Black Sabbath is considered one of the forefathers of heavy metal; Tony Iommi’s vinyl-tipped right middle and ring fingers are credited with single-handedly (or double-fingeredly) creating the original sound that sparked an entire genre of music.
In respect to the leaders of the new wave of British heavy metal, many groups and artists have covered Black Sabbath’s work. Here’s the best of the best.
5. “War Pigs” by Cake
An unusual choice, Cake is the only group on this list that isn’t metal. Alternative rock is the shortest way to describe their music, but they are known for covering a wide variety of genres. Their cover of “War Pigs” appears on their 2007 compilation album, B-Sides and Rarities, along with a cover of Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night.”
The addition of sirens between verses and singer John McCrea’s sprechgesang monotone are a refreshing contrast of Ozzy Osbourne’s high-pitched shrieking. (But no one really gets sick of that.)
4. “Paranoid” by Megadeth
For Megadeth’s cover of “Paranoid,” the thrash band turned up the distortion, doubled the double-kick and inserted Dave Mustaine’s raw vocals. The uptempo, two-and-a-half minute rendition was recorded for the 1994 Sabbath tribute album, Nativity in Black, and was nominated for the Grammy for Best Metal Performance (but lost to Nine Inch Nails). Still, Megadeth’s signature style and Mustaine’s distinct voice make for the best “Paranoid” cover possible.
3. “Sabbra Cadabra” by Metallica
Metallica’s 1998 two-disc cover album, Garage Inc., is made up of metal influences. The Bay Area band couldn’t have recorded the album without a Sabbath song, and they picked “Sabbra Cadabra” and put the Metallica finish on it: James Hetfield’s powerful voice, Kirk Hammett’s high-note solos, Lars Ulrich’s drum-thumping and then-bassist Jason Newsted’s… well, there’s a bassline, if you listen very closely. With that recording, Metallica saluted Sabbath and went on to play onstage with Osbourne at their 2009 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
2. “Hole in the Sky” by Pantera
I’ve watched the dogs of war enjoying their feast,
“Hole in the Sky”
One of the lesser-known covers, “Hole in the Sky” was released on Pantera’s 2003 greatest hits compilation, The Best of Pantera: Far Beyond the Great Southern Cowboys’ Vulgar Hits!. The Cowboys from Hell but their southern-metal spin on the 1975 song, with Phil Anselmo’s aggressive vocals growling out the lyrics. Vinnie Paul’s steady, cymbal-accented drumbeat drives the song and Dimebag Darrell’s high-gain lead guitar mimics Iommi note for note. It’s a song you can nod to if you don’t feel like headbanging and still throw up the horns violently.
1. “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” by Anthrax
If anyone could come close to Ozzy Osbourne’s voice, it’s Joey Belladonna of Anthrax. Their cover of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” for their 1987 EP, I’m the Man, ousts all other imitators (sorry, Bruce Dickinson). The energy in the song illustrates the influence Sabbath had on Anthrax and how they wished to dedicate this cover to their mentors. Scott Ian progresses with the wickedly heavy riff from start to finish, throwing in some solos over a bassline that would make Geezer Butler proud.
To them, it’s not just Sabbath. It’s Sabbath. Bloody. Sabbath.