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Black Sabbath albums ranked

19. Forbidden

This album is just awful! Everything from the weak songwriting to the poor production. About the only noteworthy thing about it (for the wrong reasons) is the opening track "The Illusion of Power", sung by Ice-T, who even briefly raps on it. I suppose the nicest thing I can say about Forbidden is that at least wasn't Black Sabbath's last. This was the final album with Tony Martin before Ozzy Osbourne would return 18 years later on 13.

Highlights: none

18. Cross Purposes

By this point, Black Sabbath were now washed up has-beens desperately trying to stay relevant. Cross Purposes is probably the worst offender of this, as it contains blatant nods to heavy grunge acts that were popular at the time. Alice in Chains with "Virtual Death", Soundgarden with "Evil Eye"... It's just depressing how a classic band like Black Sabbath would have to resort to imitating younger bands. Whenever they're not riding the bandwagon, they're rehashing their Dio-era sound, despite the fact Dio had just left the band again. Cross Purposes is an album that feels as devoid of energy as the band had become. Geezer Butler saw this and left the band once again afterward. Smart move on his part considering what came after.

Highlights: none

17. Tyr

Some consider Tyr a concept album for its references to Norse mythology, but the only reason they're present is because the band felt they were going overboard with the Satanic references on Headless Cross. For once, Tony Iommi's guitarwork is not at the forefront. Instead, keyboardist Geoff Nicholls takes the lead. This just makes Tyr frustrating to listen to as Iommi's signature doomy riffs take a backseat to a more keyboard-driven sound. It creates a generic '80s vibe that hardly sounds like Black Sabbath at all. The one salvageable track is "Jerusalem", which is excellent largely thanks to Tony Martin's brilliant performance.

Highlights: "Jerusalem"

16. Born Again

The band's only album with then-former Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan and the last to properly feature original drummer Bill Ward. Born Again was a dream come true for many fans (at first) as it was the closest thing to a Sabbath/DP supergroup we ever got. In fact, a supergroup was exactly what they had in mind for this project, but executive meddling forced it to be released as Black Sabbath. It was a good idea on paper, but it was not executed well. Most of the album sounds like we're listening to a band that's incompatible with its own singer. Gillan's famed powerful range doesn't amount to much with Sabbath's darker and heavier style. It's like they were trying make him have more of an edge to his voice like a straightforward metal vocalist, but he just sounds strained, off-key and out of his element. This gets a little better toward the later half and a couple songs they manage to make work, but they really should've wrote to accommodate Gillan, not the other way around.

Highlights: "Born Again" "Digital Bitch"

15. Technical Ecstasy

The first sub-par record by the band that was a drastic change in style as it features heavy use of synthesizers and keyboards. Sure, they experimented with them before, but they became reliant on them with Technical Ecstasty. This makes for a less heavy, more commercial and uncharacteristically upbeat Black Sabbath. Bill Ward (who also has his first song where he sings lead, "It's Alright") claims this change was the band's response to the rise of punk rock. I find this hard to believe since punk was just barely kicking off when it was recorded. I think the reality is the band's excess had finally caught up to them and they suffered a creative downturn. Both the first and last song manage to hold up as classics, but Technical Ecstasy shows that even with the original lineup, the band could sound very un-Sabbath.

Highlights: "Dirty Women", "Back Street Kids"

14. The Eternal Idol

After two consecutive albums not intended to be Black Sabbath being released as such, Tony Iommi finally caved in to pressure from his label to officially reform the group. The Eternal Idol featured an all new lineup for the band with Iommi being the sole original member and is the first with their second most prominent singer Tony Martin, who I believe was a great fit for the band! He was just terribly underutilized with weak songwriting. It was also the start of the band's dark ages, if you will, where they'd be hopelessly trying to keep with the times by modernizing their sound but never making it far past obscurity. The Eternal Idol is a mediocre album at best. Though, it's still better than most of what came after it, if only slightly. At least it has a few decent highlights, even if they do get borderline poppy with that '80s aesthetic.

Highlights: "The Shining", "Glory Ride", "The Eternal Idol"

13. Dehumanizer

This saw the reunion of the Mob Rules lineup and would be the last to feature Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice. Dio returning to the fold was enough to make Dehumanizer the greatest commercial success the band had seen in years at that point and its widely regarded as the band's heaviest record. However, it was not the triumphant return of Dio everyone was hoping it would be. The album had a very troubled production due to Iommi and Dio's creative disputes and was met with a mixed reception. It's no Mob Rules, but it is better than most of the other records Sabbath were releasing at the time and has a few songs that are pretty solid. Too bad both Dio and Appice would leave shortly after to reform the band Dio. Though they would have another short-lived reunion with Iommi and Butler years later to form the band Heaven & Hell.

Highlights: "TV Crimes", "Computer God", "Letters From Earth", "Time Machine"

12. Seventh Star

The only album featuring Glenn Hughes, who unwittingly found himself singing for Black Sabbath. Like Born Again before it, Seventh Star was not intended as a band album but rather, a Tony Iommi solo project, but his record label demanded it be released as Black Sabbath. To Iommi's credit, he fought hard against it, but in the end, it became billed as Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi. Fans loathe this album for it being devoid of heavy metal and so unlike Sabbath. But it is sorely misunderstood. I firmly believe it would have gotten more respect if it was released as a solo album because there's actually quite a few decent songs to be found here. Nothing all that special, but I say it's underrated. I would implore any fan to give it a fair listening to, under the mindset that they're listening to it for what it actually is: not Black Sabbath, but a Tony Iommi solo effort.

Highlights: "Angry Heart", "Heart Like A Wheel", "No Stranger To Love"

11. Headless Cross

It's easy to overlook this record since it doesn't feature Ozzy or Dio and was released around the time when Black Sabbath were putting out their worst. But Headless Cross stands out as the one good album from that period. It may not have sold well, but it left an impression on all who heard it. Finally, Sabbath had another record with consistently good songs throughout! It wouldn't last, but it was a creative comeback nevertheless. Not to mention Tony Martin finally being done justice with solid tracks. Martin was an excellent fit for the band and it's a real shame his tenure with them had to be tarnished with poor songwriting. But this is the one album that gives him a chance to properly shine. I would encourage any fan to give Headless Cross a listen. It's not as good as most of the Ozzy and Dio albums, but it's the best one without either.

Highlights: "Kill in the Spirit World", "Devil & Daughter", "Call of the Wild"

10. 13

The final album by Black Sabbath which saw the return of Ozzy Osbourne. Not quite the reunion album everyone wanted since Bill Ward refused to participate, but at least Ozzy was back. When I first listened to 13, I honestly wasn't all that impressed. I found it a bit boring at first. But after having listened to it again, I've come to appreciate it more. It's sees a much-needed return to form for the band, as they go back to the dark and dreary sound from their early years. It never gets quite as great as their older music, but it manages to be a sturdy effort all the same. The biggest complaint, as many critics have noted, is producer Rick Rubin's overly compressed production, which diminishes the band's sound, somewhat. Apart from that, 13 serves as a fitting end to Black Sabbath's career.

Highlights: "God is Dead?", "The End of the Beginning", Loner",

9. Never Say Die!

The last album by the original members of Black Sabbath and the last that would feature Ozzy Osbourne until three decades later. The group were in bad shape when Never Say Die! was made. All the members were struggling with substance abuse and Ozzy had already left the band once. The very title is meant to be tongue-in-cheek as they believed it could very well be their last. Most fans are quick to dismiss it along with Technical Ecstasy as one of the worst Ozzy albums. It may not be on par with their best, but I feel Never Say Die! deserves a lot more respect than it gets. It's a solid album that's one of Sabbath's more musically diverse ones! What with the bluesy "Hard Road", the jazzy "Air Dance"... About the only time it falls short is with the Bill Ward sung "Swinging the Chain". That aside, it's the band's most underrated album.

Highlights: "Junior's Eyes", "Hard Road", "Air Dance", "Never Say Die"

8. Mob Rules

The group's sophomore effort with Ronnie James Dio and the first without Bill Ward, who was replaced by Vinny Appice. Mob Rules fails to live up to the same level of greatness as Heaven and Hell, but what it succeeds in is being a strong follow-up that yields another collection of great songs from start to finish. "Voodoo" in particular is my favorite Sabbath song sung by Dio! The one complaint I have for it is that it doesn't do much to set itself apart musically from its predecessor, so it ends up sounding like Heaven and Hell Part 2. This lack of invention foreshadows the lack of creative direction that would befall the band in the coming years. Shortly after this, Dio and Appice left the band to form Dio and although they'd be back ten years later for Dehumanizer, they didn't quite recapture the magic during Dio's first tenure with Black Sabbath.

Highlights: "Voodoo", "The Sign of the Southern Cross" "Mob Rules", "Turn Up the Night", "Falling Off the Edge of the World"

7. Sabotage

Named so for the number of legal disputes that troubled the band during the record's production, Sabotage is widely regarded as the last great album during their golden years with Ozzy. It features some of the best vocal performances Osbourne has ever done, even if they were difficult to replicate during their live performances. Particularly "Symptom of the Universe", which is arguably the band's heaviest song. Even when they get less heavy with the Beatles-esque "Am I Going Insane (Radio)", they still manage to keep their momentum. Sabotage might've been a difficult record to make, but it wasn't enough to keep the band from dishing out one last solid effort before their struggles would catch up to them by their next album.

Highlights: "Symptom of the Universe", "Hole in the Sky", "Am I Going Insane (Radio)", "The Writ"

6. Vol. 4

Whereas its predecessor Master of Reality was a quintessential stoner record, Vol. 4 is more along the lines of a coke-induced frenzy! It's the band's first album as big name act. They were now operating on a bigger budget and in a fancy new Los Angeles studio. With that (and being fueled up on cocaine), they take their signature heavy sound and play even heavier on songs like "Supernaut" and "Cornucopia". Even when they mellow out on tracks like "Changes" and "Laguna Sunrise", they never lose their touch and only demonstrate they can still have a softer side. Their excess would eventually play a factor in their initial downfall, but on Vol. 4, it only served to enhance the band's strength.

Highlights: "Supernaut", "Changes", "Snowblind", "Tomorrow's Dream"

5. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

When production of this album first began, the band were left burned out after excessive touring and substance abuse and began suffering writer’s block. In search of inspiration, they traveled to back to England and rented Clearwell Castle in Gloucestershire where they believe they saw ghosts and eventually conceived the main riff for what would become the song "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", which would also serve as the basis for the album. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is a considerably darker and less accessible album than its predecessor and sees the band experimenting more than ever, incorporating synthesizers and a slew of other instruments into their music. It's hard to believe they suffered from a lack of creative output when they first got to work on this album, because Sabbath Bloody Sabbath shows the band were still chock full of creativity and some of their most iconic songs.

Highlights: "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", "A National Acrobat", "Sabbra Cadabra", "Killing Yourself to Live" "Spiral Architect"

4. Master of Reality

Just when you think Black Sabbath couldn't break anymore new ground, they give us Master of Reality, an even heavier album than their first two that laid down even more benchmarks that changed the face of music. The foundations of stoner rock and sludge metal can be rooted to this very record with its low, distorted riffs and apocalyptic drumming. It may be one of the band's shorter albums, but it is undoubtedly among their best, as well as one of their more unique records. They'd never get quite as ethereal and philosophical as they do here.

Highlights: “Sweet Leaf”, “Children of the Grave”, “Into The Void”, “Lord of This World”

3. Heaven and Hell

The first album without Ozzy Osbourne and the first with Ronnie James Dio. People expected very little from the band following the two critical flops preceding them and them bringing in a new singer that sounded nothing like Ozzy. That they could ever produce another album that could match their earlier music was unthinkable! But when Heaven and Hell was released, all the naysayers were quickly silenced, as it saw a reinvigorated Black Sabbath and established Dio as one of the greatest metal singers who ever lived. Dio brought a different kind of energy to the band with his powerful voice and more fantasy-themed lyrics while completely doing away with the band's blues roots and experimental notions. It was a change that proved just what they needed as Heaven and Hell remains one of their greatest.

Highlights: "Neon Knights", "Heaven and Hell", "Lady Evil", "Children of the Sea"

2. Paranoid

The second album by the band is a true landmark in musical history. On Paranoid, the band stray further from their bluesy origins in favor of a more aggressive, distorted sound that would become known as heavy metal. Their debut was more a heavy blues record, but this is considered by many to truly be one of the earliest metal albums. It features most of Black Sabbath's signature songs that would go on to define the genre and skyrocket the band to worldwide fame. There's no dispute that Paranoid is a masterpiece that remains the band's biggest accomplishment. However, for this fan, there is one album I consider to be their absolute best...

Highlights: "Iron Man", "War Pigs", "Paranoid", "Fairies Wear Boots", "Electric Funeral"

1. Black Sabbath

It all started here, with four fellows from Birmingham who were sick of all upbeat hippie music and wanted to make music that would scare people like the horror films they adored. Black Sabbath's first album is somewhat comparable to Led Zeppelin's in that it's the bluesiest record they've ever done and ever would do. Their original intention was actually to be a blues-rock band, only they combined it with the menacing distortion of psychedelic rock and unwittingly invented a whole new kind of music that changed the musical landscape forever. Sure, they'd go on to make more excellent music afterward, but Black Sabbath's self-titled debut is the album from theirs I find myself coming back to listen to the most. Maybe I've just heard their more popular too many times, but I find the music on this record fare more timeless and consider it the best they've ever done.

Highlights: "N.I.B.", "The Wizard", "Warning", "Black Sabbath", "Behind The Wall of Sleep", "Evil Woman"


Feel free to share your opinions on my album ranking and thanks for reading!
Degbeme · 70-79, M
I`ll go with Master of Reality as a #1 for me and it was a hard choice because I really loved "Black Sabbath" since that was the first album of their I bought. I bough Paranoid next. Then I bought them in order as they came out. The ones you have a 8 and up I`m so glad I didn`t waste my money on them. Thank you for doing this.
Ducky · 31-35, F
@Degbeme Thank you for checking it out. 😌
Degbeme · 70-79, M
@Ducky My pleasure. I know I checked out a couple of other ones you did.
SammyJo · 51-55, F
Cool reading, Ducky...

I'll go with 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath' as their very best, alongside 'Sabotage'.....loved 'The Headless Cross', as you said, very underrated.....'Heaven And Hell' too...


SJD xx

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