10 Most Underrated Black Sabbath Songs
Black Sabbath are the band that started it all. Over the last 40 years, they have released 19 studio albums, which is a lot of material for any fan to digest. Of course, we have the staple songs that will never leave any playlist and can be played on repeat until the end of time without ever sounding overplayed. There’s ‘War Pigs,’ ‘Iron Man,’ ‘Black Sabbath,’ ‘Children of the Grave, ‘Neon Knights,’ ‘Heaven and Hell,’ and the list goes on and on. But what about the hidden gems and albums that don’t get their time in the spotlight?
Black Sabbath have endured a hefty amount of lineup changes, with Tony Iommi being the only constant member. Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio, Ian Gillan, Glenn Hughes, Ray Gillen, and Tony Martin can all count themselves as frontmen for the legendary band. Each singer brought their own style to the fold, while Iommi’s riffing remained unwavering. Too many fans write the band off after the Dio era, but there’s still plenty of quality to be found in the vast Sabbath catalog. Let’s brush the dust off some of these songs as Noisecreep presents the 10 Most Underrated Black Sabbath Songs!
‘N.I.B.’ (Ronnie James Dio version)
‘N.I.B.’ is one of Black Sabbath’s most popular songs, but we’re taking a look at it from a different angle here. The 1982 album ‘Live Evil’ showcased Ronnie James Dio singing songs off his two albums with the band as well as the classic material from the Ozzy Osbourne era. This is undoubtedly Dio’s best performance of any Ozzy material and he gives the song a boost from a sterile vocal pattern that follows the riff. His snarl provides depth and his nuances raise this song to the next level, giving it more conviction.
‘Over and Over’
The closer on ‘Mob Rules’ boasts a mournful lead from Iommi and beautiful, reflective lyrics from Dio. ‘Over and Over’ sounds like it could have been on one of the Rainbow albums that featured the triumphant singer. The repetitive lead accompanied by the master of downtempo drumming, Vinny Appice, is trance-inducing, even when Iommi breaks away for an emotional, bluesy solo. While this album rightfully gets recognition, ‘Over and Over’ is consistently overlooked in the megalithic shadows of the more popular and heavier cuts, but make no mistake, this song deserves attention too.
‘Disturbing the Priest’
‘Disturbing the Priest’ has an interesting backing story. When Sabbath were writing at their rehearsal space, the noise level was too much for the nearby church, and the band received noise complaints. They thought this was pretty cool and decided to name a song after the incident and thus, ‘Disturbing the Priest’ came to be. The song off ‘Born Again,’ which is the only album to feature longtime Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan, begins with a maniacal laugh and a sinister riff. The twisting rhythms and vocal phrasing are uncomfortable to the ears, and probably even more so for the priest.
By 1978, Black Sabbath was wading waist deep in mediocrity with two unbelievably underwhelming albums after a streak of six would-be classics. As with most Sabbath albums in the ‘70s, the band experimented with different sounds and contextually out of place elements. ‘Air Dance’ is one of those songs off the heavily maligned ‘Never Say Die.’ The band attribute this album to an incredible amount of various drugs, which is evident by this song that includes smooth bass lines, piano melodies, and overall lounge appeal. However, it is a testament to the band’s musicianship and diversity.
‘Ear in the Wall’
When the compilation ‘The Dio Years’ was released, the band was going under the moniker Heaven and Hell, but had recorded three new songs for the purpose of the compilation. The best of these three songs is ‘Ear in the Wall,’ which doesn’t miss a step in turning back the clock to 1980. ‘Ear in the Wall’ is an uptempo song with huge swinging rhythms from Iommi and Ronnie James Dio’s ageless voice delivering his signature style of lyrics and a massive vocal hook.
Following Dio’s second departure from Black Sabbath, Tony Martin returned for another two albums. The first of these albums was the well-received ‘Cross Purposes.’ The band picked up where they last left off with Martin and departed from the raw and doomy elements of ‘Dehumanizer.’ ‘I Witness’ showcases Iommi’s never-ceasing ability to churn out unforgettable riffs as he kicks off the 17th Sabbath album. While Sabbath were long removed from the glory days of the ‘70s, this riff is a reminder that Iommi never lost it.
‘Turn to Stone’
‘Seventh Star’ was originally planned as a Tony Iommi solo album, but label pressure won and it wound up as another Sabbath album. It is the only record to feature Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple, who was freed up from usual bass duties and solely sang here. ‘Turn to Stone’ satiates our imaginations in wondering what it would sound like if Iommi had played guitar for Deep Purple after Ritchie Blackmore left in 1975. The production is crisp and welcomes a member of Deep Purple to the band better than the predecessor, ‘Born Again.’
‘Devil & Daughter’
‘Headless Cross’ is one of the best albums of the Tony Martin era where it feels like all of the members really clicked and churned out something above average. The title track is the most well-known song of this era, but ‘Devil & Daughter’ trumps it. Keyboardist Geoff Nicholls’ role was crucial to the band’s sound and aligned itself with other bands like Whitesnake at the time. Martin sounds like a cross between David Coverdale and Dio, letting his cross between a snarl and soaring highs roar over Iommi’s signature rhythms.
Ray Gillen enjoyed a brief tenure with Black Sabbath, replacing Glenn Hughes on the ‘Seventh Star’ tour and he subsequently recorded the followup album, ‘The Eternal Idol.’ A host of problems ensued, which lead to Gillen leaving the band and Martin recording vocals for the album note-for-note. Gillen’s voice was well-suited for every era of the band, as well as one that was about to be his. ‘Glory Ride’ showcases his ability and golden pipes that were sure to help Sabbath work their way back up the ladder.
‘The Sabbath Stones’
‘Tyr’ is the best Black Sabbath album of the Tony Martin era, capturing a band at their best in almost a decade. ‘The Sabbath Stones’ begins with thunderous floor toms, eventually giving way to a sloth-paced, menacing riff from Iommi. Acoustic breaks interject and bring the sound back to songs like ‘Children of the Sea,’ but before long, the famed guitarist suffocates the atmosphere with another mammoth riff. The uptempo part at the end with double bass kicks finally relieves all tension built up over the last five minutes. Don’t let ‘The Sabbath Stones’ escape your ears any longer.