Black Sabbath’s self-titled debut, 1970′s Black Sabbath, set the unholy blueprint: Tony Iommi’s blood-curling riffs, Ozzy Osbourne’s demonic howl, and the versatile rhythms of bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward. Even still, few could have predicted just how influential that particular sound would be: More than 40 years later, even as metal has splintered into a dizzying array of sub-genres (doom-metal, post-metal, sludge-metal, prog-metal), Sabbath’s black-magic mojo looms larger than ever. Fortunately, the classic line-up (minus Ward) reunited for this year’s 13, returning to the epic, occult-conjuring sound of their ’70s prime. In honor of this return to form, we’ve traced Sabbath’s sonic lineage through 10 modern albums — starting with the iconic source.
Who they are: Formed in Birmingham, England in 1968, Black Sabbath assaulted rock's flower-power landscape like a kamikaze. Their demonic, riff-heavy style was an instant commercial success, despite scathing reviews — and when "metal" became a critical adjective, Sabbath defined it. Throughout endless line-up shifts (including the underrated '80s era with vocalist Ronnie James Dio) and occasional duds (1995's Forbidden, with its regrettable Ice-T cameo), guitarist Tommy Iommi has remained at the forefront, steering the ship toward blackest possible waters.
How they sound: The Sabbath Sound is monolithic in scope: distorted, dissonant and bluesy, with a grim low-end and a theatrical demon wail up front.
Sabbath moment: The band's 1970 classic Paranoid remains the cornerstone of the Sabbath sound — all newcomers should start there. But 13 is Sabbath at their most classically Sabbath-y. The peak is "God is Dead?," a lurching slow build from trippy atmospherics to a classic, full-frontal stomp, topped off by a vintage Iommi solo.
Who they are: This Dorset, England quartet was born in 1993, quickly rising to the forefront of the blossoming doom-metal movement. Fun Fact: Their band's name is formed from blending the titles of two Sabbath songs: "Electric Funeral" and "The Wizard."
How they sound: Electric Wizard specialize in a particularly sludgy brand of stoner-metal, with lead vocalist and guitarist Jus Oborn romanticizing the thrills of Satan, science fiction and weed.
Sabbath moment: These guys clearly worship at the Altar of Sabbath. "Vinum Sabbathi" is a riveting example: lurching tempos, devilish vocals and de-tuned storm clouds of distortion. It sounds like prime Sabbath — if they got stoned and tried to soundtrack a B-level horror flick.
Who they are: These Southern prog-metal warriors formed in Atlanta in 2000. Thirteen years later, they're unpredictable critic darlings — and a metal institution.
How they sound: Their early albums (like 2001's Remission) were sludgy and relentless, built on Brann Dailor's explosive, snare-heavy drumming and Brent Hinds's virtuosic guitar. Taking major influence from '70s prog, they've gradually evolved into a weirder, wilder band — best exemplified by the dizzying sprawl of 2012's The Hunter.
Sabbath moment: "Curl of the Burl" is a lost Sabbath epic, built on a swampy, winding guitar groove and Hinds's gothic, Ozzy-esque lyrical imagery. Hellishly heavy.
Who they are: Guitarist Josh Weaver formed this alt-metal outfit in 2006, finding a unique niche in Atlanta's impressive metal scene. Their debut full-length, CVI, was released in 2012 by Relapse Records.
How they sound: Too heavy to be alt-rock (with Weaver's menacing guitar drama), too pretty and melody-driven to be pure metal (with MIny Parsonz's soulful alto), Royal Thunder are the best of both sonic worlds.
Sabbath moment: "Snake and Shift" is their Sabbath Moment (and their finest moment, period). Opening in a black hole of feedback, this nine-minute behemoth builds to a brooding, trippy groove, Parsonz channeling her spookiest Ozzy inflections.
Who they are: This Toronto quintet formed in 2006, making an immediate impression throughout Europe with their witchy, folky brand of metal. Three studio albums aside, they've made their name on the road, touring with other Sabbath spawn like Ghost and Electric Wizard.
How they sound: Guitarist Sean Kennedy once labelled the band's sound as a "folkier Sabbath," which is a fairly accurate description. With their proggy interplay (not to mention Alia O'Brien's elegant flute lines), Blood Ceremony mix their Sabbath-y heaviness with the eccentricity of Jethro Tull.
Sabbath moment: "Witchwood," from 2013's The Eldritch Dark, is the band's Sabbath-y show-stopper: a funky blues riff, mystical organ drone, O'Brien channeling Ozzy's black-magic howl.
Who they are: Opeth is the brainchild of Swedish metal icon Mikael Åkerfeldt, who founded the band in 1990, building an almost-mythic legacy over the course of ten studio albums.
How they sound: Opeth have one of the most distinctive styles in metal history, blending full-on death-metal with pastoral folk, jazz-fusion and prog. Åkerfeldt is a vocal chameleon, jumping from guttural growls to angelic croons in the course of a single song.
Sabbath moment: "The Devil's Orchard," a standout from 2011's Heritage, is a Sabbath dead-ringer. "God is dead!," Åkerfeldt cries over spook-house B3 organ and a metallic crunchy snake-coil riff.
Who they are: Pallbearer's exquisite doom-metal was born in 2008 — in the unlikely metal hub of Little Rock, Arkansas. Their hugely hyped debut album, Sorrow and Extinction, was released in 2012.
How they sound: The band's majestic, psychedelic metal conjures images of foggy swamps and corroding gothic castles. It's a transfixing sound, built on creeping rhythms, sludgy guitar harmonies and Brett Campbell's Ozzy-inflected cries.
Sabbath moment: Look no further than "Foreigner," the 12-minute opening opus from Sorrow and Extinction. Over murky, earth-shattering distortion, Campbell moans masterfully — like the high-priest of hell.
Who they are: This excellent Austin quartet formed in 2003, drawing major influence from Sabbath, among other metal icons like Deep Purple and Iron Maiden. Their fourth LP, 2012's Apocryphon, managed to crash the Billboard Top 20.
How they sound: The Sword specialize in vintage, Dungeons and Dragons-style metal, defined by the harmonized dual guitar work-outs of John D. Cronise and Kyle Shutt.
Sabbath moment: A propulsive highlight from 2008's Gods of the Earth, "Maiden, Mother & Crone" is the band's quintessential Sabbath homage: razor-sharp blues-metal riffage, deceptively funky drumming, and Cronise's vampiric moan.
Who they are: Post-metal icons Isis formed in 1997, starting out in Boston before relocating to L.A. They released five full-length albums before their 2010 break-up. Fun Fact: The band covered Sabbath's "Hand of Doom" on their 1996 EP, Sawblade.
How they sound: Isis is not a conventional "metal" band in any way: Their songs veer jarringly from effects-driven post-rock to doom-driven atmospherics to psychedelic ambience, never pausing long enough to be pigeonholed.
Sabbath moment: "Grinning Mouths," the unholy closer from 2004's Panopticon is mammoth close to a mammoth album. Jeff Caxide's bass and Aaron Harris's kit build a funky, tribal groove, as the guitars weave dramatically over top. Half-angelic, half-demonic — completely absorbing.
Who they are: These mysterious metal-heads formed in Linköping, Sweden in 2008, raising eyebrows with their "Nameless Ghoul" personas and doom-laden epics.
How they sound: In keeping with their sacrilegious visuals, Ghost B.C. Conjure an epic brand of demonic metal, blending choral vocal arrangements with primal distortion and proggy atmospherics.
Sabbath moment: Ghost B.C.'s Sabbath Moment is "Con Clavi Con Dio," a blend of guttural riffage, spastic bass chug, and frontman Papa Emeritus's eerie harmonies.