It seems so fitting that the most exciting year in Black Sabbath news since they hooked up with Dio again in 2007 ends with the number "13." That's also the name of the band's new record, which undoubtedly you've already heard the first single, "God Is Dead?", if you're a Sab fan at all.
"God is Dead?" is a crushing, nine-minute saga examining the writings of Nietzsche that went a long way toward restoring the faith of those of us wondering if a reunion with Ozzy after all these years could turn out worth listening to. In case you also missed this bit of news, Black Sabbath is opening the U.S. portion of their world tour in Houston July 25 at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.
As you can imagine, this has just about all of us digging out our old Sabbath records and taking notes. In the course of doing so, I realized that there's a lot of pretty awesome tracks the band has recorded over the years that don't get nearly the attention or love they deserve. So in light of that, consider this your guide to the world of Sabbath deep cuts.
10. "St. Vitus Dance" "St. Vitus Dance" seems a little bit like a throwaway track on Vol. 4, with its silly-sounding main riff, but it's a deceptively catchy one that reels you in upon repeated listens to the record. It perfectly breaks the doom and gloom vibe right before the album's fantastic closer "Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes."
9. "Country Girl" The second album from the initial Dio era of the band, Mob Rules, gets a lot of praise for its A-side, but the second half is unfortunately mostly forgotten. It's a shame because it contains some exceptional gems, like "Country Girl," which features one of Iommi's heavier riffs of the era. It could almost be seen as a throwback to their Vol. 4 era.
8. "Wishing Well" Heaven and Hell may be one of Black Sabbath's most well-regarded records, but not every track has survived the test of time and memory. Despite starting Side 2 of the record, "Wishing Well" doesn't stand out to many fans, but it has one of Iommi's most upbeat and exciting riffs on the album this side of "Neon Knights," a fantastic rolling bassline from Butller, and, of course, soaring vocals and a great chorus from Dio.
7. "Cross of Thorns" Cross Purposes was a weird little record in 1994, where Sabbath managed to retain some of the magic of their recently failed reunion with Dio, as well as Geezer Butler on bass, but got Tony Martin back on vocals.
It ended up being one of their better records with Martin, and "Cross of Thorns" stands out as its best song. There's a little bit of cheese to it, but Iommi carries it with a typically amazing solo, a magnificent riff, and some nice acoustic playing reminiscent of the outro to "Heaven and Hell."
6. "She's Gone" When it comes to Sabbath's ballads with Ozzy, most are familiar with "Changes," not so much "She's Gone." Despite the fact that most dislike Technical Ecstasy, it's hard to believe anyone could discount the raw emotion in this song conveyed by a heart-aching Ozzy, the plying Beatlesque strings, and Iommi's beautiful acoustic guitar.
5. "The Sabbath Stones" Maybe the best song from the Tony Martin era of the band, which is unfortunately hardly even considered Sabbath proper, is "The Sabbath Stones" from the album Tyr. Like the band's new single "God is Dead?," this one shifts deftly between heavy-ass riffs, insane soloing, and Iommi's dark melodic picking. Maybe the star of this one though is dearly departed drummer Cozy Powell, who makes it his own with his crushing drums during the verses.
4. "Zero the Hero" Born Again, the unfairly maligned collaboration between the original Sabbath members and ex-Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan, may have been the result of an alcoholic frenzy in the band and may contain some of the worst album art of all time, but the songwriting is vintage Iommi. "Zero the Hero" stands out for the wonderful interplay between the thick, thunderous bass and the wailing guitar in its interludes, as well as a grinding riff throughout that will make your head spin.
3. "After All (The Dead)" It was a ballsy move for Sabbath's 2007 reunion tour with Dio (billing themselves as "Heaven and Hell") to open each show with this deep cut from 1992's Dehumanizer. Still, it sells itself well as one of the darkest, sludgiest tracks they ever recorded with Dio. This one is legitimately scary in some ways, but that's what makes it so good.
2. "Snowblind" Black Sabbath's rousing tribute to their obsession in their halcyon days of 1972, good old cocaine, "Snowblind" is a stellar track from Vol. 4 that features one of the band's most inspired middle sections, a brilliant solo and bridge that are further evidence of the band's unmatched ability to contrast between crushing metal riffs and stirring, emotional melody.
1. "Junior's Eyes" One of the greatest Sabbath cuts ever recorded unfortunately came far too late into their original run with Ozzy to get noticed. Turning up on Never Say Die, "Junior's Eyes" is, along with the rest of that record, a dramatic departure from the traditional Sabbath sound. However, the emotional lyrics and delivery from Ozzy singing about his deceased father, the stellar rhythm section which carries it, and the Hendrix-esque leads from Iommi make this one a winner.