Black Sabbath invented the sound of heavy metal, but they didn't invent the name of the genre itself. In a new interview on the Eddie Trunk Podcast, Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler shared his take on the origins of the term "heavy metal" — and how the first time he saw those words, they weren't being lobbed at his band as a form of flattery.
According to Butler, a writer reviewing Sabbath's music early in their career sarcastically penned that they sounded like a "bunch of heavy metal being smashed together."
"When we were on tour in America, I think it was the second tour in the [United] States," Butler told Trunk, as transcribed by Metal Injection. "I read this review, and the guy said 'this isn't music. It sounds like a bunch of heavy metal being smashed together.' Somehow that got over to England, and from then on it was like the sarcastic thing they used to apply to us — 'this isn't music, it's a load of heavy metal being smashed together.' And for some reason we got stuck with it."
Many people have long credited former Rolling Stone journalist Mike Saunders with christening the descriptor in his review of Humble Pie's 1969 album As Safe As Yesterday ("a noisy, unmelodic, heavy metal-leaden shit-rock band, with the loud and noisy parts beyond doubt," he wrote), but the unspecified review Butler referred to does sound like it used "heavy metal" in a more direct way.
Elsewhere in Butler's chat with Trunk, he dropped another bomb by revealing that Sabbath's 1970 classic, "Iron Man," was actually written about Jesus.
"It was sort of based on Jesus Christ. He's like, this guy and goes and does good, and then he comes and tries to spread the word and ends up being crucified for telling the truth," Butler said. "And that was Iron Man seeing the future and coming back to tell the world how horrible it's gonna be, and people turn against him. Whereas Jesus died to save people, Iron Man takes his revenge. That's the big difference."
50 years later, and we're still learning new things about the early days of Black Sabbath. Listen to the whole podcast interview below.