Black Sabbath’s Top 10 Albums

Saluting the heavy metal godfathers, and their 10 greatest albums.

Black Sabbath

by MOJO Staff |

No band sounded the death knell of hippy-dom as gloriously as Black Sabbath. If the prevalent mood of the mid-’60s was one of peace, love and optimism no one told the four-piece of frontman Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward. “I tried beads and a kaftan but they looked shit on me,” remarked Osbourne several decades after the band’s inception in Aston, Birmingham, in 1968.

Growing from blues roots, Sabbath forged a sound around Iommi’s blackened riffs, Osbourne’s post-Lennon wail, and the tightly-locked interplay of Ward and Butler, the bassist penning lyrics that drew on reality as much as on his initial interest in spirituality and the band’s developing fright-night aesthetic. “We rehearsed across the road from a movie theatre which used to show horror films,” recalled Ozzy. “Tony said, ‘Isn’t it weird – people pay money to see horror films and get scared. Why don’t we make scary music?’”

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10. We Sold Our Soul For Rock’N’Roll - Black Sabbath

Sabbath have been compiled countless times and often against their wishes. It's a pattern that goes back to this first collection – an album Tony Iommi claimed to have no knowledge of until a fan turned up with a copy for him to sign. Despite the band's initial hostility to this release, it is still the best classic Sabbath compilation, collecting 17 tracks that span the band's first six albums. The omission of Supernaut from Vol. 4 is a huge oversight but, for all the controversy generated at the time, it remains a fine introduction for Sabbath novices.

This decision – and their use of a Boris Karloff 1930s movie title as their moniker – would help forge Sabbath’s fearsome reputation, while their sound would define the metal genre. Resolutely anti-pop, reviled by the critics, and prone to endless bouts of self-destruction, the original line-up lasted until late 1978 when Ozzy was unceremoniously fired and replaced by Ronnie James Dio. Iommi kept the Sabs flag flying with various line-ups, until a 2011 reformation of the original quartet (at least, ‘original’ until Ward opted out) and the 2013 release of a gnarly comeback album, 13, put a cap on one of the most influential catalogues in heavy music. 2009/2010’s expanded, deluxe, two-disc editions of certain key titles (wot? No Vol.4 yet?) are recommended for the bonus demos and remastered sound.

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