Stupid click-bait title?
(you won’t believe what happens next)
I can’t believe people still fall for that shit.
Seriously though, for all the try-hards who fall back on the “I like metal because the artists are so original” defense, here’s a bit of a history lesson.
First, we need to establish a few things.
- Black Sabbath was the first metal band. This is a given (people who say Coven was the first metal band are like people who say Possessed is the first death metal band – they’re wrong and just trying to make themselves look credible because they can do a fucking google search. We get it, they had a song called Black Sabbath and a bassist named Greg “Oz” Osbourne – and released an album before Sabbath’s self-titled debut).
- The first heavy metal song was also called “Black Sabbath”. I have no idea what order they were written in, this was the first track on the album. It was also one of the first songs they performed live. They released a cover of “Evil Woman” as their first single, but that’s certainly not the first heavy metal song. For the purpose of defining the first metal song, my money is on Black Sabbath.
- Black Sabbath didn’t “write” the main riff for the first metal song. I’ll expand on this in a minute.
- I’m going to use bullshit American Millennial logic. You know, the kind of faux wax-philosophical logic in articles like this one, which asserts that you’re cheating on your girlfriend by checking your fucking facebook in the morning. To be fair, my argument is a bit more sound.
Having established the first metal band and the first metal song, we can safely say these two things in conjunction were the fucking genesis of heavy metal.
Like, in the beginning there was Black Sabbath – and I saw that it was good.
Sooooo, what was the creative process behind writing the infamous first song off the self titled debut? Legend has it Geezer Butler (their bassist) was playing a theme from “Mars, Bringer of War” from (The Planets by Gustav Holst) – specifically, the part with the tri-tone. No big surprise there, they were pretty musically diverse in their interests and influences. Iommi hears it, and then comes in the next day with the riff for “Black Sabbath”. They’re not identical, but they’re pretty fucking close.
Like, almost exact. Check it out.
(for the impatient, skip to 4:30 into the song to hear the theme I’m referencing)
(the song starts at about 27 seconds in, listen for it…)
Not quite as exact as Nile
But you get the idea.
So, if you’re going by the “college paper” rules of plagiarism, every fucking word on the planet is an act of plagiarism (including, but not limited to, Black Sabbath – and by association all of metal). Every fucking musical note in history is blatantly copying the first ape to bang two rocks together.
Plagiarism, Influence, and an Homage are NOT the same thing!
There is no such thing as an original thought. Every goddamn thing that has ever gone through your brain or come out of your mouth (the two are not always connected) has been done before. Everything.
That’s why we have a thing called influence – a concept to explain the natural progression of human expression based on the sum total of all the information they’ve processed in their miserable existence.
You do have to kind of draw a line in the sand here – there’s a clear distinction between a strong influence and completely robbing someone’s art and calling it your own.
In the example of Sabbath and Holst, we’re looking at influence. The guys in Sabbath took the idea of a tri-tone, and worked their own into a song that (eventually) helped define the band’s signature sound. And by correlation, helped to define metal as a whole. That can easily be confused as plagiarism, but it’s different.
In the example of Nile and Holst, Nile was paying an homage to Holst. It’s a public tribute – they adapted it to their own work, but instead of writing another into to a song about a god of war, they opted to use their own version of his into (paying tribute in the title of the song). This is a form of flattery.
If you want plagiarism, look to Papa Roach or some shitty tier 2-3 band that stopped being relevant the second they entered the music scene.
Example 1) The entire career of Papa Roach
Last Resort? Try Genghis Khan
Dead Cell? Try Sanctuary
Between Angels and Insects? Try Prowler.
How about that time the band ripped off Keane?
I seriously hate this fucking band. I think they have more accusations of plagiarism than they have singles.
Example 2) Annihilator’s “Snap” riff sounds suspiciously like Rammstein’s “Ich Tu Dir Weh”
And by “suspiciously like”, I mean note for fucking note.
How do you tell the difference?
How can a person say one band isn’t ripping another off, but another band is?
Influence is using a similar pattern to the person who influenced you. Homage is admitting you’re playing the same thing as another artist in a sort of tribute to them. Plagiarism is just stealing another artist’s work and calling it your own.
Papa Roach didn’t play something similar to Maiden – they played exactly the same riff as Maiden. At least 3 times. In 3 different fucking songs, 2 of them from the same album. And once you’ve hit 2 songs from the same Iron Maiden album, you’re already crossing from homage territory into copyright infringement. Especially when you give no mention or credit to maiden until you’re caught red handed in an interview, and try to pass it off as an homage.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand:
You could make a broad argument that Black Sabbath launched their career (and all of metal) through plagiarism – and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong.
Well, no, you’d be entirely wrong.
But seriously, metal is full of people borrowing other people’s riffs/lyrics. Just ask Iron maiden.
April 14, 2020 at 1:13 pm
The interval in the Sabbath song and the Holst piece is a tritone. It’s a flat 5th. It was banned in medieval centuries I’m told, the church said it would conjure the devil. They called it the devil’s 5th.
April 14, 2020 at 3:27 pm
Ascended 4th, descended 5th. Yes, this was certainly a tritone reference.