It has to be Black Sabbath. The argument can be made that Zeppelin could take this spot as the first real hard rock band. You could also argue that it could be The Who as you recollect those first images of Pete Townshend going windmill style on his guitar and Roger Daltrey’s iconic scream on Won’t Get Fooled Again; and while both of those bands could justifiably be at the top of this list for their own reasons, it was Black Sabbath that first made rock music go from hard to heavy.
Every heavy band that followed from Priest and Maiden to Metallica and Megadeth to Rob Zombie, KoRn, and Five Finger Death Punch owe some amount of respect to Black Sabbath. What The Beatles, Stones, and Who did for rock music; Sabbath did for metal. Even without all of the distortion and screaming vocals of todays’ metal, the early Sabbath stuff is still some of the heaviest and darkest material ever recorded.
Tony Iommi is the lead guitarist from the world’s first metal band. While he might not be at the top of “Greatest guitarists of…” lists, he set the precedent for the likes of Dimebag Darrell and Kirk Hammett. Geezer Butler’s bass lines and Bill Ward’s drumming provided the backbeat to the heaviest sound the world had ever heard at that point. Ronnie James Dio fronted the band for some time and even though he was a better singer than Ozzy, it’s those first recordings of heavy hits from when Osbourne sang for the band that made them the powerhouse they became. The dark themes and heavy riffs brought new life to rock music that had been consumed by hippies. Real life issues like war, religion, paranoia, and even death have been the lyrical content of choice for metal bands since Sabbath broke onto the scene and made those things ok to discuss.
These 5 songs prove Sabbath’s deserved placement on this list:
This is one of the bands greatest hits and its theme is exactly what the title suggests. Heavy and dark; it was a theme that the band has perfected throughout their career.
One of their more controversial songs, many claimed it to be a Satanic song. Butler, who wrote the lyrics, said it simply was from Lucifer’s point of view and that he fell in love and became good. Take it however you want but Butler’s bass intro to the song is one of the greatest bass lines of all-time.
3. Electric Funeral
My translation of this song is that it’s about the atomic destruction of the world. All I do know is that this one jams and features one of Iommi’s best riffs.
4. War Pigs
An anti-war song released during the height of anti-Vietnam sentiment. Although, it was likely just an anti-war song in general, it was a big hit.
5. Iron Man
Perhaps Sabbath’s biggest hit and definitely their most recognizable guitar riff; heavy metal would never be the same again after this one.