How A Haunted Castle Cured Black Sabbath's Writer's Block

Throughout the '70s, when Black Sabbath was on their rise to fame, they had both a unique aesthetic and a unique sound. In today's market, most metal bands have adopted a dark, horror-inspired look and a heavy, wicked sound, but, back then, Black Sabbath was pretty much the first. They tore a hole in the world of rock n' roll and filled it with gloomy tones and fierce shreds. The band was groundbreaking.

Many rock fans at the time probably thought the members of Black Sabbath were insane; they were certainly anything but average, but their eccentricities and creative minds are what led the band to fame and fortune. Not to mention they basically created an entire genre of music and influenced every single metal band after them in one way or another. Their songs have inspired countless others to pick up their axes or sticks and join the heavy metal movement. Even bands who wouldn't list Black Sabbath among their direct influences still benefit from the ground they laid. At the least, all new metal has been influenced by bands who were influenced by Sabbath.

Going back to them being a side-step from normal: where most people strive to avoid terrifying things like ghosts, Black Sabbath rushes towards them. The band, who's aesthetic is gloom and horror, has no problem chilling with the spectral remnants of the dead. In fact, it was a haunted castle that got the band out of a creative funk and cured Tony Iommi's writer's block.

Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi got a bad case of writer's block

Black Sabbath had a fairly unique way of writing music. Each member of the band took on songwriting duties in some capacity, and for some of the members, this was easier than for others. Frontman Ozzy Osbourne suffers from a pretty bad case of dyslexia; as reading and writing are both difficult for the metal legend, according to Song Facts, bassist Geezer Butler would write down phrases that Ozzy sang during their jam sessions and compose lyrics from them. The band's lead guitarist, Tony Iommi, also played a big part in Black Sabbath's songwriting and once found himself falling short in the creative department while working on their fifth album, according to Louder.

Honestly, it's not a surprise that Iommi had written himself straight into writer's block. The band had just come off an explosion of creativity. The first four Sabbath albums — Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Master Of Reality, and Vol. 4 — had all been released in a short, two-year span. Hit after hit came out in those early days, including "War Pigs" and "Iron Man," and at first, it was this initial "hit the ground running" attitude that fueled Black Sabbath's creativity. But, from the sound of it, that drive had also burned them out.

Iommi says he "panicked" when the writer's block set in. With little else to do, the band canceled their L.A. studio time, packed up, and went back to England in hopes of finding some inspiration.

What's more metal than a haunted castle?

The band took some much-needed time off when they got back to their homeland. After years of non-stop recording and touring, a break seemed the most logical next step. They were due to record Sabbath Bloody Sabbath in L.A., but you can't record that which you haven't written, and the City of Angels just wasn't fueling their dark creative needs the way, say, a haunted castle would.

"We rented an old castle in the Forest Of Dean," Iommi told Louder. "And it was just us there. What we did was set up the equipment in the dungeons of the castle to try and get some vibe going." 

The setting was just what the band needed to get back on track, and in no time, they'd finished that fifth album. They castle they'd camped out in was Clearwell Castle in Gloucestershire, England. It's a gothic-revival castle that was built in 1727 and, if we can trust the band's claims, it's been standing long enough to collect at least one spectral entity within its walls.

Black Sabbath experienced some odd occurrences

In his interview with Louder, Iommi talked about some weird stuff happening to Black Sabbath while they were holed up in Clearwell Castle's dungeon. The first of the odd occurrences took place when Iommi and one of his bandmates — he can't recall which one exactly — were walking up from a jam session. Out of nowhere, they saw a figure coming down the long corridor towards them before it shot off through the armory door. They couldn't make out who it was, so they did what any rational human being would: they followed the mysterious figure into a weapon-filled room.

Inside the armory, nothing stirred. The room was completely empty. According to Iommi, there was no possible way for anyone to exit without going back into the corridor where he and his bandmate had just come from. When they brought the incident up to the folks who then owned the castle a few days later, they were told not to worry; it was just the castle ghost, no big deal. 

Apparently, the castle had weird stuff going down on a regular basis due to, from what the book Black Sabbath and Philosophy: Mastering Reality says, a former maid searching for her deceased infant.