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The 411 Music Top Five 03.18.13: The Top 5 Black Sabbath Songs
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 03.19.2013


Criteria: Black Sabbath announced the release date of their upcoming album 13 last week, which will be the band's firts with Ozzy Osbourne since Never Say Die! in 1979. In honor of that, we are taking a look at the top 5 songs by the legendary metal group. Pretty simple: if it's a Sabbath song, it is eligible.

Black Sabbath are one of the best metal bands in the history of ever. The fact that I had to whittle this list from seventeen songs to the eight you see here should say it all.

Before I state my list, I just want to give my best friend (and Black Sabbath fan who recently completed his Sabbath collection) Nick Canada's Top 5 picks. 5. "I," 4. "Lord of This World," 3. "Heaven and Hell," 2. "Snowblind" and 1. "Meglomania." Now to my list:

Honorable Mention:

"Symptom of the Universe" - The driving beat of this song (along with Ozzy wailing away like there is no tomorrow) really make this song for me. The blues-y guitar solo at the end is a nice little cherry on top.

"N.I.B" - This song gets here merely for Geezer Butler's awesome bass solo at the beginning. The rest of the song lives up to the great solo we started with. Not to mention, yelling "OH YEAH!" along with Ozzy never gets old.

"Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" - The opening riff to this song is a headbanger's wet dream. It's got a heavy tone, a medium pace and the notes are spaced out well enough to where you get a nice bang in with every note. Ozzy sounds great on this, as do Bill and Geezer. Then again, this is Black Sabbath, it's rare that the four of them lay a dud.

5. "The Sabbath Stones"

While I was hammering this list out, I asked myself the same thing that I ask myself when I talk about single songs, "Do they stand out to me?". While Black Sabbath have a LOT of standout songs, I feel like this one stands on its' own very well. This is the closest I've ever heard Black Sabbath come to power metal. Tony Martin gets a lot of shit sometimes for being the singer for most of the low era of Black Sabbath. It's quite a shame, because the dude had a tremendous voice (though I've heard he's a douchenozzle), his full range was on display on this epic track. It has the same structure that you would find on "War Pigs", with the singing coming in between beats. That doesn't last forever, because once the chorus is reached, this fist shaking epic has reached its' crescendo. What follows is a great little solo by the always great Tony Iommi, and he also has a blistering solo at the that left me in awe at first listen (though I shouldn't have been that surprised). Overall, an epic of a song that is sadly forgotten by some, due to the fact that it was during the twilight of Black Sabbath's original 25 year run.

4. "Children of the Grave"

I adore this song. It's one of my favorite car ride jams, because it has such a great beat to it, and it has so many great passages to it. You have the beginning section, which is very much so that same driving beat from the beginning. Then it switches to a much more doom laden beat, which does a nice job of breaking up the beat that we had before, which, don't get me wrong, I love, but at the same time, it's fun to hear multiple riffs in one song. Ozzy does a great job on this song, which is pretty much something that is consistent on all of the good songs from the Ozzy years. When Ozzy sounds good, more times than not, the song will be good.

3. "Heaven and Hell"

The greatness of this track is one that I almost have trouble coming up with the words to do it justice. I know that it's not number one, but when it comes to Black Sabbath, what originally drew me to them was not "Paranoid", or "Iron Man". It was Ronnie James Dio, seeing as how I got into metal through a Dio cover. His voice is what gives this song life. He's not the only thing, though. His voice is soaring, but the opening guitar riff is the thing of legend. Seriously, play this song in a room full of metalheads, and see what happens. They'll sing along with the opening riff, and start singing, "Sing me a song, you're a singer". Geezer Butler keeps the beat quite well, that constant bass line is a thing that I feel keeps the song going quite well, because it's a constant throughout, and that helps get across the mood of the song quite well. This song is greatness, but it also symbolizes a new era for Black Sabbath, who had just booted Ozzy after 2 mediocre albums. In came Ronnie James Dio, and he helped breathe in life to this dying band, and from that we got many more years of great Sabbath albums, and later his own solo band.

2. "Black Sabbath"

This song still bring chills up my spine. Every time is starts, I get that little feeling of wonder that I got the first time I heard it. The sound of rain sets up the scene so well; then the first riff in Black Sabbath history blasts through the speakers. I think the atmosphere that this song conveys is the reason why I'm so in love with doom metal now. Everything sounds so bleak and gaunt, with Ozzy only heightening that feeling of dread with his wailings of pure horror. The speed-up and the guitar solo that comes towards the tail end of the song is great, but the song keeps its' eerie sound, with the warbling effects in the background (not sure who is making them, but they sound great). This song almost made it to my number one spot, because it's safe to say that this song is perfection. But I had to stick with my old favorite and the greatest song about cocaine that I know of.

1. "Snowblind"

I decided to stick with my guns, and put this song as my top. When I got my very first Black Sabbath album, their greatest hits album, We Sold Out Souls for Rock N' Roll, from a used book store across the road from my high school my senior year, this was the song that blew me away the most after I had listened to it. It is probably the song that I would call possibly the quintessential Black Sabbath song. With the great opening riff, and Ozzy singing away about cocaine. I love the middle section, right before the great Tony Iommi solo (the only type of Tony Iommi solo), where Ozzy starts singing, "My eyes are blind, but I can see", it has a real soul to it, and has a great vibe, as well. Then we hit another great thing about Black Sabbath, when they hit that middle section, and the song speeds up, and gives you that little taste of another world, then brings you back to the original riff. I think I'd be remiss if I didn't recognize the great job that Geezer Butler does on the bass, playing a nice, flowing stream of bass goodness to flow right beside Tony Iommi's guitar. Bill Ward also sounds great, with a very simple, but nice, and lightly dusted in jazz. This is, in my opinion, the one Black Sabbath song that you can give to any non-Black Sabbath fan, and they would get what they are about instantly. The better known stuff like "Iron Man" and "Paranoid" are great for non-fans as well. But I feel that this song hits a few more notes than the others. It has that driving riff, the sped up section, and the memorable hooks. It also shows a very cohesive band, with all 4 members of the band doing their jobs incredibly well. This list was hard to make, but I feel that this song stands deserving to be at the top of the heap.

Honorable Mentions: "Iron Man," "Sweet Leaf," "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath," "Snowblind"

5. "N.I.B."

How can you not love "N.I.B.?" First off, it is one of the absolutely iconic Sabbath songs, coming off their self-titled debut album which can arguably be considered the LP that got metal started. The opening bass solo is just flat-out bad-ass and then it kicks into high gear, with Ozzy unfolding a storty about the Devil. However, like many of the band's songs it is commonly misinterpeted; according to Geezer Butler, who wrote the lyrics, the song is about "the devil falling in love and totally changing, becoming a good person." Either way it's a classic and is one of the many reasons that the band became as influential as they did.

4. "Children of the Grave"

Here's another Sabbath song that was incredibly misinterpreted by fans and non-fans alike. Coming off of Master of Reality, this song is about non-violent civil disobediance. (Remember Sabbath started off as a relatively hippy band known as Earth.) But of course, a title like "Children of the Grave" and singing about the need for revolution makes people look past what kind of revolution is being discussed. I've never seen Sabbath play live outside of videos. But of the live Sabbath videos I've seen, "Children of the Grave" consistently ends up being my favorite. It's got a series of killer riffs and is just a great overall song.

3. "Paranoid"

Yes, it's one of their best-known songs and some might consider it a little overrated. But "Paranoid" was the first Sabbath song I ever heard and that sticks with you. Aside from just that though, there is a very good reason it is often considered one of the greatest metal songs of all time. It's metal in its purest form, with the unforgettable sound of the driving guitar and bass building a nervous, frantic energy that Ozzy plays off of beautifully for his performance. The lyrics were quickly put together but that doesn't make them any less effective. Sometimes the ones everyone knows are known for a reason: they're one of the best.

2. "The Wizard"

"The Wizard" is a song inspired by the band's drug dealer at the time, and you can absolutely see where that fits in the lyrics. But it's also something more epic, taking some extra inspiration from Gandalf as well, and it helped create the mythos around the band. The harmonica shows off the band's bluesier side from its early days while the lyrics are tightly constructed and the sound makes the whole thing seem almost oppressive. I dare you to listen to this song and not get it stuck in your head for at least a few hours, if not longer.

1. "War Pigs"

Okay, so by now you obviously know I love the early Sabbath stuff the best. This is not to say I don't love the later stuff as well, but the band just wasn't as good without Ozzy as they were with him and Ozzy was at his best in Sabbath during the group's rise. This is another well-known song of theirs. Where "Paranoid" was the first Sabbath song I heard, "War Pigs" was the Sabbath song that completely changed my music listening tastes. You listen to this fiery anti-war song and you can't help but be drawn in. Metallica was the band that made me a casual metal fan; Sabbath was the band that made me look much deeper. And "War Pigs" was the gateway that allowed me to take that deeper look. It's not their best song on a technical or a lyrical level, but there is simply no way that, for my own part, I can put any other song higher than it.

The Final Word

As always, the last thoughts come from you, the reader. We're merely unpaid monkeys with typewriters and Wikipedia. Here's what you need to do: List your Top Five for this week's topic on the comment section using the following format:

5. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
4. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
3. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
2. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
1. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it


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