I questioned putting 13 in this list but because it is Sabbath with Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi it was definitely one to add to the list minus the fact that Bill Ward is not featured on their final album (due to contractual reasons). The album is dark, heavy, and everything we came to know and love about Black Sabbath but it sits at the top of this list due to the simple fact that without Bill Ward, is it truly Black Sabbath?
Some may argue this but this was the time the band was experiencing creative difficulties, disagreements, and just pure lack of freshness and excitement. Ozzy was on his way out and the rest of the band had other intentions at mind at this point. So while Never Say Die did have some gems “Never Say Die”, “Johnny Blade” and even and off-kilter “Air Dance”, it was largely an album that was just not “true” to their origins.
Recorded in Miami and completely produced by a frustrated Tony Iommi, Technical Ecstasy was the beginning of the end for Sabbath. While Butler, Ward, and Ozzy were off having fun on the beach, Iommi was stuck in the recording studio producing the album. Iommi recalls that they were trying to sound like the bands that they influenced (e.g., Foreigner, Queen, etc) at that time due to the punk movement! However, they did manage to get a few really awesome songs out of this album with “Backstreet Kids”, “Dirty Women”, and “It’s Alright.” So while it wasn’t the ecstasy of their previous stuff, it was still an integral part of metal history.
Vol 4 is often referred to by the band as their heaviest cocaine-use days, this is an album that was fueled by drugs and alcohol but despite that some of their greatest songs were born. Songs like “Changes”, “Snowblind”, and “Supernaut” were the fruit of their labor and Vol. 4 goes down as one of the greatest heavy metal albums in history.
The album that gave birth to heavy metal as we know it. Before 1970 there was no sound that came close to the sound that Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward created in 1970. From the chime of the bells rings on Black Sabbath and the sound of rain pours down we’re immediately transported into a very, very dark place and from there it just gets heavier and darker and establishes a genre of music that would influence millions and millions for years to come.
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was recorded in the very spooky atmosphere of Clearwater Castle where Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple had previously recorded in, the Castle was so spooky that some of the band members had trouble sleeping or would sleep with guns out of fear. Apparently, the atmosphere broke them out of writer’s block and inspired the music they created for Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Some of Sabbath’s greatest riffs and songs were born from this album including the title track, “National Acrobat”, “Spiral Architect” and Sabbra Cadabra.”
Master Of Reality starts out with an incessant cough (apparently that came from Iommi smoking a blunt that Osbourne gave him), which leads into “Sweet Leaf”, one of Sabbath’s all-time greatest tracks. As the album ensues it gets heavier and darker, which was a result of Iommi down-tuning his guitar so that it was easier for him to play. Tracks like “Children of the Grave”, “Lord Of This World, “Into the Void” and “After Forever” cement this one into the greatest heavy metal albums of all time.
Some may question why Sabotage is so high on this list but the fact of the matter is that this is one of the angriest and heaviest albums Sabbath produced. “Symptom Of The Universe” is considered the first thrash metal song ever and Osbourne’s angry, passionate, and emotional vocals on “The Writ” show the true power of his voice. While “Hole In The Sky” is the epitome of a heavy metal song with its screaming vocals, heavy guitars and rhythm section. Sabotage is by far one of Sabbath’s all-time greatest records and a diamond in the world of heavy metal.
And finally, we come to the all-time greatest heavy metal album of all time and one of the greatest albums ever created. Period. Paranoid did for heavy metal what Sgt. Peppers did for pop-rock-alternative-psychedelic music. The album that spawned “Iron Man”, “Paranoid”, “War Pigs”, “Fairies Wear Boots” and “Planet Caravan” (one of the most peaceful songs ever recorded). There is no arguing that this album is what turned Black Sabbath into the legends they are and always will be.