main stage acts to go on.  First? Black Label Society.  This was to be my first of seven times seeing them, in fact I can’t make fun of Chad’s fixation on Maiden without stressing that between 2002 and 2008 I wanted to play like Zakk Wylde so bad.  I had other influences, of course, but at that time Zakk was the ONLY one who was that popular while playing that kind of music.  Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul had already risen from the ashes of Pantera, but their current band, Damageplan, was not getting over on the old fans easily.

Right out the gate he was ripping it up on a custom made Jackson Randy Rhoads guitar.  He’s shredded for maybe two minutes before breaking into “Funeral Bell”.  Idrees and I loved it.  Chad?  “Zakk Wylde’s not that great”, he said with this arrogant smirk on his face.  Chances are he was already jaded from listening to technical shred nerds who never left their mother’s basement.  Lesson #2:  It really doesn’t matter how much better one guitar player is than the next.  Zakk himself will even acknowledge that there are players that will bury him.  But what’s more important than having all the technique there is to have is being able to have your playing reach out to more than one niche crowd.  That’s why Zakk passed the audition to play with Ozzy in the first place.  Even Ozzy knew Zakk had already developed a sound that would one day make him recognizable!

Superjoint Ritual were next.  Where Phil Anselmo pretty much told us last year in Brooklyn where he stood in music (as in not with Pantera) he pretty much took that and acted like a dumbass this time around.  First off, their latest album, A Lethal Does Of American Hatred, sucked balls in plain English.  Also, it’s one thing to command your audience to mosh; but when you tell them that they’re pussies if they don’t you’re just a jackass.  The band were still great…so long as the played the music off the first album…but it was weird when Phil ended the band’s set by saying “keep sucking dick!” on the mic before doing his classic shitty rendition of the last words to “Stairway To Heaven” that he’d been doing since the Pantera days.  Drugs are bad, m’kay?

Dimmu Borgir were TRASH.  Bad enough I already don’t like Symphonic Black Metal but Dimmu were and are just awful.  Next? Slayer.  How funny that, as Idrees left us to mosh in the makeshift pit area right behind us, Chad and I both realized that the guardrail was pretty wobbly – yeah, we were fucked and we knew it.  Because as soon as Slayer got on stage all Hell broke loose and we were almost instantly pinned to the guardrail.  That shit hurts!  Of course, once they kicked into “Raining Blood”, the pit had become it’s most violent.  But who really fucking cares?  This is Slayer – and with the classic lineup back together!  Whenever I was able to get a glimpse of the band without getting pummeled I look straight at Jeff Hanneman.  He tore that guitar up better than Kerry King that night….and all the time.

After surviving the moshpit from hell we made sure Idrees came to us so we wouldn’t lose our spots before Priest came on.  At this point on it was more like an arena style concert, because who moshes to Priest or Sabbath anyway?  This was the one band to have a really elaborate stage setup.  Here, look for yourself:

 

I was able to notice on my own that Halford was relying HEAVILY on a teleprompter because he’d go to one place on stage and just stay there for two of three songs before going somewhere else.  Didn’t matter though because he was on fire, proving why he’s the Metal God.  When they played “Breaking The Law” I called up my college radio station’s programming director to bust his balls and left him a voicemail of the band playing the chorus line.  Why was I busting chops?  Well…let’s just say he did just that over a month earlier.

Up last?  Sabbath.  But of course there was a catch.  Before the band were to go on stage Bill Ward came out to announce to everyone that Ozzy was sick and could not play.  BUT, apparently Rob Fucking Halford volunteered to sing so the band wouldn’t have to cancel their performance.  There’s a bootleg floating around of Halford doing the favor for them back in 1992 but I was actually going to hear it??  Needless to say I wasn’t bummed out much longer after hearing that!

Being that someone else was singing, regardless of the fact that it’s a guy that’s STILL amazing at his age, they kept the setlist floating around the just the first three albums.  I’d bet that was just to make it easier on Rob, who surely didn’t have enough time to practice.  But it still was pretty awesome to hear.

 

Idrees’s dad was waiting for us right outside the arena, having stolen banana daiquiri mix from some vendor stand during what I think he said was some kind of police situation…or something.  The show was awesome as a whole.  If I only knew then that I’d NEVER see the classic Sabbath lineup.  But was this THE best Ozzfest lineup ever?  I think the following year’s beat it; but I’ll get to that in the future.

Quick Reminder

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and be sure to like my page because it’s the only way I’ll be able to get my own URL for it.  You’ll also get more status updates and news briefings based on things I normally discuss on here, as well as quicker notifications on new blog postings.

 

The End: Black Sabbath live and SOLD OUT at Madison Square Garden February 25th, 2016

I tried to see Black Sabbath with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals on two different occasions.  Now, I intended on writing about this in other blogs as I went through all the concerts I went to, but I feel that would take forever and it would make sense to write about it now since I’m about to discuss the show I just went to.  When I went to see them at Ozzfest 2004 in Camden, NJ,  drummer Bill Ward came out before the band was to play and announced that Ozzy was too sick to play and Rob Halford of Judas Priest was going to sing in his place.  You couldn’t be there and complain much after that!  The next year, before we even got in inside the PNC Bank Arts Center, the girl checking our tickets told my ex-guitarist Chad and I “No Black Sabbath tonight”.  Why this time?  “Because Ozzy’s sick.”  Sure, Iron Maiden played an extended set that night but I was convinced that night that I’d never see Sabbath with Ozzy…and that Ozzy’s voice is just toast.

So when I got wind, a few weeks ago, that Sabbath had to cancel gigs in Canada because Ozzy lost his voice, the only thing I could assume was that my friend Frank was going to have to get a refund.  Little did I know how wrong I would be…and some more.  But I’ll get to that in a bit.

I arrived last night at Madison Square Garden with high expectations for the band and incredibly low expectations for Ozzy. Fuck, I really just wanted to see Tony Iommi anyway.  But I was also looking very much forward to reuniting with my buddy Frank, who got us the tickets, as well as seeing the opening bands, Rival Sons.  Rival Sons got on stage and goddamn they sound even more like Led Zeppelin live than on record!  The most obvious sign of it on their albums is the John Bonham-like drum sound.  But live, Jay Buchanan did some loud ass wailing while barefoot – that he at least had me convinced that Robert Plant found a way to defy age and join Rival Sons.  At one point Frank and I were jokingly singing Zep song titles into two of their songs because they sounds THAT MUCH like Zep songs.  I think the last time I heard anyone sound like Zep to the T was Billy Squier when he recorded “Lonely Is The Night”.

 

To our surprise we didn’t have to wait long for Sabbath to come on.  The lights in the Garden went out at 8:45pm, definitely earlier than expected.  As the sold out crowd was ROARING in excitement  a video came up on the screen.  We saw burning buildings that represented the artwork from their most recent album, 13.  Then it got really weird, like something out of a fucking Final Fantasy game.  But you can see part of it here:

So, as you can see and hear, they opened up with the title track to their self-titled debut.  And from their the broke into the classic “Fairies Wear Boots”.  Say what you want about Ozzy’s solo drummer, Tommy Clufetos, taking Bill Ward’s place for the last few years as well as the fact that his style is not as jazzy or loose as Bill’s.  But he did a really good job emulating Bill’s parts and making him his own.  Do I wish Bill was there?  Hell fuck yeah I do!  But I have to give Tommy respect for making it clear that he was paying his respects.  His DW drum kit even looks like Bill’s Tama set to the T!

Geezer Butler, as usual, was on FIRE last night!  He bass tone, even from where I was sitting in the nosebleed section, was so strong and crystal clear.  HIs fingers were moving so fast on those strings.  His playing, both wild with abandon yet perfectly arranged.  There really is no one like him.  No one.

Which brings me to Lita Ford’s favorite Superhero…as well as the main reason I even wanted to go: Tony Iommi.  This is it for him.  He’s sick, tired, stressed.  No matter what the other guys want to do after this all ends I wouldn’t expect to see him out on the road again.  The lymphoma treatments are clearly taking their toll on him.  But he still put on probably the most amazing show I’ve ever seen from him and this was the fourth time I’ve seen Tony live overall.  His playing was so fluid, so smooth yet so BRUTAL.  His riffs – so horrifying, so scary, so BRUTAL.  This motherfucker CREATED the style of music I love so much as is the primary reason I play guitar.  There will NEVER be anyone like Tony Iommi ever again.  Ever.

Then there was that big shocker of the night that I eluded to earlier.  Ozzy Osbourne, not known to have had a great singing voice since the mid 9o’s…actually sounded good!  I shit you not!  I’m pretty sure the key was that the band played songs that Ozzy could handle, which meant not straying far from their first three albums much if at all.  If you knew anything about how the guy destroyed his voice over the years you knew there was no way he was pulling out “Sabbath Blood Sabbath” or even “Megalomania” for that matter.  Although I was surprised to hear them play “Snowblind” and even more surprised to hear Ozzy hit the high notes without struggle!  He was shockingly on point last night…I guess the third time was the charm after all, eh?

THE SETLIST:

Intro video/Black Sabbath

Jack The Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots

After Forever

Into The Void (\m/\m/\m/\m/!!!!!!)

Snowblind

Wars Pigs

Behind The Wall Of Sleep/Bass Solo/NIB

Hand Of Doom

Rat Salad/Drum Solo

Iron Man

Dirty Women

Children Of The Grave

Encore: Paranoid (well, duh!)

Like I said, the band pretty much hovered around the first three albums which the exceptions of “Snowblind” and especially “Dirty Women”.  Not that Ozzy sang high in that song; but I doubt anyone expected them to pull out something off Technical Ecstacy, which was not their best album during the Ozzy years.  Either way, it was incredibly effective.  My head hurt so much from headbanging yet I refused to stop.  After the show ended we witnessed some guy who was so drunk he nearly fell down the stairs and that would have been a fucking long way down.  He instead fell on his ass and as he when to get his cigarette, which was already lit up, he mistakenly put the lit side in his mouth!

The show was in-fucking-credible, what a fitting way to say goodbye to the band that started it all.  In fact, they are playing another show at the Garden tomorrow night and will be touring through September.  Without them, and especially without Tony Iommi, there would be no heavy metal as we know it now.  For that I’ll always be thankful.

Upcoming Show’s I’ll Be Attending

So here’s a short list of the next few show’s I’m going to in either New Jersey or Manhattan within the next week and again in February.

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King Diamond w/ Exodus live at PlayStation Theater, New York, NY  – Friday, November 20, 2015

This was very last minute.  I wasn’t counting on seeing this show because this date in particular is sold out but a co-worker of my girlfriend offered her his tickets.  Sucker!  This is going to be amazing.  I love King.  She can’t stand him but is willing to go see him out of respect, knowing that there’d probably never be bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax or Slayer had it not been for Mercyful Fate, King’s pre-solo band.  Being that this will be my first time seeing King, it’ll also be interesting to hear how he sounds after years away, having recovered from back AND heart surgeries.  I also know I’m absolutely going to jizz myself silly when I finally hear Andy LaRoque solo his brains out for the first time ever!  Not looking too forward to Exodus.  I’m probably one of the few would cannot stand Souza’s voice…at all.  What the fuck was Gary Holt thinking when he got rid of Rob Dukes?  Was he even thinking at all?!?!  You dumb fuck.

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Angel Vivaldi live at Dingbatz, Clifton, NJ – Sunday, November 22, 2015

Since I last wrote about Angel Vivaldi this YouTube sensation has been on the road for the last two months, promoting his most recent album, Away With Words, Pt.1.  This show will be his homecoming show, bringing that tour to an end.  If you haven’t heard him yet I suggest you go to Dingbatz on the 22nd to see why he gets namedropped by peers such as Alice Cooper guitarist Nita Strauss.

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Black Sabbath live at Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – Thursday, February 25, 2016

Well, here it is.  And more important than that, it’s for real this time.  Tony Iommi himself has gone on record saying that he finally cannot handle it anymore.  It’s incredible he was able to hang on for as long as he has, all things considered.  But it was going to happen eventually – I’m just grateful that their last show wasn’t an Ozzfest gig in Japan!  What really got me mad was finding out after I bought the tickets that they’re playing another show at the Garden two days later – on a Saturday.  But I honestly don’t mind taking a day off from work the next day – especially with the jackasses I deal with on a day to day basis!  They’ll also be playing throughout the summer including dates at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ.

I just hope that Ozzy doesn’t fuck this up.  The two times I tried to see Sabbath he was sick, but I’ll definitely get into those times in future blogs, trust me.  I know for a fucking fact that I’m not the only one who’d LOVE for Bill Ward to be a part of this last tour.  But I guess it’s up to Bill in the end; but hell, he should be a part of this, if not even for us at least for himself!  I’d love to see the classic line up that started it all just once.  C’mon Bill!  Ozzy fucked it up for me twice – don’t you be the one to fuck it up this time!

My First Taste of Pure Evil on Music

20130104_black_sabbath_paranoid_91 So, in the spirit of my recent rant on Black Sabbath’s final concert announcement, I couldn’t help recently but begin reminiscing about my first true taste of them…and that would obviously be their second album, Paranoid, released originally in 1970.  What an eye opener that was – and not just because the picture of the colorful looking, sword welding soldier on the cover made me think I was buying the soundtrack to some early 70’s low budget sci-fi movie!

I first heard of Ozzy Osbourne when he released Ozzmosis in 1995.  I was 11 at the time and MTV News did a story on him and then a week later  I saw his video for “Perry Mason”.  But it was two years later, when I somehow joined the “rocker clique” in my school, that my friend Elan Bochbot educated me on Ozzy’s beginnings.  What was ironic was this now was the year that Black Sabbath were to reunite (I think without Bill Ward) to headline Ozzfest.  But it wasn’t until a year later that I finally bought my first Sabbath CD – and this was AFTER I bought Blizzard of Ozz so I think you can imagine how thrown off I was bound to be when comparing Randy Rhoads’s playing to Tony Iommi’s!

Oh, I also had an obstacle or two when listening to Paranoid.  I was living with my dad when I got it back in the summer of 1998 and I didn’t have a radio in that bedroom so all I had was some shit CD walkman.  Yeah, about that shit walkman; it was so shitty that for whatever reason it would not read the CD.  And if it did read the CD I had to make sure not to skip tracks because it wouldn’t read and the fucking CD would just spin around aimlessly.  You can’t make this shit up!

Now for the music!  The first time my shitty CD player was able to read the CD I was smacked in the back of the head by the first low E strum and slow as fuck groove of “War Pigs”.  That groove, the unusual way Tony Iommi played his guitar – a far cry from Randy Rhoads and “I Don’t Know” for sure! – Geezer Butler’s walking bassline, Bill Ward’s loose drumming.  Those sirens!!  I already couldn’t help but anticipate what was to happen next because I knew it’d be a while before my CD player would be able to do this again!

Then it got quiet, all you could hear was Bill’s hi-hat.  Then it came.  “Generals gathered in their masseeeeeess!”  Whoa!  Is that really Ozzy?  Is that the same guy that I just heard a month earlier singing “Crazy Train”?  Oh yeah it was.  But this was a much rawer Ozzy.  At that moment I understood that this was going to be nothing like those other two Ozzy CD’s I had.  This shit was going to be fucking RAW.  This would be the first time I wouldn’t hear a rhythm guitar track during any solos, this would be the first time I’d hear the guitar and bass intertwining together as one, swinging drums in a much more aggressive environment.  I was listening to the origins of Heavy Metal – and it sounded pretty jazzy.

After being blown away by “War Pigs” “Paranoid” came next.  This is one of the simpler songs on the CD.  It’s perfect.  Short, fast paced, the lyrics fit perfectly and that gnarly, dissonant solo totally fucked with my head.  I can listen to it now and I can’t help but imagine the face of a crazy person.  “Planet Caravan”, the lone mellow track here.  This one threw me off for sure, especially with Ozzy’s voice going through a rotating speaker, which I wasn’t aware of at the time.  I didn’t even think it was him!  As he creepily spoke about sailing “through endless skies” as “stars shine like eyes”, I felt like I was watching a cartoon, and in it all four guys in the band when on some boat riding through space, then as Tony played the ending solo the four of them faded away in to the darkness.  As it turns out my interpretation of the song wasn’t too far off from what Geezer had in mind after all.  What makes me laugh is my rap loving brother heard this song the one time my dad let me play it in his truck and decided “You’re a poser and I’m gonna tell all ya friends!”.  Yeah…good luck there buddy.

Then came that bass drum, then came the bending E string…”I am Iron Man!”.  This was just fun as hell because while this wasn’t based on the comic book I read comics so this is another song where I couldn’t help but see a cartoon going on in my head, regardless that it turned out to be the ultimate rejection song and the same goes for “Electric Funeral ” too!  But Tony’s use of the wah pedal on “Electric Funeral” made the riff that much more fucked up sounding and I loved it.

“Hand of Doom”, that is just pure groove.  I wasn’t ready for that yet but I totally appreciate it now, especially when I gets faster in the middle before slowing down again.  It’s an exercise in jazz improv, but of course as evil as they could get.  Same thing goes for “Jack the Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots”.  Upon my first several listens the lyrics made absolutely no sense at all.  I didn’t think they were supposed to because I knew everybody and their mother did drugs like there was no tomorrow back then but later on I discovered the meaning behind it.  But Geezer, I’m sure that not all skinheads are afraid to fight bud – you just got lucky that night!

The album, or at least my version of it, ends with “Rat Salad”, or as I like to call it, the Bill Ward Special!  He is such an underrated drummer.  He was to Black Sabbath what Ringo was to the Beatles.  He had rhythm but he could swing to and it added such flavor to the groove.  But unlike Ringo he could do drum solos.  Was this John Bonham?  No.  But it fit perfectly with the tune.

And just like that not only was it over but I’d probably have to wait a while before the stupid CD player could read the CD again.  This was nothing like what I was listening to at the time.  Ozzy’s voice was raw and nasal as hell throughout the whole thing.  Tony’s guitar playing was primitive but he undeniably had such a huge sound and I could finally see where so many guys stole their tricks from – myself included.  It was filed with anger, it was dark, gloomy, nothing flashy or shrederrific about him.  What you heard was what you got but it was real and you FELT IT.  Geezer turned out to be such a player on that bass and Bill was more than an anchor.  He was the perfect jazz drummer – he knew when to keep it tight but he also knew when to let it fly.

In the end it was the perfect historical piece for metal historians, not just because of the music.  The artwork, the lyrical imagery, the themes of war, rejection, mental illness and again, how raw it all is.  Paranoid will always be the perfect introduction to the band that started it all.  I knew I was hooked and I wanted more.  Now.  Yesterday.  Then I found Master of Reality, which I consider to be THE heaviest album of all time.  But that’s another story.