The 100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time

The most headbangable records ever, from Metallica's Black Album to Black Sabbath's 'Paranoid'

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Black Sabbath, 'Black Sabbath' (1970)
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5. Black Sabbath, 'Black Sabbath' (1970)

A few years after guitarists first started cranking their amps to eardrum-rupturing volumes and singers started wailing about Valhalla, heavy metal as we know it today was ratified in 1970 on Black Sabbath's debut. The band, which had started as a blues group in '68, drew inspiration from giallo horror movies (like 1963's Black Sabbath, featuring Boris Karloff) and figured it could deliver the same thrilling, terrifying experience through rock & roll, leading them to write "Black Sabbath." The tune, inspired by a frightening experience bassist Geezer Butler had ("I woke up in a dream world, and there was this black thing at the bottom of the bed, staring at me," he once said), featured some of Ozzy Osbourne's most ominous lyrics ("What is this that stands before me?/Figure in black which points at me," as well as "eyes of fire" and a laughing Satan), and an eerie riff courtesy of guitarist Tony Iommi that used a chord once shunned by composers, known as diabolus in musica ("the Devil in music") – the rain, thunder and bell sound effects were just grim icing. A few tracks later, on "N.I.B.," Osbourne – whose stentorian voice, with its matter-of-fact inflection, has a harsh timbre strong enough to cut through Iommi's guitar – sings about a deal with the Devil set to a stomping riff that presaged Eric Clapton's "Cocaine." And elsewhere, the group flexes its blues chops on "The Wizard," the morbid "Behind the Wall of Sleep" ("Sleeping wall of remorse/Turns your body to a corpse") and especially on "Warning," the last of which features a flashy, extended Iommi solo. And on the jazzy "Wicked World," on the U.S. edition, Osbourne sang about politicians sending people to war and others dying of diseases – topics that have since become rock cliché but at the time represented a chillingly frank worldview. "We used to do these auditions for record companies, and they'd just leave after the third song or something," Butler recalled of the days before the album came out. "I'll always remember one producer told us to go away, learn how to play and learn how to write some decent songs. We were rejected again and again by company after company." But once the album was out, Black Sabbath started a movement. K.G.

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