Greatest Song At This Moment - Black Sabbath's "N.I.B."




Dedicated to those songs that I can't stop playing, humming, or thinking about; the 4+ minutes you fall head-over-heels in love with. Past instances have included Outkast's "Dracula's Wedding," Elvis Costello's "Little Triggers" and the Hives "Tick Tick Boom."


I believe that during the meeting with Paramount Studio executives, the producers of Iron Man pulled out a boom box, hit play, and played the Sabbath song of the same title. They let it play for it's glorious five minutes and watched the executives' eyes light up as they said, "And imagine this bad-assery for two hours!" Maybe it's the endless play of these trailers for this movie that's put the darkness in my mind, but I've had a serious hankering for Black Sabbath in the last 3 months. What's odd is that the actual song "Iron Man" isn't the one that got stuck in my head, but "Nativity In Black," which is like so many of Sabbath's greatest songs, almost exactly the same song. Wonderfully so.

I'm a latecomer to the Sabbath flock, as I always considered myself above such mindless droning. I have a weird habit of comparing bands that don't necessitate direct comparison. For some reason I always think of REM vs. U2, same era, semi-political, same style, both use initial-based naming techniques. I still consider Michael Jackson and Prince as being part of some weird rivalry (as a quick side note, I don't believe I'm alone in this belief, at least in the world of comparing "The Most Crazy." It's amazing to me that if you would have polled the music world circa 1995, Prince would have won in a walk, but Jackson has worked extra hard in crucial creepy ways to not only close the gap, but pull ahead with a commanding lead. The "Symbol as Name" thing, the weird protests of his multi-million dollar contract, ass-less pants... Prince's crazy was good but it all peaked too early). Not only that, but I pick sides (REM and Prince) and use the opposing sides as some sort of justification to better decide what I dislike. Such was the way of my Sabbath involvement, as they compared with and lost to Led Zeppelin. In a nutshell, Sabbath was dumb and Zeppelin was "less dumb," all it took was a few confirmed literary references and they're in. After all, Black Sabbath was the kind of band with titles such as "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" and "Black Sabbath". I foolishly saw this as "purely stupid" without giving them the credit they deserve for being pioneers in the "Band Name In The Title" realm that seems more acceptable in the rap world, but has never really caught on within Planet Rock.

Make no mistake; Black Sabbath is not exactly sophisticated, as "N.I.B." clearly, beautifully demonstrates. Has there ever been a band with more "on the beat" lyrics-to-riff combinations than these guys? Curiously, "N.I.B." getting stuck in my head took other Sabbath songs to really land. Every time I thought of the song, I could only come up with the riff for "Sweet Leaf." I could resurrect the "N.I.B." riff back in my head by saying that most ridiculous of ridiculously "dark" lyrics, "My name is Lucifer, please take my hand," which times out PRECISELY with the guitars. It works out more like "My name is Lu-CEE'-fer, please take my HAND'." This is not exactly fascinating neither musical expression, nor does it necessarily particularly chosen to make some sort of point. It feels more like the band loved the riff and they probably walked around London humming "Dun-dun-doo-dun-DUN-duh-doo, dun-dun-doo-dun" over and over and over and then just set lyrics to that exact riff. Well, it was for good reason. One of the most powerful parts of the track comes after the first (yes, first) break, when the riff returns, exactly the same yet somehow more powerful.

It's a fantastic slice of rocking. If aliens landed tomorrow and asked for one five-second example of a "head banging metal riff," you would play this one. It is the kind of lick that not only forces your head to instantly bob, but you never want it to go away. In fact, part of the reason I'm playing it so many times on repeat has to do with the fact that the last minute of the tune doesn't have that riff, and I want it again. I can imagine the group playing this song in concert, getting through that final solo section, then looking at each other and saying, "One more time, lads!" and hitting it all over from the opening riff proper. I can't imagine anyone complaining.

Black Sabbath

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Greatest Song At This Moment - Black Sabbath's "N.I.B."