Black Sabbath is, for obvious reasons, quite possibly the most-covered band in metal. It's possible that they are the most-covered band ever (I doubt it, but it's possible). Every metal band realizes that they owe a debt to Black Sabbath. That's just common knowledge. There are a multitude of full cover albums to Black Sabbath out there. I own three. Of course, with any covers, there are good and bad versions. I want to look at all of the Black Sabbath cover versions that appear in my music collection, beginning with the three tribute albums.
As with other compilations, the question is whether the band impressed me enough to pick up their other albums, so I included a little bit about that if applicable after each synopsis.NATIVITY IN BLACK: This was one of my first albums. After I got all five of the Metallica albums that had been released by that point, I needed something new. I bought this album and Megadeth: Youthanasia at a mall store called Camelot prior to a holiday visit to my grandparents in Indiana. I really liked the testimonials by band members about their experiences listening to Sabbath. This album helped shape many of the bands I would listen to in the next couple of years.
Biohazard: "After Forever": This one starts off really rough, with lead singer/occasional porn star Evan Seinfeld announcing the hardcore band's tribute to Sabbath. It does descend into a decent groove though and is significantly faster than the original. The gang vocals are a terrible touch. Not terrible overall, but not good either. I do not currently own any Biohazard albums, but did at one time.
White Zombie: "Children of the Grave": This one is great. This is one of Sabbath's heaviest songs and Zombie makes it their own with swirling guitars and one hell of a heavy riff. They also add their trademark, movie samples. This is a great version of a great song. The original's still better, but Zombie does a good job. I have a few White Zombie albums, and a couple by Rob Zombie.
Megadeth: "Paranoid": Somehow, the great thrash metal band made this song even faster than the original. Already one of Sabbath's fastest songs, Megadeth adds their own brand of breakneck speed to it. It's actually a little funny too because the drummer keeps going for a couple of bars after the band stops and we hear Dave Mustaine yell at him. I have all of Megadeth's albums.
1,000 Homo DJs: "Supernaut": I can't figure out what this band is, a side project or a oneoff project. Ministry's Al Jourgenson is the only recognizable name here. Why didn't Ministry cover it? This has industrial thrash metal written all over it. It's a monster of a song too.
Therapy? w/ Ozzy Osbourne: "Iron Man": The all time Black Sabbath classic is done reasonably well by this Irish hardcore band who apparently didn't want to attempt the vocals and so brought in Ozzy. It's a more distorted version of the song but that does not make it better. This is just a slightly interesting version of a song that should never be covered. No version does the original justice. I have lots of Ozzy Osbourne albums and used to own an album by Therapy?.
Corrosion of Conformity: "Lord of this World": The Southern metal band (at this point anyway) is well-equipped to handle a Black Sabbath song. All it takes is dirgelike, heavy riffs, something this band specializes in. This is pretty good, but it seems to last forever. I have three COC albums.
Sepultura: "Symptom of the Universe": My initial reaction when I first heard this song was "holy shit, what the fuck was that?" This was the very first extreme metal song I ever heard, other than the short Cannibal Corpse moment in Ace Ventura. It is much faster and heavier than the original and features Max Cavalera's angry vocals and then a somewhat pretty acoustic part at the end that's completely out of the blue. Holy shit indeed. It's a good cover though surprisingly. I have all of Sepultura's material with Max and even the album after Max.
Bullring Brummies: "The Wizard": This is a oneoff project. It features Judas Priest's Rob Halford on vocals, Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath on bass, Brian Tilse of Fight and Wino from Obsessed on guitar, and Jimmy Wood on harmonica. This song is pretty forgettable, not the least of which is because it was the only song this lineup ever recorded. It just isn't all that interesting. A shame, because each of these musicians is fantastic on their own. They should have picked another song maybe.
Bruce Dickinson w/ Godspeed: "Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath": This is another one that is not terribly impressive. Bruce Dickinson is the longtime singer for Iron Maiden and he basically phones this performance in. No vocal acrobatics on this song. The music is okay but Godspeed blasts through the melodic slow parts, affording no real dynamics.
Ugly Kid Joe: "N.I.B.": Surprisingly decent cover from the horrible band that brought us "(I Hate) Everything About You". Not much else to say though. If only the band sounded like this all the time. I used to have two of this band's albums, one given to me by my older brother, the other is really not all that bad.
Faith No More: "War Pigs": This one's bad. It's because it's a live recording and apparently Mike Patton forgot the lyrics partway through. He resorted to some kind of histrionic fit. The music is passable, but the vocals make it hard to concentrate on that. I have four Faith No More albums.
Type O Negative: "Black Sabbath": This song used to freak me out as a kid. It's scary, it really is. The original is scary too, but I heard this version first. This was the first ever doom metal song and the first song Sabbath released. Type O brings back that fear and adds to it with Steele's deep booming vocals. The additions to the end come off well too. The band did another version of this song from the devil's point of view later. Yikes. I have four Type O Negative albums.
NATIVITY IN BLACK VOL. 2: I remember being very excited when I heard that there was going to be a second volume to the Nativity in Black album. The musical landscape had unfortunately changed quite a bit, as evidenced by the multitude of nu-metal acts on this piece of shit. There's an occasional good song, but it's mostly crap. I was disappointed.
Godsmack: "Sweet Leaf": Godsmack sounds like Alice in Chains covering Black Sabbath on this song. They don't really add anything new, attempting to take the safe route of staying true to the original. Unfortunately, if it sounds like the original, why not listen to it instead? This song fails for that reason. I used to own a few Godsmack albums and even saw them in concert opening for Metallica.
Machine Head: "Hole in the Sky": See? Now this is interesting. Machine Head add an awful lot of distortion and bass-heavy riffs to this song. It gives the song a bit of a modern touch. This is one of the better songs on the album. I have four Machine Head albums.
Static-X: "Behind the Wall of Sleep": I used to really like this band when I listened to nu-metal. But even then, this song was terrible. The original is a more understated song, this version robs it of that status and replaces it with a thumping techno drum beat. It's horrendous and really makes it hard to listen to. I still think I have a few of this band's albums.
Megadeth: "Never Say Die": I never cared much for this version. It just doesn't sound like Megadeth. I'm not overly familiar with the original, but I know it doesn't really sound like Black Sabbath either. The vocals are the worst part. They're really grating on the ears. I hoped I would like this song, being one of the only ones by an actual metal band. But I don't. At least it's a little better listening to it now than it was when I first heard it. Perhaps it's the greater appreciation for real metal. No idea. As mentioned earlier, I own all of the band's full lengths.
System of a Down: "Snowblind": SOAD brings their typical bounciness to this song about cocaine addiction. It's actually not bad and the goofy lilting style of the music contrasts deeply to the seriousness of the lyrics. I used to own a couple of SOAD's albums.
Pantera: "Electric Funeral": The ultimate Black Sabbath riff played by a heavy band in their own right. Thankfully, Pantera doesn't do anything to take away the focus on the riff. The vocals are delivered in typical tough-guy style by Phil Anselmo, but it adds a rough edge to the already razor-sharp riff. The only problem is that the riff is somewhat buried in the production under the vocals, but otherwise not bad at all. I have four albums by Pantera.
Primus w/ Ozzy Osbourne: "N.I.B.": Les Claypool of Primus was once in thrash metal band Blind Illusion. He has always seemed to have an appreciation for metal, even trying out for Metallica's bass opening. It's for that reason that the band turns in a surprisingly good cover of N.I.B. and even brings in Ozzy to perform vocals. This is a pretty good version, bass-heavy, but good.
Slayer: "Hand of Doom": This one is the biggest surprise on the album. Taking a lightning-fast thrash metal act like Slayer and having them play the namesake song for the doom metal genre. And holy shit, Tom Araya actually sings?! What's up with that? The band is very faithful to the original, adding no Slayer-isms. This is a huge shock. I didn't know what to expect and years later, I'm still dumbfounded by this song. I think I would have preferred seeing them take on a different song personally. I have all of Slayer's full length albums.
Soulfly: "Under the Sun": Max Cavalera's nu-metal band after leaving Sepultura tackles this doomy, riff-heavy song. However, they play it too fast and Max's vocals do not fit the song at all. At the beginning it sounds fine, but once it gets going, it loses the listener as soon as the vocals kick in. I own one Soulfly album, somewhere maybe.
Hed P.E.: "Sabbra Cadabra": This would be the worst song on the album if not for the last one. This band is terrible. They try to mix hard rock, reggae, and rap and suck at all three types of music, thus failing in spectacular fashion. This trainwreck is barely listenable.
Monster Magnet: "Into the Void": Monster Magnet takes its drug rock nature to new heights with this mindfuck of a cover. It features loud ambient noises and mainman Dave Wyndorf's drugged out rambling for most of the song, occasionally even remembering to actually play the damn song. No thanks. Too bad, as I actually enjoy some of Monster Magnet's stuff and saw them in concert. I used to own three of their albums, but may be down to one now.
Busta Rhymes w/ Ozzy Osbourne: "Iron Man (This Means War)": This is an abomination. Calling it a Black Sabbath cover is a massive insult. Even worse is the fact that it's supposed to be fucking "Iron Man". This is awful, one of the single worst non-metal covers of a metal song ever. To call it a cover is even a joke because it's simply a sample of the main riff repeated ad nauseum while Busta raps and Ozzy occasionally croons. What were they thinking?!ETERNAL MASTERS: This is just a random cassette I bought one day in high school because I liked the other Sabbath tribute album so much. I had only heard of Cannibal Corpse and Sacred Reich before buying this. I really haven't gotten too much into most of the other bands on here with the exceptions of Cadaver and Exhorder.
Sacred Reich: "War Pigs": Sacred Reich has always been considered a third-rate thrash metal band, and they show why here. This version is sterile and lacks emotion. It's faster, but it doesn't have the same sense of dangerous political opinion as the original version. I own one Sacred Reich album.
Cadaver: "Sweet Leaf": The Norwegian death metal band Cadaver turns in a song that musically strongly resembles the original. But the vocals are delivered in a smoky snarling growl. It's different, but it actually works reasonably well. I own one Cadaver album, after they changed to Cadaver, Inc.
Cords: "Snowblind": I have no idea who this band is, they are apparently not a metal band. The song actually isn't terrible though. It's different. It has a female singer on it and the vocals are relatively well-done. The music is close to the original, but with a swirling guitar at the beginning.
Cannibal Corpse: "Zero the Hero": Totally bizarre. If you ever wanted to hear a Sabbath song done with extremely deep death growls, here's your chance. I actually kind of like it. I own several Cannibal Corpse albums.
The Clay People: "Paranoid": Did I say the last song was weird? The Clay People are an industrial band and they bring that trippy, futuristic feeling to this track. It's unique, to say the least, but ultimately disposable. I did own one album by these guys when I really liked industrial rock.
Coffin Break: "Hole in the Sky": This is a pretty decent version of a Sabbath song. Especially considering Coffin Break is a punk band. They don't do bad. It's nothing special, but for a punk band to sound like that is pretty impressive.
Exhorder: "Into the Void: The groove metal pioneers in Exhorder have created the best song on this album. It's heavy and very faithful to the original. The vocals are a little rougher, but not so much that the lyrics can't be identified. I have two Exhorder albums.
O.L.D.: "Who are You?": The original was full of keyboard effects. This version doubles them giving the whole song a spacy feel. This was never one of my favorite Sabbath songs and I don't like this version from the avant-garde metal/grindcore band.
Jesters of Destiny: "Electric Funeral": This is just terrible. The vocals are bad and often off time. The psychedelic metal band sounds like they have been smoking too much pot. This is one of Sabbath's best songs, and this version completely loses that feeling. No thanks.
Type O Negative: "Paranoid": They slowed the song way down and inserted the riff from "Iron Man" into the middle of it, increasing the length of the song two-fold. It's an extremely interesting cover. Type O definitely left their mark on it. As mentioned, I have four albums from this band.
Pantera: "Planet Caravan": This definitely does not sound like a Pantera song. The trippy, slow song is performed extremely well and extremely faithfully by the bruising tough guy groove metal band on their Far Beyond Driven album. I have four albums by Pantera.
Metallica: "Sabbra Cadabra": This is actually a medley that appears on the band's cover album Garage Inc. Metallica was not comfortable doing the more melodic singing parts of the original so they included parts of "A National Acrobat" from the same album as the original. It's a decent cover, but overproduced and James Hetfield's voice just does not sound right singing this song. I have all of Metallica's full-length albums.
Faith No More: "War Pigs": This is the non-live version of the song that appeared on the tribute album and it is a much better recording. Also, Mike Patton remembers the lyrics, so that's a plus. The big innovation in the song is the throbbing slap-bass addition. It gives the song a bit of a funk feel. As mentioned, I own four Faith No More albums.
Vader: "Black Sabbath": It's pretty unusual to hear a band noted for their speed and ferocity playing a song known for being incredibly slow. This is off the band's live album recorded in Japan. They managed to slow down adequately enough to play the song, with a little extra distortion. However, the singer's voice does not really fit, as he yells the lyrics out. Otherwise, they bring out an evil ferocity not found before. I have four albums from Vader.
Amon Amarth: "Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath": This is a rare recording found on one of the band's early demos. As it is an early demo recording, the production is really rough. The guitars have a tinny quality and everything else sounds like mush. It would be interesting to hear the band revisit this song, because it can barely be heard here. I know it doesn't sound terribly promising though. I have all of Amon Amarth's full-length albums.