The Real Meaning Behind Black Sabbath's Hand Of Doom

After bursting onto the scene with their self-titled debut album in 1970, Black Sabbath followed it up later that year with "Paranoid." Fueled by its uncharacteristically fast-paced title track, "Paranoid" was anything but a sophomore slump for the British heavy metal pioneers. Much like its predecessor, the album came packed with future classics that also included the anti-war epic "War Pigs," the psychedelic ballad "Planet Caravan," and "Iron Man," which was definitely not about Tony Stark ... though that didn't stop Marvel Studios from including the song in the film of the same name.

While it's one of the deeper cuts on "Paranoid," "Hand of Doom" is further proof of why the album can be considered one of those "all killer, no filler" releases that simply doesn't have a low point. It's been covered by bands such as Danzig (who gave it an oh-so-mid-'90s industrial edge) and Slayer, whose faithful interpretation of the tune was included in the tribute compilation "Nativity in Black II." The riffs are just as foreboding as the lyrics, and speaking of those lyrics, there's a good chance some of you may be wondering what Black Sabbath was warning listeners about in "Hand of Doom."

Hand of Doom is a cautionary tale about heroin use

You'd think that a band that was well-known for its excesses back in the day would be the last act to warn people about drug use. A band with the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne, on lead vocals, recording an anti-drug song. The same band that later expressed their love for the devil's lettuce in "Sweet Leaf," recording an anti-drug song. But that was indeed the case with "Hand of Doom."

According to Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler, he was inspired to write "Hand of Doom" after meeting American soldiers who were so emotionally scarred by the Vietnam War that they started using heroin. "Instead of going back to America, they'd have to have a half-way house and there was one in Germany and one in England," he told IGN in 2010. "We go talking to the soldiers and they were in a terrible state and telling me that a lot of them were doing heroin."

The second verse of "Hand of Doom" does back up Butler's story about U.S. troops who got hooked on heroin during the Vietnam War — "First it was the bomb/Vietnam napalm/Disillusioning/You push the needle in." In the final two verses, the lyrics also reference the potential consequences of heavy heroin use, such as users seeing their skin "turning green" and eventually dying after their addiction gets out of control. Osbourne backed this up in a 1970 interview with NME, revealing that they'd "seen a lot of people like that and it's getting out of all proportion."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).