The Top Black Sabbath Albums Ranked Worst to Best

Enjoy our Black Sabbath albums ranked (from worst to best)!

If you’re a fan of hard rock and heavy metal, you’ve likely heard the name Black Sabbath. Often heralded as the creators of the heavy metal genre, this band had a legendary career. Maybe you’re familiar with a few of the band’s hits and want to take a deep dive into their discography, or maybe you’re already a fan interested in a different viewpoint. Join me as I take you through the band’s highs and lows as I go over all of the Black Sabbath albums ranked from worst to best!

Black Sabbath Album Rankings

19. Forbidden (1995)

Despite featuring the late, great Cozy Powell on drums, this is the lowest point in the Sabbath catalogue. From the opening rap metal crossover track featuring Ice-T, it was clear the metal legends were having trouble finding direction. It’s no surprise they would rejoin with original vocalist Ozzy Osbourne a few years later. The musicianship is tight, and Tony Martin does a fine job on vocals, but most of the material simply falls flat.

Favorite Song on Forbidden: “Get a Grip” is the standout track here. This song would have fit in better on one of the other Tony Martin-era Sabbath albums. This is a heavy number that shows that Sabbath, at times, had what it took to compete with what was going on in modern metal at the time.

18. 13 (2013)

Eighteen years after the release of Forbidden comes 13. Upon announcement, it was every bit a cause for celebration. Ozzy Osbourne himself was back at the helm fronting Black Sabbath. Unfortunately, the songwriting didn’t live up to expectations. 

Normally, even at Sabbath’s lower points, they were changing things up and evolving. 13 is sometimes an enjoyable listen, but it tries a bit too hard to rehash the band’s glory days of the early 1970’s. The production is also a point of contention, even for members of the band. 

Favorite Song on 13: “God is Dead” is a doomy epic that vaguely recaptures some of what made those early Sabbath albums so magical. Clocking in close to nine minutes, the song has a dark and evil vibe that shows these men in their late sixties still knew how to rock.

17. Never Say Die! (1978)

The last album to feature the original lineup, the friction within the band really comes through here. The ideas are often scattered and directionless. While I applaud the artistic experimentalism attempted here, it often doesn’t work. The band was deeply fractured and addicted to drugs and alcohol, and most of the album comes off like the band couldn’t care less about what they’re doing. 

Favorite Song on Never Say Die!: “Johnny Blade” is the one true Sabbath classic here. Although the title track and Bill Ward’s unique closer, “Swinging the Chain,” are worthy contenders, this is one track I wish the band would have performed live more. 

16. Cross Purposes (1994)

Back to the Tony Martin era here, Cross Purposes shows Sabbath darkening and modernizing their sound for the 90’s. While the album drags a bit too long, it’s an overall entertaining listen and is probably the heaviest Tony Martin-era album. “Cross of Thorns,” “Virtual Death,” and several other tracks here showcase a solid band in good form. It’s bizarre that they would follow up this album with Forbidden.

Favorite Song on Cross Purposes: “Evil Eye” is a powerful and heavy track. Sabbath tend to have a knack for great openers and closers, and this is no exception. Tony Martin sounds like a man possessed, and guitarist Tony Iommi plays like a madman.

15. Dehumanizer (1992)

This was the comeback album for the 1981 lineup of the band. Ronnie James Dio is back on vocals, and Vinny Appice is behind the drums. This record clearly set the stage for the modernized heaviness of Cross Purposes. After a string of polished albums in the 80’s, Sabbath returned with one of their rawest albums since the 1970’s. While not all the material goes off without a hitch, songs like “Computer God,” “TV Crimes,” and “Too Late” qualify as Sabbath classics.

Favorite Song on Dehumanizer: “Computer God” kicks the ball rolling in style, letting listeners know Sabbath are back on the map. A popular tune on the 1992 tour, it’s heavy and features Ronnie Dio’s epic vocals at their finest.

14. Seventh Star (1986)

An oddity in the Sabbath discography, this one was originally supposed to be a Tony Iommi solo album. As such, it’s not the most popular entry in the catalogue. For me, as a fan of Glenn Hughes’ contributions to the mighty Deep Purple, it’s a satisfying listen with a handful of low points that are simply a bit too cheesy. Glenn Hughes has a great voice, and the overall feel of the album evokes a doomier take on the work of Deep Purple and Rainbow. 

Favorite Song on Seventh Star: “Sphynx (The Guardian)/Seventh Star” is truly an overlooked gem. This is far heavier than what many of Sabbath’s contemporaries were up to around this time. There’s an epic doom vibe and Glenn Hughes’ soul-influenced vocals fit perfectly. 

13. Tyr (1990)

Predating the “Viking metal” boom by quite some time, this is an epic album filled with lyrics dealing with Norse mythology. The operatic vocals of Tony Martin are in fine form here. While it was a commercially unsuccessful album, I like this more than what Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Dio, and other contemporaries were doing at the same time. There are some weak spots, but Tyr is an overall exciting, driving heavy metal album. 

Favorite Song on Tyr: “Valhalla” is another overlooked metal classic. This song will make any metal fan feel like they’re a member of Odin’s army. Tony Martin really shows his vocal prowess here, and Cozy Powell lays down some pounding drum work.

12. Headless Cross (1988)

This is another operatic album, almost resembling power metal of the era, like Helloween or Queensryche. The album does go a bit overboard on synthesizers and 80’s-style cheese at times, but when they click, the keyboards provide an epic atmosphere. Fusion bassist Laurence Cottle joins the fold seamlessly and shows off his metal chops.

Favorite Song on Headless Cross: “When Death Calls” is the album’s centerpiece, a doom-laden number notable for its guitar solo, featuring Brian May of Queen. This is the longest track on the album, but it excites me for each second.

11. Technical Ecstasy (1976)

This is where the cracks were starting to show in the original Sabbath line-up. Many of the criticisms levied towards this one hold true today. Sure, it’s a bit uneven, and at times too commercial for Sabbath. Yet tracks like party anthem “Rock ‘n Roll Doctor,” the bizarre pop ballad “It’s Alright,” and the epic closer “Dirty Women” all show that Sabbath was still capable of magic even with all the internal friction and drug use going on. 

Favorite Song on Technical Ecstasy: “Dirty Women” closes the album in style. This song has a bizarre and unique riff by Tony Iommi, and some intriguing interplay going on between Bill Ward and Geezer Butler in the rhythm section. Ozzy’s voice is in tip top shape, likely largely due to the serene production value.

10. The Eternal Idol (1987)

This is the peak of the Tony Martin era and kicks off the run with gusto. The Eternal Idol went largely unnoticed at the time, but it’s hard to see why. Sure, it’s not the same Sabbath of 1971, but they were evolving and keeping up with the times. Here we have elements of doom metal, power metal, and even some progressive elements added by the keyboard and synth work. Tony Martin sounds great here and serves up vocals that rival titans like Rob Halford and Geoff Tate. 

Favorite Song on The Eternal Idol: “The Eternal Idol” closes the album and sums it all up nicely. Tony Iommi plays with astounding technical prowess, yet he never forgets about the crucial grooves that constitute all good songwriting. If you’ve never checked out the Tony Martin era of the band, this song is a great place to start.

9. Born Again (1983)

This one has been maligned over the years. The production value is bizarre and muffled, and the album cover is frequently ridiculed. Personally, I think it all works except for a few weak tracks. It’s Ian Gillan of Deep Purple doing vocals for Black Sabbath on what’s possibly their heaviest album of the 1980’s. Songs like “Zero the Hero” and “Disturbing the Priest” are diabolical.

Favorite Song on Born Again: “Trashed” opens things up with one of the finest party anthems the band ever wrote, featuring a speed metal edge and Ian Gillan sounding like he’s twenty years old again. Comparisons to Deep Purple in their heyday are unavoidable, but it all works.

8. Mob Rules (1981)

Frictions between vocalist Ronnie James Dio and Tony Iommi were already reaching boiling point around this time, and it shows in some of the material. Songs like “Country Girl” are complete filler, but the good material here is among Sabbath’s best for any era. 

Favorite Song on Mob Rules: “The Sign of the Southern Cross” is Dio-era Sabbath at its doomiest. It starts off with a mystical and tranquil vocal over acoustic guitar, and then the riffs kick in and simply bring the hammer down. 

7. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973)

This is the point in the list where every album discussed from here on out is a must-listen for not just metal fans, but fans of rock music in general. This album took Sabbath fans by surprise with what was their most experimental album to date, even featuring some session keyboard work from Rick Wakeman of Yes. There’s “Killing Yourself to Live,” “A National Acrobat,” “Spiral Architect.” All of these are enduring classics. The only low point is the experiment misstep “Who Are You” which is a plodding filler track.

Favorite Song on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath: “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” kicks things off with one of the band’s heaviest tunes. There is a lot of rhythmic variety here, as the song veers from heavy, doom-laden sections to melodic passages that really showcase a young Ozzy Osbourne’s vocal talent. 

6. Heaven and Hell (1980)

This is an album nobody expected. Sabbath were all but written off at this point, as Ozzy Osbourne had left the band without their most recognizable member. This is where Ronnie James Dio took over vocal duties and rejuvenated new life into the band after a disappointing end to the 1970’s. Dio injects his trademark fantasy-influenced lyrics into the band. The whole album has a galloping and epic feel, reminiscent of Judas Priest or Iron Maiden at times. 

Favorite Song on Heaven and Hell: “Children of the Sea” is a melodic and atmospheric piece that immediately brings out the heaviness after a tranquil opening. A cautionary tale of environmental catastrophe dressed up in Dio’s fantasy analogies, this is a classic you need to hear. 

5. Black Sabbath (1970)

This is the album that started it all. Tony Iommi lost his fingertips not long before the recording of this album, which is what inadvertently led to his unique guitar tone that would influence countless artists and kickstart the heavy metal genre. This is a powerful debut that’s doomy, loose, and raw. Bill Ward’s jazz-influenced drumming holds down the improvisational segments. 

While the production is somewhat lacking, it fits the live feel the band was going for. Some passages can be a bit noodling, but there are too many classics to deny here. “NIB,” “The Wizard,” “Wicked World,” — what’s not to love?

Favorite Song on Black Sabbath: “Black Sabbath” kicks off the band’s career with what was likely the heaviest rock song ever written at that point in time. Utilizing the tritone guitar riff, the song describes a frightening encounter with a dark spirit. This is essential stuff.

4. Vol. 4 (1972)

By the group’s own admission, the cocaine use got out of control on this record. In fact, we even have a rather obvious ode to cocaine in the form of the classic track “Snowblind.” Surprisingly, the music doesn’t suffer a bit for the group’s extracurricular activities. Even the experimental, piano-driven ballad “Changes” is a charming number. “Tomorrow’s Dream,” “St. Vitus Dance,” “Supernaut,” and “Under the Sun” are all landmark heavy metal tracks. 

Favorite Song on Vol. 4: “Wheels of Confusion” is an epic masterpiece that goes through several thrilling changes. In contrast to the loose, jammy aspects of prior releases, this is a tightly composed killer. The whole band is in peak form.

3. Sabotage (1975)

Enjoy our list of Black Sabbath albums ranked in order from worst to best.

This is an underrated one in the Sabbath catalogue. Some fans decry the album as unfocused and overproduced, but I think it’s brilliant. Aside from the rather weak “Am I Going Insane,” this is really the album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath tried to be. 

All the production experiments work great on this one, and while the album is diverse and varied, there’s still the unrelenting heaviness Sabbath were known for. “Symptom of the Universe” features what is possibly the first thrash metal riff, long before the thrash movement would take off nearly a decade later with bands like Metallica and Slayer. 

Favorite Song on Sabotage: “Megalomania” is the epic centerpiece of the album. Like the aforementioned “Symptom of the Universe,” this one also ebbs and flows through several different compositions, yet with a cohesion of composition rarely heard in Sabbath’s previous records. It’s got psychedelic and progressive rock influence, and the production is stellar. Listen to this one with good headphones if you can. 

2. Paranoid (1970)

If you’re reading this article, you likely already know the epic “War Pigs,” “Iron Man,” and “Paranoid.” This is one album where there’s far more beyond the hits. From the pummeling and doom-laden riffs of “Electric Funeral” to the mellow and psychedelic “Planet Caravan,” this is an essential record from top to bottom. If you like hard rock or heavy metal in any capacity, chances are whomever you’re listening to grew up on Paranoid.

Favorite Song on Paranoid: “Hand of Doom” has a bluesy groove like what was accomplished on the band’s debut, but this is far tighter and far more sinister. Bassist and primary lyricist Geezer Butler’s statement against heroin use, this is a dark tune that really taps into the mindset of those under the spell of addiction. 

1. Master of Reality (1971)

Is "Master of Reality" one of the best Black Sabbath albums ever made?

The band’s third album has timeless songwriting, impeccable musicianship, and an almost otherworldly feel to it. From the classic stoner anthem “Sweet Leaf” to the riveting and galloping riffs of “Children of the Grave,” you can’t go wrong with any of these. While the album is rather short, there’s not a second wasted. It’s the type of record you want to play again as soon as it’s over. 

The short musical interludes only serve to add to the album’s bizarre and heavy atmosphere. While you can’t really go wrong with any of the Sabbath records from this era, this will always be my go-to pick for the cream of the crop.

Favorite Song on Master of Reality: “Into the Void” closes out the album with a doom-driven anti-war piece. It’s sinister but also has an unmistakable groove. It almost makes you want to dance if you’re not paying attention to the ominous lyrics of Geezer Butler. This is my favorite song from my favorite Sabbath record, and you can hear its influence in countless artists both inside and out of the metal genre. 

There you have it. It was a long journey going through the Black Sabbath albums ranked from worst to best, but aside from a few missteps, there’s never a bad time to go through this discography. Sabbath are often pigeon-holed as a metal band, but they explored so many different styles and sounds throughout their career that even the weaker albums have some fabulous moments. Do yourself a favor and dive in if you haven’t.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *