You can probably imagine how difficult it was to choose a Black Sabbath picture...

From their number one hit singles Paranoid to Iron Man, Black Sabbath is undoubtedly one of the most renowned staples and inspirations of the heavy metal scene. With 19 studio albums since the 1970s, including the critically acclaimed ‘Master of Reality,’ fan and critic dubbed masterpiece ‘Heaven and Hell,’ as well as their their most recent reunion release ’13,’ Black Sabbath have proved their worth as a well-rounded and cherished band through every generation. Most notable to most fans are the albums released between 1970 and 1981, in the Ozzy Osbourne and Ronnie James Dio era- two of the biggest dogs in heavy metal history. It’s also important not to write off the subsequent frontmen who shared the stage with guitar idol Tony Iommi (the only consistent member in Black Sabbath), as they too have contributed to the band’s reputation, standing the test of time. Whilst it’s difficult to fathom unpopularity amongst the tracks of such legendary heavy metal pioneers, some songs definitely remain buried and unnoticed relative to other better-received albums, and we believe these musicians deserve credit where credit is due.

A National Acrobat off Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973)

Many old-time fans would argue that ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ was the last noteworthy release of the ‘Ozzy era’ and was celebrated by many. Whilst A National Acrobat is not underrated as such, we are dumbfounded at its lack of mainstream praise or presence in any “best of” or “greatest hits” compilations and feel like it deserves a short, happy mention. This experimental track presents a smooth yet eclectic groove, written by Geezer Butler himself on the bass guitar. The catchy interludes, abstract lyrics and accompanying riffs show off the soaring potential of the band for years to come.

Junior's Eyes off Never Say Die! (1978)
Junior’s grieving again, and not because of his father but because this song was so quick to be shaken off as part of a poor album in the eyes of hundreds of thousands of fans. Never Say Die! was the final album of the ‘Ozzy era,’ as poor reception and inner turmoil tore the frontman from the band. To some of us, this song was a real feat in the face of Black Sabbath’s adversity. Whilst it was different from the typically raw, heavy vibe that the band usually brings to the table (and somewhat lacklustre in terms of originality) the track is still one worth spinning. Bill Ward slays this song (and the rest of the album) with his pure, unadulterated energy and Geezer Butler brings us a feel-good bass line to accompany the funky, blues atmosphere underlying the music and pained coming-of-age lyrical themes. Whilst ‘Never Say Die!’ may have been a flop to many, it was the gateway to further success for the band as Ronnie James Dio was waved on board as a successor to Ozzy Osbourne.

The Sabbath Stones off Tyr (1990)
‘Tyr’ is credited to be the second greatest album of the ‘Tony Martin era,’ succeeding Headless Cross.’ Tyr brings Black Sabbath to a fresh, new place, with themes of Norse mythology and fantasy to add to the typical occult thematic. ‘The Sabbath Stones,’ right off the bat, packs a heavy punch akin to Thor striking his impossibly hefty hammer. Tony Martin sets in with a dark, macabre tone to his voice followed by menacing riffs that Iommi injects between lyrics. The atmosphere behind the powerful Anno Mundi is incorporated in ‘The Sabbath Stones,’ utilizing slow riffs and slothful drum beats. This song takes listeners back to Black Sabbath’s (now dubbed) traditional doom metal sound, interrupted by fantastic acoustic interludes and bridges, maintaining a balance that’s easy on the ears as well as a sense of familiarity.

Devil and Daughter off Headless Cross (1990)
Another ‘Tony Martin era’ accomplishment that deserves more praise than it receives; ‘Headless Cross’ is the first album to feature Cozy Powell (well known for his contributions to The Jeff Beck Group, Whitesnake and Rainbow). Cozy’s drums bring ‘Devil and Daugher’ that steady paced, classic heavy metal vibe, tying together Martin’s potent vocals and Iommi’s slick sound. This is a feel good track, certainly reminiscent of Children of the Grave in its riffs and atmosphere. It’s more of an accessible tune, pertaining to more mainstream listeners (which certainly is not a bad thing). Iommi shreds one of the most powerful solos of the entire album, a definite highlight of the song, with Martin reaching voice pitches in falsetto rivalling some of the remarkably sharp guitar notes. If you enjoy NWOBHM music, then ‘Devil and Daughter’ will definitely hit your sweet spot.

Computer God off Dehumanizer (1992)
‘Computer God’ is an incredible track, and the first of the ‘Dio era’ to make it onto this list. Ronnie James Dio graced Black Sabbath and the heavy metal scene with his immeasurable vocal talents, so much so that he will now forever be known and respected as the greatest heavy metal vocalist of all time. Dehumanizer was thus, of course, a wildly successful album in itself. Dio’s voice and Iommi’s guitar and song writing mastery were a match made in heaven. Honestly, it is amazing to us that this track isn’t more valued. The aggressive, distorted near-growl tone of Dio’s monstrous voice, delivered in epic staccato drive this song over the prodigious rhythm guitar. It could easily be considered one of Dio’s angriest performances. Despite all the angst and menace, ‘Computer God’ doesn’t fall short of incorporating some soft, acoustic bridging, culminating with a classic fast-paced, all-out solo delivery from Iommi, staying very true to his signature 80’s flair. 

1 comment:

  1. Why does Mark live in Sicily now? Is he dating a Sicilian chick or something?