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The 50 Heaviest Songs Before Black Sabbath: #30-21

The 50 Heaviest Songs Before Black Sabbath: #30-21

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

30 - Jimi Hendrix, "Purple Haze" (1967)
Hendrix’s calling card, “Purple Haze” brought a level of dissonance to popular music that had previously been touched on only by the free-jazz crowd. Many will credit Black Sabbath’s “Black Sabbath” as being the first use of the tritone (otherwise known as diabolus in musica), but Hendrix was tapping the dark side of music a whole three years earlier.


29 - Iron Butterfly, "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" (1968)
Another entry often cited as being the first heavy metal song, the 17-minute-long title track from Iron Butterfly’s second studio album does have some impressive credentials, having been covered by Slayer.


28 - Vanilla Fudge, "You Keep Me Hangin’ On" (1967)
A band as heavy as their name is delicious, Vanilla Fudge were one of the few American bands that were integral in bridging the gap between fuzz and metal.


27 - Black Widow, "Come to the Sabbat!" (1969)
Despite their hard-sounding name and largely occult imagery, Black Widow were apologetically a bunch of hippies. Still, “Come to the Sabbat!” is a dark tune that features tribal drums and pagan chanting -- and it even name-checks Old Nick himself.


26 - The Sonics, “The Witch” (1965)
Not only were the Sonics one of the forerunners of garage rock, they were also instrumental in establishing a music scene in Seattle; one that would rise to national prominence a few decades later. Fun fact: The B-side to this single was a cover of Little Richard’s “Keep-A-Knockin.”


25 - Andromeda, "Keep Out ’Cos I’m Dying" (1969)
Andromeda were another band who served to bridge the gap between psychedelic rock and what was to become heavy metal. When the song changes gears around the 2:17 mark, you can hear the stirrings of Black Sabbath waiting in the wings.


24 - Velvet Haze, "Last Day on Earth" (1967)
Virginia’s Velvet Haze were a nice mix of British-imported psychedelia and good ol’ American garage rock. “Last Day on Earth” makes the list for its distorted guitars, apocalyptic themes and killer drum break.


23 - The Kinks, "All Day and All of the Night" (1964)
All things considered -- the year of the recording, the harsh sound of its perfect power-chord riff and Dave Davies’ maniacal guitar solo -- this must’ve sounded like martian music to the bubble-gum-blowin’ kids of the day.


22 - The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, "Fire" (1968)
“I am the god of hellfire, and I bring you fire!” So begins Arthur Brown’s “Fire,” a track so sinister that we’re willing to forgive its psychedelic vibe to place it at number 22 on the list. Also, the song’s video has been giving people nightmares since 1968. Fun fact: This song was produced by Pete Townshend.


21 - Steppenwolf, "Born to be Wild" (1967)
When songwriter Mars Bonfire strung together the words “heavy” and “metal” in the lyrics to this song, he had no idea what he’d started.




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 (Saturday)
The 50 Heaviest Songs Before Black Sabbath: #10-1 (Sunday)



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