Black Sabbath is widely considered the pioneer of the heavy metal genre and a rock and roll legend. Throughout several lineup changes, they’ve stayed fairly true to their original sound and became one of the most successful metal bands in history, with over 70 million records sold worldwide.
In this article, we’ll take a trip to the dark side to look at 25 of the best Black Sabbath songs of all time.
1. War Pigs
War Pigs wasn’t just the best political song Black Sabbath released, it’s inarguably one of the best songs the band ever produced. It didn’t start that way though, as it was originally intended to be a Satanic entry to their repertoire titled Walpurgis.
As it was during the Vietnam War and the unrest stemming from being involved in that, it was an easy switch for the band and record label. Absolutely anti-war, the song runs for over eight minutes and is an outpouring of anger and frustration.
While War Pigs was never released as a single by the band, it has always been a staple of their live performances, serving as their opening number from the time it was released through today.
2. Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath is one of the most important songs in the band’s history and the entire metal genre. It was the song that gave the band their name, a masterpiece that they would keep in concert setlists for decades and was unlike anything else being produced in the early 1960s.
Inspired by a horror movie of the same name, the band produced a metal standard and found the sound that would eventually turn them into immortal legends in the music world.
3. Iron Man
Iron Man is definitely not about the Marvel character or the Tony Stark we all know and love. No, it’s even more out there. A time traveler goes to the future, sees the end of the world, and the process of getting back turns them into something made of iron.
He gets super frustrated after coming back and trying to warn people because he can’t actually talk and nobody listens. So he kills people. While the lyrical narrative of the song might be weird for people, it’s still got some of the best guitar riffs of all time, making it one of Sabbath’s (and Ozzy’s) best songs.
Black Sabbath isn’t exactly known for its simple, catchy songs. They tended to put a lot more effort into the songs they produced, but Paranoid sort of shattered that mold. According to band members, it took only five minutes to write, but that five minutes meant everything to them. It became their first big hit single in the US, catapulting their careers forward with a single that audiences could easily latch onto and forcing them to change their album title from War Pigs to Paranoid. That turned Paranoid into both the lead single and the title single of the album, breaking down doors for the band and helping turn them into absolute legends internationally.
5. Heaven and Hell
The title track of Black Sabbath’s ninth album and the first for the band written by the (at the time) newly acquired Ronnie James Dio, Heaven and Hell is often found in any list of Black Sabbath’s best songs. It mainly deals with the duality of man, the capacity to choose whether to do good or evil, and the fact that reality means each person has heaven and hell within themselves.
6. Into The Void
Into The Void (outside of Black Sabbath) is one of the most influential metal songs of all time. Notable bands and performers have listed it as their favorite Black Sabbath track, from James Hetfield to Eddie Van Halen. It even inspired the band Void to take up part of the title as their name. You’ll find a ton of different recordings of the song, with bands like Soundgarden doing their own version and receiving a Grammy Nomination for Best Metal Performance with the song.
7. Fairies Wear Boots
Today, it probably isn’t a great idea to call someone a fairy with the LGBT implications that later came with the slang term. But when Black Sabbath wrote the song, it was kind of just used for men who acted femininely, which is still derogatory but much less maligned 40 or 50 years ago. The band was assaulted by a group of skinheads in 1970, leading to a few different injuries on both sides. Their revenge was Fairies Wear Boots, a widely popular song with fans that slammed their attackers for eternity.
A lot of people, Black Sabbath faithful included, believe N.I.B. stands for Nativity in Black, but they would be wrong. One of Black Sabbath’s best songs was really just a joke about Bill Ward’s goatee in 1969, some hair that looked to the band like the nib of a pencil. It’s another Sabbath song about the devil, but this time instead of being a chaotic master of evil, he falls in love and changes his ways. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have much to offer, as eternity in hell sounds like a bad deal for the woman involved.
9. Children of the Grave
Children of the Grave is another example of Black Sabbath stepping out of their “masters of darkness” aesthetic to write a political song. It continues the same anti-war statements made in War Pigs and consistently ranks near the top of many fan lists for the band’s songs. You’ll find it on several of the band’s (and Ozzy’s) greatest-hits albums and live collections.
10. Sweet Leaf
It’s no secret that Sabbath experimented quite a bit with drugs and other substances, but weed was the first one they really loved. Like a lot. Sweet Leaf was a bit of an ode from the band to the sweet way marijuana made them feel. A song that was a big fan favorite was also one of the ones the band loved to talk about most. The coughing on the intro came from Tony Iommi, who hit a big bit of weed before they started recording, making him cough the cough that wound up on the actual recording of the song. Appropriate is one word for it.
Supernaut is more of an unrecognized masterpiece than anything else for Black Sabbath. It was never released as a single and rarely performed, but it will always appear on any fan-favorite list of songs by the band. It’s an absolute masterclass by drummer Bill Ward and Iommi that’s a full five minutes of in-your-face action.
Sweet Leaf wasn’t the only song Black Sabbath wrote about drugs. They were among the many (many, many, many) bands that were snorting coke in the 70s, but few wrote a blatant song about it. Snowblind came out in 1972 and celebrated the way the band members felt while doing cocaine while also warning about all of the dangers that came along with its use. They didn’t stop for quite a long time, so I can’t say how reliable those warnings were.
13. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was the first song written for Black Sabbath’s album of the same name, inspired after the band rented out a giant castle that had a real dungeon to help with writer’s block. It was sadly one of their last great songs for nearly a decade, but man, it was brilliant. The title track runs for almost six minutes and is the perfect way to kick off a Black Sabbath album.
14. Neon Knights
Neon Knights is another great song from Black Sabbath’s first album with Ronnie James Dio. It was the last song written for the album and was only meant as a filler song to help get the record to the full time they were expected to, but it did something else. It turned into one of the band’s best-ever songs and did pretty well on the UK charts considering it didn’t chart anywhere outside the UK.
15. Children of the Sea
Black Sabbath didn’t really miss a beat after the departure of Ozzy Osbourne, as they kept their sound and sounded pretty much just as good. Children of the Sea is another entry from their Heaven and Hell album that originated from a jam session between Iommi and Dio before Dio had officially joined the band. It showcased the vocal talents of their new lead singer and brought something new to the table that Black Sabbath hadn’t been capable of before.
16. Symptom of the Universe
Symptom of the Universe is one of the songs credited with creating the genre of thrash metal. Evolving from a jam in the studio, it starts with an acoustic intro before going into the dynamic heavy metal that Black Sabbath fans have come to love from the band. It’s another one that’s been covered numerous times, but there’s a reason it shows up on a lot of their live albums.
17. A National Acrobat
A National Acrobat is one of the best songs to point to if you’re talking to someone that actually thinks Balck Sabbath worshipped Satan. Most of their work was about living life to the fullest and not hating others, with the Satan in the songs being the people in power that caused so much suffering in the world. This one was from the perspective of an unborn child and gives some really solid life advice if you take a close look at the lyrics.
Black Sabbath’s return after a 10-year hiatus had many people excited, but the total album didn’t quite live up to expectations. Fortunately, a few songs from Dehumanizer lived up to the hype, chief among them, I. A raging anti-hero talking smack to their unnamed enemy is something you should hear through the tones of the band.
19. Die Young
Die Young was one of the songs that told fans that Ozzy leaving would not be the end of Black Sabbath. This theatrical song helped breathe new life into the band as Dio joined, keeping the best bits of their earlier years and expanding their creativity. This one had a daring kind of nihilism to it, addressing the overall futility of life and how short a time we actually have on this planet.
20. Headless Cross
The title track of Black Sabbath’s 1989 album, Headless Cross was the one that truly stuck out for fans. It had creepy, yet still sort of cheesy, imagery throughout, telling the tale of a real medieval town. People living in said town prayed to a headless cross on a hill in hopes of being spared more ill fortune in a dramatic and evocative performance by the band with Tony Martin as the lead singer.
21. Falling Off The Edge Of The World
Falling Off the Edge of The World was one of the best songs from the band’s Mob Rules album. A long orchestral intro sets the mood for the song before the patented Black Sabbath riffs come in to take you on an epic ride.
22. The Sign of the Southern Cross
Mob Rules was a weird album for Black Sabbath when Bill Ward had left the band. But, with the changing lineup, the band went darker and experimental, resulting in a surging closing track for the album like The Sign of the Southern Cross that was deeply symbolic in nature.
23. Hole In The Sky
Hole in the Sky was the opening track for Black Sabbath’s 1975 album Sabotage and a continuation of the sound they made famous in their Paranoid album. It was metal in one of the purest forms we’ve ever gotten and should easily make this list.
24. The Mob Rules
The Mob Rules was a dark take on how people tend to act like idiots in large groups. While going with the majority when making decisions can work, it tends to end up meaning that the loudest (and dumbest) people are the ones calling the shots. The song is a bit of a warning about letting people tell you how to live your life.
Megalomania is a real disorder that causes people to have delusions about how powerful they are, sometimes to the point of having split personalities or schizophrenia. The Black Sabbath song Megalomania is written from the perspective of a person with a disorder, with some verses from the good side and some from the bad side.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.