IN 1970 the opening track on the debut album of a new band signalled the creation of a music genre that is still hugely popular 50 years later.

The sound of rain, thunder and a church bell is suddenly interrupted by an epic, unsettling riff, followed shortly by the ominous lines “What is this that stands before me? Figure in black which points at me.”

The song, album and band were all titled Black Sabbath, and the track and subsequent album have been heralded as the moment Heavy Metal was born.

To mark 50 years since the band was formed, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is running an exhibition celebrating the band. Home of Metal Presents: Black Sabbath - 50 Years, is a collection or artefacts, interviews, stories and memorabilia that details the band’s origin from working class Aston, Birmingham to becoming one of the most influential bands of all time.

As well as detailing the rise of the band, the exhibition shows how the environment its members grew up in - working class homes surrounded by Birmingham factories, manufacturing plants and sheet metal works, played a key role in the sound produced by Sabbath.

The exhibition comes just a few years after the band called it quits - a hugely popular farewell tour ran from 2016 until the band’s final gig in Birmingham in February 2017.

After their debut, the band went on to create a legendary run of albums, which forever shaped the sound of the genre and, to this day, remain some of its finest pieces.

Songs such as Paranoid, Iron Man and Children Of The Grave are still as powerful as they were decades ago, and can still be heard at rock nights across the world.

Although for many visitors the highlights of the exhibition will be items like Ozzy’s clothes, handwritten lyrics and speakers from the band’s last tour, the sections that explain how the band came to be are the parts I found most illuminating.

An entire section of the exhibition details life in Birmingham at the time the band members were growing up. Completely devoid of the rose tinted view of the past that plagues much of modern discourse today, it shows a city still devastated by wartime bombing, and where the only option for most men leaving school was a repetitive job in the city’s factories.

The factories also gave the streets a distinctive noise, of constant metallic thudding, and it was this noise that the four band members, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi and Bill Ward, grew up with.

The exhibition also highlights how seemingly unrelated factors came together to create the band, and the genre they created.

If Tony Iommi hadn’t had the tips of his fingers severed in a work accident he would never have created a set of makeshift prosthetic fingertips so he could carry on playing guitar. If he didn’t have those prosthetics he wouldn’t have had to loosen his guitar strings, which led to a sound that few other bands were playing.

If not for Beatlemania, and its screaming fans that often drowned out the band, companies may not have created the louder speakers that helped Sabbath become louder than everyone else.

And if Ozzy hadn’t added “has own PA” to his laughably brief advert in a music shop looking for a band, “Ozzy Zig needs a gig” then Geezer Butler would probably have never considered adding him to the band.

And it also includes plenty of interesting trivia. Due to their horror leanings the band was popular with Satanists. After refusing to play a black mass, one group of Satanists put a “curse” on the band. To ward off the curse the band festooned themselves and their instruments with crucifixes, a look that stayed with them for their entire career.

The political climate of the early 70s is also detailed in the exhibition. Many of Sabbath’s songs criticised the Vietnam War, including the lack of care for returning soldiers. And fears of nuclear war permeate many tracks - I still think Electric Funeral’s lyrics describing the aftermath of a nuclear blast, including “Turns houses into styes, turns people into clay” is one of the most chilling lines in music.

Another bonus is the extensive interviews with the band played at different points in the exhibition. Anyone who has ever heard an Ozzy interview will know how unintentionally funny his stories can be.

What is interesting is hearing these figures, clad in black, talking about how they were inspired by jazz and the early singles of the Beatles, a far cry from the sound Sabbath perfected.

The focus of this exhibition is very much on the band’s Birmingham origins and first 10 years. Fans of Ronnie James Dio, the flamboyant American singer who became the band’s frontman after Ozzy left, may be disappointed as he gets only a passing mention.

And although Ozzy’s solo career features in one section, there is little focus on his later fame and reality star days following The Osbournes.

The exhibition has been accompanied by a bridge in the city centre being re-named Black Sabbath Bridge and the installation of a metal bench featuring the band’s portraits.

The exhibition runs at Birmingham Museum and Gallery until September 29.

Adult tickets cost £13.57.