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The 50 Heaviest Songs Before Black Sabbath: #20-11

The 50 Heaviest Songs Before Black Sabbath: #20-11

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.

We'll be revealing 10 songs each day until Sunday, when we reveal the heaviest song before Black Sabbath.

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 (Sunday)

20 - Led Zeppelin, "Communication Breakdown" (1969)
One of the first and finest examples of a chugging riff incorporating the low E string, and in many ways the blueprint for the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and, later, thrash. While nothing to write home about, Iron Maiden’s cover of this song is worth checking out.


19 - Blue Cheer, "Summertime Blues" (1968)
This track is often cited as the first heavy metal song, but while this blistering cover of Eddie Cochran’s 1958 classic certainly does turn the volume up to 11 (especially for 1968), we don’t think it’s the first or heaviest song of the era.

18 - Stone Garden, "Oceans Inside Me" (1969)
Proof that the heavy can come from anywhere, Stone Garden came to us all the way from the little town of Lewsiton, Idaho. The band issued its sole 45 of the '60s, "Oceans Inside Me/Stop My Thinking," in 1969. The next year, three of the band members graduated from high school.


17 - Cream, "Tales of Brave Ulysses" (1967)
Maybe the live versions of this Disraeli Gears classic are a notch or two heavier than the studio version -- but consider the mythical subject matter and the way Eric Clapton’s wah-wah pedal sends the listener sailng off to distant shaky, swirling places.


16 - King Crimson, "21st Century Schizoid Man" (1969)
There should be no debating King Crimson’s place in the prog-rock pantheon. Not just heroes among Dream Theater and their ilk, the title track off of 1969’s In the Court of the Crimson King has also been covered by the likes of Entombed, Forbidden and Voivod.


15 - Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, “I Put a Spell on You" (1956)
We were tempted to call Arthur Brown the first shock-rocker before we remembered that Screamin’ Jay Hawkins was dressing up like a voodoo medicine man and frightening children more than a decade before. Rumor has it that during the recording of this song, originally meant to be a ballad, Hawkins blacked out completely and doesn’t remember his screaming, guttural performance in the least. Metal!


14 - Deep Purple, "Wring That Neck" (1968)
This song was named after a phrase the band used when playing live, which described the musicians (namely the guitarist and bassist) trying to push their playing to the absolute limits in order to “wring” all of the heaviness from their instruments.


13 - Valhalla, “Hard Times” (1969)
First band to name themselves after the warrior’s heaven from Norse mythology? Check. Artwork featuring burning viking ship? Check. Bleak lyrics? Check. Proto-viking-metal, anyone?


12 - The Stooges, “I Wanna Be Your Dog” (1969)
The influence of many bands on this list is debatable, but there’s no question that without the Stooges there would be no punk rock, which means there would be no thrash metal. Stooges frontman Iggy Pop would reinvent himself countless times in the course of his career, but his most manic moments come on the initial offering from the Stooges, which features this three-chord monster of a song.


11 - The 31 Flavors, "Distortions of Darkness" (1969)
This band released two albums in 1969 -- one as the Firebirds and one as the 31 Flavors. While the Firebirds album was far more commercially successful, the 31 Flavors’ Hair was undoubtedly a much heavier affair, with the closing track, “Distortions of Darkness,” proving to be one of the heaviest instrumentals this side of “Rat Salad.”




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



Constructing Solo Phrases in the Style of Jimi Hendrix