Listening to Black Sabbath: The Influences for My Novel An Augmented Fourth Part 2 / by Tony McMillen

Part II:

This is the follow up to my previous piece about how the music of the band has played such an important part in inspiring my upcoming heavy metal horror novel An Augmented Fourth.

Read the first part here if you like.

Now I’m going to expound some more on Sabbath and their place in the DNA of An Augmented Fourth here. One of their main contributions to my writing in this book and maybe in general is the band’s approach to songwriting itself.  A Sabbath song packs a shitload of ideas into one track in a relatively short amount of time. Sure, compared to the standard pop rock song nowadays which clocks in at 3 or 4 minutes an average Sab song at 6 or 7 minutes might seem bloated but there is little filler in most of their stuff. So unlike some prog bands that have 7 or 10-minute-long tracks with say 6 minutes of beautiful stuff and the rest is self-indulgent wankery most Sabbath gets right to the point and then keeps on making that point. In author John Darnielle’s 33 and 1/3 book on the album Master of Reality there’s a very simple but precise observation about how Black Sabbath songs are constructed. Everything, every bass line, drum fill, vocal and even lyric is there to support the riff. Not just the guitar player but the riff-oriented song that the guitar player Tony Iommi is composing. An average Black Sabbath song stuffs more musical ideas into it than most entire albums by other rock bands do. This template helped define metal. Metal is usually somewhat complex but unlike prog it is almost always easily palatable.

 

What I really enjoy about Sabbath and most early metal is that it’s expansive but not exhaustive like much latter day metal can be. Metallica, for instance, can be exhaustive. A whole album can leave you feeling drained. Don’t get me wrong, Metallica is fine, awesome at times. But I usually don’t listen to three of their albums in a row. Whereas with Sabbath I can listen to the self-titled through Sabbath Bloody Sabbath any time and leave feel energized as opposed to emptied.

What all of this means for my writing is that An Augmented Fourth is a shorter novel - it started as a novella – but it’s packed with ideas. But hopefully not too many ideas. I want to stretch your head with this book but not pop it like a balloon. And just like everything Sab does supports Tony Iommi’s riffs everything in this novel backs up the themes of the book.

What are the themes?

Where’s the fun in telling you? Besides, you’ll decide that on your own I’m sure.

I will say the book’s main character is named Codger Burton and it takes place in December of 1980, three days after John Lennon was shot dead.

But those are just the first puzzle pieces, every part of the novel builds off of them but like most Sabbath tracks there are a whole litany of tasty licks and monster riffs hidden into this book’s short running time.

My only regret is that I wasn’t able to name my chapters the way the band named the song titles on their first three albums. They band would list the different parts of those extended jams and long songs as independent songs themselves. So instead of it just saying “War Pigs" it’d say “War Pigs/Luke’s Wall” and as a listener you’d have to suss out which part was supposed to be “Luke’s Wall” and which was “War Pigs.” My money’s on “War Pigs” being the part of the song where Ozzy sings the words “War Pigs” and “Luke’s Wall” being that tremendous guitar solo at the end where Iommi tells Jimmy Page to go fuck himself. But that’s just me talking.

 

I did end up naming each chapter of An Augmented Fourth after a Frivolous Black song but I gave up the multiple part thing when I discovered how hard it was to make awesome metal song titles that weren’t too jokey but still a little jokey but overall still mostly badass. 

I have a song titled “Tetrahex” That’s 6,6,6 and 6.

I am a fucking artist and there’s only a limited supply of gold the likes of “Tetrahex.”

Next up I’ll tell you about some of the none musical building blocks for my book.

Read Part 3