Heavy music is full of legendary bands boasting deep catalogs stacked with iconic songs — sometimes it can be hard to know where to start, or what to consider their best. With that in mind, we present the “Mandatory Metal” lists, which collect what we consider to be the definitive tracks from various members of the metallurgic pantheon. Up today, Black Sabbath, the original heavy-metal band, whose doomy riffs and dark vibes set the template for the whole genre and continue to define it to this day. Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward have a trailblazing catalog stacked with must-hear crushers, but in our opinion, these classic cuts are their most essential. If you disagree, sound off on The Pit Facebook page.
ALBUM: BLACK SABBATH
The opening cut off of Sabbath’s first full-length, the song that shares the band’s name still stands as one of metal’s heaviest and most sinister offerings.
Sample lyrics: “Big black shape with eyes of fire/Telling people their desire/Satan’s sitting there, he’s smiling/Watches those flames get higher and higher.”
“SABBATH BLOODY SABBATH”
ALBUM: SABBATH BLOODY SABBATH
Covered by everyone from Amon Amarth and Anthrax to the Melvins and the Cardigans(!), this 1973 crusher features some of Iommi’s finest riffery.
Sample lyrics: “The people who have crippled you/You want to see them burn/The gates of life have closed on you/And now there’s just no return.”
“CHILDREN OF THE GRAVE”
ALBUM: MASTER OF REALITY
Punishing and anthemic, this Master of Reality standout picks up and expands upon the anti-war themes of Paranoid’s “War Pigs” and “Electric Funeral”.
Sample lyrics: “Children of tomorrow live in the tears that fall today/Will the sun rise up tomorrow bringing peace in any way?.”
Written quickly as an afterthought to provide filler for Sabbath’s second album of the same name, “Paranoid” is a galloping, headbanging metal classic.
Sample lyrics: “I need someone to show me the things in life that I can’t find/I can’t see the things that make true happiness, I must be blind.”
With its trudging riffage and apocalyptic sci-fi lyrics, “Iron Man” hits hard even five decades later. Its title, meanwhile, serves as an apt description of Sabbath’s members, each a seemingly unstoppable master of metal.
Sample lyrics: “Heavy boots of lead/Fills his victims full of dread/Running as fast as they can/Iron man lives again.”