The 20 heaviest songs before Black Sabbath

The rock group MC5 (L-R Dennis "Machine Gun" Thompson, Wayne Kramer, Fred "Sonic" Smith and Rob Tyner) perform live in 1969 in Mount Clemens, Michigan
(Image credit: Leni Sinclair/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)

The common consensus is that Black Sabbath were the first heavy metal band. And maybe they were. But that doesn’t mean they wrote the first heavy song. 

Because while Ozzy and co. certainly took the concept of intense, sinister music played by evil-looking dudes to new sonic and visual heights, there were plenty of unnerving sounds designed to scare the bejesus out of listeners being created well before Tony Iommi’s deathly Black Sabbath tritone riff signaled the end (or the beginning?) of the musical world as we know it.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.