CLASSIC ALBUMS REVISITED: Black Sabbath’s Genre Defining Debut Turns 50

Black Sabbath in 1970, photo by Warner Brothers Records

On the sleeve: a grainy picture of a woman dressed in black. A stagnant pond. A creepy looking mill house. 

And two words. Black Sabbath

On the record: Rain. Thunder. A tolling bell. Those three notes. That voice.

And just like that, in February of 1970 – appropriately enough on the 13th – the face of music was changed forever.

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Prophets of Saturn – Retronauts

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There’s something about summertime that makes stoner/doom even better than normal, isn’t it? The hazy vibes, feeling of sluggish inertia and of course; flowery shirts just don’t work as well when there’s a raging blizzard outside and you can’t feel your toes. Hence Leicester based burnouts Prophets of Saturn’s timely decision to drop sophomore album Retronauts (Independent) when the sun, and most likely your tiny mind, is high in the sky.

Thankfully steering clear of the current retro rock trend where bands are falling over themselves to declare how much they love Black Widow and Dennis Wheatley novels (just ignore the racism), Prophets of Saturn are all about the power of the almighty riff, and it’s not unfair to say they have borrowed one or two from glaringly obvious influences Sleep and Acrimony. The lyrical references to wizards, occultism and weed are to be expected, which may explain why George Sanderson’s vocals are low in the mix; his presence clearly isn’t crucial.

The quartet play a loose, free-flowing form of stoner doom that washes over you like a haze of bong smoke on a sunny afternoon, albeit with a nicely pulsing bass presence that ensures things remain suitably heavy. The pace varies, with ‘Ultra Wizards’ calling to mind Cathedral at their most playful whilst seventeen minute closer ‘Damavand’ is a lysergic hail to the slow and the punishing.

While so many bands of this ilk are content to rip off Electric Wizard, Prophets of Saturn has their own, admittedly blurry identity. Their vibe is more mushroom tea and garish sci-fi paperbacks than Hammer Horror and witchcraft, and although this may mark them as a less threatening prospect, listeners should not be deceived, for Retronauts is a suitably smoky and weighty piece of work that improves with every spin.

 

7.0/10

 

JAMES CONWAY