An English hard rock institution whose influence on heavy metal cannot be overstated, Black Sabbath not only pioneered the genre, but launched the career of one of its most colorful and controversial characters in Ozzy Osbourne. The band distilled the smoke and strife of their industrial hometown into a punitive blast of doom-laden heavy blues-rock. Bassist Geezer Butler's dystopian lyrics, which leaned heavily on the occult, played a huge role in shaping the group's vision, as did guitarist Tony Iommi's seismic riffing. When paired with Bill Ward's economical yet formidable work behind the kit and Osbourne's primal tenor, the effect was both powerful and accessible -- a blueprint for aspiring decibel pushers of every skill level. ~ James Christopher Monger
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