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The 50 Heaviest Songs Before Black Sabbath: #10-1

The 50 Heaviest Songs Before Black Sabbath: #10-1

The origin of heavy metal is a very fuzzy thing, but most historians and fans can agree that Black Sabbath’s eponymous 1970 debut was the first true metal album. Its thunderous drums, sinister riffs and downright evil lyrics left little to be debated, but what we at Guitar World wanted to know was this: What was the heaviest song before Black Sabbath?

We ranked these songs based on a variety of factors: distortion/fuzz, speed, darkness, volume and shock value. Most importantly, however, the song had to have been released before 1970. It would have been easy to list the first two Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix albums and call it a day, but we dug deep to find some hidden heavy gems from the era of peace and love.

The Full List
The 50 Heaviest Songs Before Black Sabbath: #50-41
The 50 Heaviest Songs Before Black Sabbath: #40-31
The 50 Heaviest Songs Before Black Sabbath: #30-21
The 50 Heaviest Songs Before Black Sabbath: #20-11
The 50 Heaviest Songs Before Black Sabbath: #10-1

10 - The Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" (1968)
Whether he was riding his E, bending his G or laying into his wah-wah pedal, the legendary southpaw conjured pure magic from his Strat in this Electric Ladyland classic. Kenny Wayne Shepherd once said of the track, “There are things Jimi did on the guitar that humans just can't do.” We couldn’t have said it better, Kenny.


09 - Cromagnon, "Caledonia" (1969)
Think Throbbing Gristle laid the groundwork for industrial in the late 1970s? Think again. This song features all of the trademark techniques that would later be integral to industrial metal: samples, screamed vocals, machine-like drums and … bagpipes? Fun fact: Much of this song was recorded in the bathroom of a hotel-turned-studio in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. (Note: skip ahead to around the 1:10 mark if you're thrown off by the weird, sampled intro)


08 - The Beatles, "Helter Skelter" (1968)
It’s safe to say Ringo Starr wasn’t the only Beatle with “blistahs” on his “fingahs” after jamming ceaselessly on this White Album standout, the heaviest tune in the band’s catalog. This song was meant to one-up the Who after Paul McCartney read an interview with Pete Townshend where he called “I Can See for Miles” the loudest and dirtiest song the Who had ever recorded.


07 - Jacula, “Triumphatus Sad” (1969)
For the most part, Jacula spent most of their time crafting dark, gothic, and somewhat cheesy prog rock that was probably very confusing to audiences who were listening to Genesis at the time. The band was founded by Antonio Bartoccetti, better known as the leader of cult band Antonius Rex, who surrounded himself with the latest technology and some very talented sound engineers to create an album that seemingly defies time. "Triumphatus Sad," from the band's 1969 album In Cauda Semper Stat Venenum, put the prog-cheesiness aside for a minute to deliver a jolt of Iommi-esque guitars and haunting organ sounds that wouldn't sound out of place in the '80s doom metal scene. Fun fact: Rumor has it that only 333 copies of the album were pressed and only sent to religious groups.
06 - Bitter Creek, "Plastic Thunder" (1967)
Think you hear the sound of thunder? Nope -- it’s only Bitter Creek’s 1967 “Plastic” version. But with its cavernous bass and Yardbirds-on-acid fuzz guitar, this song is almost as heavy as the real thing. Surprisingly little is known about Bitter Creek; the consensus is that they were from Georgia and that “Plastic Thunder” was the only 45 they ever issued.

05- Edgar Broughton Band, "Evil" (1969)
In this scene from a psycho-blues nightmare, Edgar Broughton found the perfect vehicle for his Howlin’ Wolf meets Captain Beefheart vocal style. In an odd turn of events, original guitarist Victor Unit left the band after this album, when they went from a more mellow blues to a heavy, psychedelic sound, calling them “sell-outs.”


04 - Pink Floyd, "The Nile Song" (1969)
David Gilmour’s blistering, bendy solos guide this Roger Waters-penned rocker menacingly downstream. Gilmour’s vocals never sounded so sinister as they do on this track, barking over a chugging, churning riff that may even slip into the proto-punk category at times. Forget Dark Side; we’d like to see this put to a laser light show!


03 - High Tide, "Death Warmed Up" (1969)
Whoever it was who said “Death is a dish best served cold” never heard this noisy little number by England’s High Tide. Grab a ringside seat as Tony Hill’s guitar battles it out with Simon House’s electric violin -- for nine minutes. High Tide took a great deal of influence from surf guitar, using washes of reverb almost as a type of distortion. Scott Ian would later cite surf guitarists -- Dick Dale in particular -- as being a big influence on the alternate picking techniques of thrash players.


02 - MC5, "Kick Out the Jams" (1969)
“Kick out the jams, motherfuckers!” So begins this ditty -- nearly three minutes of Detroit-fueled madness -- which delivered a spirited kick in the crotch to a world where the Bee Gees were starting a joke and the Foundations were building up butter cups. Among those who didn’t seem to “get it” was Rolling Stone reviewer Lester Bangs, who called the album “ridiculous, overbearing [and] pretentious.” That’s right: Before heavy metal had even begun, he had missed the entire point of it.


01 - Led Zeppelin, "Dazed and Confused" (1969)
Jimmy Page started performing this tune, originally composed by folk singer Jake Holmes, live with the Yardbirds in that band’s final days. But it didn’t become a dark, powerful masterpiece until John Paul Jones, John Bonham and Robert Plant turned up in a London studio in October 1968 to help Page cajole this sleeping giant into thunderous new territory. This song was also among Zeppelin’s most famous live numbers, featuring Page’s trademark violin bow solo. Fun fact: Some live versions clocked in at 45 minutes long.




The Full List
The 50 Heaviest Songs Before Black Sabbath: #50-41
The 50 Heaviest Songs Before Black Sabbath: #40-31
The 50 Heaviest Songs Before Black Sabbath: #30-21
The 50 Heaviest Songs Before Black Sabbath: #20-11
The 50 Heaviest Songs Before Black Sabbath: #10-1



Buddy Guy Plays "Mary Had a Little Lamb" with Jack Bruce and Buddy Miles in 1969