5 Killer Cover Songs: Black Sabbath

Duffy Archive/Courtesy of Rhino Records

Black Sabbath is often credited with the creation of modern heavy music. Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi incorporated the tritone—or the devil’s interval—into the opening track of the band’s self-titled debut, cementing the band’s legacy in modern metal. Since the band's inception in 1968, they've left an indelible mark on the world of heavy music, influencing nearly every single band to crank up the distortion and play heavy. Hell, they've probably influenced plenty of light bands too.

From the band's funeral slogging beginnings, through lineup changes, multiple fads in heavy metal and everything in between, Black Sabbath still remains one of the most important bands in musical history.

Before we fall off the edge of the world, check out these 5 awesome Black Sabbath covers.

Face Value, "Mob Rules"

For quite a long time, I’ve made no bones about how my favorite era of Black Sabbath is with Ronnie James Dio on vocals. I mean, I have the cover of Holy Diver tattooed on my leg, so what else is my answer supposed to be? With Mob Rules also being my favorite Sabbath album, I had to pick at least one track from the record for this column.

To complement one of my favorite vocalists, I had to pick a song sung by one of my other favorite vocalists: Cleveland’s most valuable resource, Tony Erba. Climbing quickly to infamy by fronting bands like Face Value, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers, and Fuck You Pay Me, Erba has become an interesting and sometimes mythical figure in the world of hardcore due to his bands' erratic and sometimes downright dangerous live shows.

Regardless, the early Cleveland straight edge band Face Value ripped a really cool cover of "Mob Rules," turning it from the theme to a biker bar brawl into the theme to a brawl at one of Cleveland's coolest venues, Now That's Class.

Earth Crisis, "Children of the Grave"

(The version of "Children of the Grave" on YouTube is mislabeled as "City to City)

Having received their own column a few weeks ago, vegan straight edge hardcore stalwarts Earth Crisis are no stranger to a cover song. They were even included in the Dead Kennedys iteration of this column, tackling the classic DK track “Holiday In Cambodia”. Appearing on the same album, 2001’s mostly-covers-record, Last of the Sane, Earth Crisis also takes on “Children of the Grave” by Black Sabbath.

Seems kind of weird that a band like Earth Crisis would pay tribute to the creators of stoner metal, right? But it weirdly works. Any time a band can heavy up a Sabbath song, the results are usually a success. This version is no different. By this time, they were firmly planted in a highly polished and crunchy sound, which lends itself well to the lesser-known Sabbath track.

The song fits well with the other cover selections as well as the Earth Crisis originals and re-recordings found at the end of the record.

The Dickies, "Paranoid"

You ever listen to The Dickies? They're fuckin' weird, man. But weird in a fun way. There's no other way to refer to a band that came to prominence picking some bizarre cover songs ("Silent Night" and the theme to The Banana Splits comes to mind) and penning the theme to one of the best horror comedies of all time, Killer Klowns From Outer Space.

The Dickies have been delivering their unhinged pop-punk concoction to the masses since 1977, so there's a lot of history behind the band. On their debut album, The Incredible Shrinking Dickies, they tackled a wily cover of the Sabbath classic "Paranoid," trimming off nearly an entire minute from the original runtime due to their maniacal jangling throughout the track.

Even though it's a punk band playing a metal song, the solo is nearly identical to Tony Iommi's original, which is highly impressive. 

Jesuit, "Hole in the Sky"

We can all agree that Converge is one of the biggest bands in metallic hardcore. Each member has a longstanding history in underground music, including the band's prolific bassist Nate Newton.

Before joining Converge in 1998, Newton played in the Virginia Beach hardcore band Jesuit (also featuring one-time Dillinger Escape Plan guitarist Brian Benoit). Jesuit was one of the many bands to partake in the In These Black Days tribute series helmed by Hydra Head Records, which saw various bands paired together paying tribute to Black Sabbath including Botch, Coalesce, Eyehategod, Neurosis, and more.

On volume 4, oddly enough, Jesuit found themselves paired with Overcast and contributed their version of "Hole in the Sky," the opening track on 1975's Sabotage. The track kind of lays a foundation for Newton's future side project Doomriders, hitting that swinging stoner metal cadence aided by thick guitars and strained vocal roars.

Thou, "Sweet Leaf"

New Orleans sludge royalty Thou are no strangers to this column. Hell, I could make about a dozen of these just from their gigantic cache of Nirvana covers. But here, they take on the Sabbath song "Sweet Leaf," an ironic choice to say the least. The first track on Masters of Reality, "Sweet Leaf," might be one of the best stoner metal songs in existence, possibly tied with Sleep's "Dopesmoker." 

Originally found on the band's own Sabbath tribute EP, Through the Empires of Eternal Void, released in 2009 by German-based label Vendetta Records, the song fits perfectly within the catalog of original Thou tracks: downtuned, pissed, and gritty as hell.

Thou plays the song incredibly, making it even heavier than originally thought possible. The song eventually breaks down into a noisy mess in the best way, with dual solos panned on each side of the recording, creating a vicious tornado of noise.


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Tagged: 5 killer cover songs, black sabbath, earth crisis, face value, jesuit, the dickies, thou