…that are NOT called “Paranoid,” “War Pigs” or “Iron Man.” These songs are purposefully excluded from this list not for any lack of quality, but because every single compilation of Black Sabbath’s greatest moments as a band will always contain those three songs in some capacity (invariably near the top). Since everyone basically knows those songs already, I felt it better to give fifteen of the lesser-known (but likely just as good)…Black Sabbath songs of the Ozzy Osbourne period!
15. “After Forever”
A (very good!) Black Sabbath song sporting an explicitly Christian message, asking whether “Christ is just a name you read in a book at school”…impossible, you say? Not for them! The song is still igniting as much religious debate on message debates as it is igniting headbangs…
14. “Behind the Wall of Sleep”
This blues-tinged track first appeared on the first Black Sabbath LP, in a suite with “Wasp” and “NIB.” It’s named after the HP Lovecraft short story “Beyond the Wall of Sleep” and has the sinister sound to match.
13. “Symptom Of The Universe”
A key influence on thrash metal, “Symptom of the Universe” is still a fan favorite from 1974’s Sabotage. Along with half the other songs on this list, it has been covered by Candlemass as part of its “Black Sabbath Medley.”
12. “Damaged Soul”
This hidden gem from Sabbath’s recent “13” record is its finest moment. If done live, its return to the lengthy blues workouts from the Earth days would be most embraced. And for the final two minutes, the tempo shifts into double time, as though no time has passed in the band’s 43 years between #1 records.
11. “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes”
The closing track to Volume 4, “Under the Sun” revived the multi-riffed suites that so many Sabbath fans love them for. It was tastefully revived as a treat for fans of that record on the recent Summer of Sabbath tour to a welcome fanbase.
10. “Electric Funeral”
One of Sabbath’s most painfully slow offerings (in a good way), “Electric Funeral” buzzes with menacing static and can be considered a special influence on the subgenre of “funeral doom.” It’s about an atomic holocaust, a depressing prospect if there ever was one.
9. “Sweet Leaf”
Cough, cough! An inspiration to stoner doom bands everywhere (like Electric Wizard), the title actually comes from an ad for (regular) cigarettes, not cannabis. Sorry.
8. “Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath”
By 1973, Black Sabbath was facing an even worse problem than drugs, alcohol, or record companies: writer’s block. This was the song (and the riff) that broke it.
7. “The Wizard”
Complete with propulsive harmonica as its most distinctive feature, “The Wizard”‘s character is “never talking, just keeps walking, spreading his magic”…but to what end?
6. “Children of the Grave”
Some metalheads believe there is simply no better song to headbang to than this one. Although it’s frequently cited as such, “Children of the Grave” is not about zombies or the undead–it’s a call to love in action, as the lyrics prove: “Show the world that love is still alive, you must be brave/Or you children of today are children of the grave!”
Introduced with Geezer Butler’s cleverly-titled “Bassically,” “NIB” (which does NOT stand for Nativity In Black or anything else) playfully imagines the devil falling in love with a woman. The title is a joke about Tony Iommi’s nib-shaped beard that he’s always sporting.
4. “Black Sabbath”
The song that started it all, not only for Sabbath but for metal too. “That song scared the shit out of me,” James Hetfield of Metallica wrote in Rolling Stone. It was named after a horror film that was being shown at the theater across the street from where Earth (as they were then called) rehearsed. It must have been quite a film, because Earth changed its name to Black Sabbath and haven’t looked back since. For an even slower version, check out the tribute version recorded by the late Peter Steele and Type O Negative.
3. “Hole In The Sky”
“Sabotage”‘s opening song made such an impact that it inspired the name of the famous black metal festival in Bergen, Norway many years later. Its energetic riffing has an almost swing-like quality to it, leaving you only wishing that the song was just a bit longer than four minutes.
2. “Into The Void”
Tony Iommi has said this is one of his favorite songs to play live (and Exhorder has done it too). One can see why: it is a hulking monstrosity of a groove that in a stadium, sounds simply invincible.
Like a blackened, evil companion piece to the Elton John hit “Rocket Man” released in the same year, Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut” finds each member of the band at the height of his prime. Ozzy wails about “reaching out to touch the sky” and “climbing mountains of the moon.” Mr. Iommi and Mr. Butler produce one of their best riff-and-rhythm combinations ever as a duo. And of course, there’s Bill Ward’s drum solo, still keeping time while showing off the chops. This song from Volume 4 is regarded as one of the band’s best by hardcore Sabbath fans, including industrial act Ministry, who covered it.
NOW…you can go back and listen to “Paranoid,” “Iron Man,” and “War Pigs!”
Written by Matt P