Before Black Sabbath, there were plenty of rock groups that played heavy: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, Blue Cheer, Iron Butterfly, Led Zeppelin. But the music that Sabbath created in the early 70s was heavier and darker than anything that had come before, and it would prove seminal.
“Black Sabbath are the forefathers of heavy metal,” says Rick Rubin, the producer of the band’s final album 13. “They may well be the heaviest band of all time. And I don’t know of a more influential band other than The Beatles.”
It was in 1969, in Birmingham, that Black Sabbath was formed. The four band members – guitarist Tony Iommi, singer Ozzy Osbourne, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward – had been playing together for a year previously, first as Polka Tulk, later as Earth. “When we started out,” Iommi says, “we were a blues rock band.” But one day in ’69, they wrote a song changed everything.
This song, titled Black Sabbath after a horror movie starring Boris Karloff, was based on an Iommi riff that incorporated the tri-tone, known as ‘The Devil’s Interval’. The lyrics warned that “Satan’s coming round the bend.” And with this as their calling card, the band – renamed as Black Sabbath – would open up a new frontier for rock music.
Much of Sabbath’s legendary reputation rests on the first six albums recorded by the original and classic line-up. “It was a completely original sound,” Rick Rubin says. “Riffs as powerful as they come, Ozzy’s one-of-a-kind vocal delivery, cool words, great rhythmic interplay.”But in a recording career that spans the best part of half a century, a total of 23 Black Sabbath albums have been released – some of them great, some of them average, and some downright embarrassing. The best Sabbath albums made during Ozzy Osbourne’s long absence featured the man who replaced Ozzy after he was fired in 1979 – Ronnie James Dio. And every Sabbath album, from 1970 to 2013, has been shaped by Tony Iommi – the band’s sole ever-present, and the undisputed master of the heavy metal riff.
Read the whole list at Source: Every Black Sabbath album ranked, from worst to best | Louder