It’s hard to believe that last year marked the 50th anniversary of Black Sabbath’s release of its debut album ‘Black Sabbath.’
This album is ground zero for heavy metal…point blank, the place where it all began. A moment in time that laid the groundwork for an entire musical genre to come. Everything about this album was iconic…from the artwork on the cover…to Iommi’s doom and gloom riffs…to Ozzy’s harrowing vocals. No matter what your opinion is of Black Sabbath as a band, there is no doubt that it all began over fifty years ago with this instant classic.
With that being said, today marks another anniversary for Black Sabbath as their most recent album ‘13‘ was released on this date in 2013. So with that in mind, many people would like to know where exactly this record stands among the all-time greats of Sabbath’s catalog?
I have stated many times, it is always a journey when creating any “top list,” and doing so with bands’ top albums is no different. The very nature of these projects can cause controversy and widespread debate. Nonetheless, taking on this task is fun, and I welcome your thoughts and criticisms alike. Hopefully, this segment will be a massive hit as we hit the ground running. Without further ado…Here are Black Sabbath’s top ten albums of all-time ranked worst to first… I hope you all enjoy it!
10. ’13’ (2013)
“13” marked the nineteenth and final studio release for the pioneers of heavy metal. The album was the first release to include Ozzy and Geezer since the live album in 1995. From top to bottom, this album truly packs a punch. This was the ultimate return to the band’s glory days as far as sound and style. Black Sabbath brought their “A” game on this one, and the results did not disappoint. The only black eye I could find was Bill Ward’s exclusion, which resulted from contract dysfunction. However, Thirteen received mostly positive reviews, and the album won multiple awards in the musical community. It only fits that the band’s final release would crack the top ten. Sabbath did save one of their best for last.
9. ‘Mob Rules’ (1981)
‘Mob Rules‘ was the second installation of the Ronnie James Dio-led era of the band. It also marked a changing of the guard on drums as Vinny Appice took over in Bill Ward’s stead. The signature track, “Sign of the Southern Cross,” was an instant classic and featured Dio at his absolute peak with Sabbath. The album also saw the return of legendary metal producer Martin Birch, which is often forgotten. Although the record does not get the notoriety of its predecessor, it certainly matches the intensity of ‘Heaven and Hell.’ The recording style was much more aggressive, and the in-your-face approach won instant praise with critics and fans alike. A must-own gem for all Sabbath fans. “Falling off the Edge of the World” may be the most underrated track of Dio’s tenure with the band…check it out.
8. ‘Never Say Die’ (1978)
Often misunderstood, this album tends to get more negative publicity than good. However, ‘Never Say Die‘ is a far better album in reality than it ever gets credit for being. During this moment, the band was moving ever faster towards change. Drugs and alcohol may very well have gotten the best of the band’s growing personalities. The fact that the album was such a patchwork effort makes it all the more impressive that the band could produce an album of any substance. The record has since been certified gold and represents the rawest form of the band to date. The shock and awe material gives the album credentials, which far outweigh its performance in record sales. Ultimately an underrated effort and one of Sabbath’s quirkiest pieces of art ever assembled.
7. ‘Volume 4’ (1972)
One of Sabbath’s most exciting releases, ‘Vol.4‘ continues the band’s all-out assault on the musical community. This marked the first album not to be produced by Rodger Bain, with Iommi instead taking charge as the lead man. Black Sabbath seemed to experiment a little more on this piece as they expanded their musical sound and style with reckless abandon. The track “Changes” totally veered off course and was a definite culture shock to the heavy dark sound that Sabbath fans had grown accustomed to. Nonetheless, the record maintained an aggressive fist full of metal approach with “Snowblind” and “Supernaut.” Another underappreciated album and one of Sabbath’s best.
6. ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ (1973)
‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath‘ is the fifth studio album release for Black Sabbath. I call this album the Underground Paranoid. A brilliant piece of artwork that you don’t and will not hear on the radio every day. And to think that this album barely transpired…makes it even more special. The album is littered with heavy metal classics, including the title track as well as “Fluff,” “Sabbra Cadabra,” “Killing Yourself to Live,” and “Spiral Architect.” The album reached #11 on the US charts and further cemented Sabbath as one of its best. A must-have for any heavy metal catalog and one of the Sabbath’s all-time greats.
5. ‘Sabotage’ (1975)
One of my all-time favorites, ‘Sabotage,’ often goes unnoticed. However, their sixth studio album showed growth and maturity for the band. “Symptom of the Universe” was an instant classic and emphasized guitarist Tony Iommi’s talents on the ax. His use of the flat-fifth during most of the track’s riffs was a precursor to what was to come in heavy metal sound. Although the album’s release was marred by a legal battle that threatened its recording prowess, the band rose above the controversy to create one of its most underappreciated efforts of all time. The album’s title is profanely ironic in that the band was almost sabotaged numerous times during this recording. Thankfully they beat the odds, and the results are self-explanatory…Black Sabbath triumphs once again.
4. ‘Heaven and Hell’ (1980)
When Ozzy Osbourne left Black Sabbath, many people thought it was indeed the end of the band. Well, folks…they could not have been more wrong. Enter Ronnie James Dio…and the rest was history. When ‘Heaven and Hell‘ was released in 1980, people quickly realized that Black Sabbath was alive and well and that the band could still kick ass and take names. Dio brought a level to the band that Ozzy could only dream of. You see, Ozzy was an entertainer, but Ronnie was a true vocal God. The album was a real hit from top to bottom, and there is not one snoozer insight. From the opening riffs of “Neon Knights” to the title track “Heaven and Hell” and ending with “Lonely is the Word,” this album is a heavy metal classic. While many thought the band was going to hell, it became apparent that the fans had been taken to heaven…Long live Ronnie James Dio.
3. ‘Black Sabbath’ (1970)
Who knew that an album that only took two days to record; would become legendary and send ripples of epic proportions through the music world. But that’s precisely what happened after their debut album was released. No one had ever heard anything like it, and everyone would become copycats from here on out as far as musical style and sound. Like scenes out of a horror movie, this masterpiece spawned dark sounds and heavy riffs galore~when you listen to this album, you’re bound to have nightmares. An album that bred a new genre and a work of art catapulted a band into legends of that style. ‘Black Sabbath‘ is the beginning, the middle, and the end as far as what the band is about…shock and awe. I can put this album on today and still enjoy it fifty years later, and that’s the sign of a true classic.
2. ‘Master of Reality’ (1971)
’Master of Reality’ was the band’s third studio album and may have been their most real. While their previous two albums were somewhat rushed, the band spent more time on this one, and the results showed. This was the band’s first and only top ten release in the US until “13,” which came forty-two years later. The album contains many hit tracks that all scream star power. The record begins with the stellar “Sweet Leaf,” which was written about marijuana. “After Forever” is a song about religion. Then there is the instrumental “Embryo,” which leads into the epic “Children of the Grave.” Tony Iommi tuned down his guitar on this one, and the sound was magnificent. The band truly hit a grand slam on this record, and the result was one of their best ever!
1. ‘Paranoid’ (1970)
This is the crème de la crème…the holy grail of heavy metal albums…and an easy choice for Black Sabbath’s best of all-time. Not only is ‘Paranoid’ widely considered Sabbath’s best…many consider it one of if not the greatest heavy metal albums of all time. A work of art from top to bottom, starting with the album’s cover art. The album begins with “War Pigs,” which would be considered the best track produced on any other album. But once again…this is not any ordinary album. The title track “Paranoid” and the timeless wonder “Iron Man” highlight an album littered with craftsmanship and skill. ‘Paranoid’ defines perfection and is as close to flawless that an album can come—Heavy Metal’s Goliath. The peak of the mountain for Black Sabbath and the epicenter of a musical genius.
I certainly hope that you enjoyed the first episode of our new feature “Top Albums.” The next episode will feature the British Metal legends, Def Leppard. Sports-n-metal is looking for feedback on this segment and any bands you would like to see us feature in upcoming posts. Don’t forget to check our live stream Podcast on Thursday evenings as well. I will leave you with a video that was taken from a Black Sabbath performance in France, 1970… as we close this out. Thanks again, and goodnight!