As we all know, the Prince of Darkness, or Ozzy Osbourne, as he is known to friends and family, has survived countless scrapes with life-threatening disaster through the years, including a harrowing ATV accident that nearly finished him for good, ten years ago. However, Ozzy’s frequent dances with the grim reaper have also served as convenient reminders of how much we love the old scoundrel, and cherish his musical influence over four decades as a solo artist and Black Sabbath frontman. Those early years with Sabbath, in particular, have been celebrated through countless cover versions recorded by major bands who count them as Ozzy acolytes, and so we bring you the Top 10 Covers of Ozzy-Era Black Sabbath Songs.
'Tomorrow's Dream' (1992)
Here’s a good indication of Black Sabbath’s vast reach across the musical landscape -- even into the supposedly metal-hating, post-hardcore community from the Pacific Northwest that came to be known as grunge. Now, for psych enthusiasts, the Screaming Trees, being labeled a grunge band probably felt pretty heinous, as well, so their striking 1992 recording of ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ (for the B-side of their ‘Dollar Bill’ single) reveals their acknowledgement of Sabbath’s acid-rock influence.
The very same year, both industrial music giants Ministry and their even more daring side project, 1000 Homo DJs, crafted caustic renditions of the mega-riffed ‘Vol. 4’ favorite ‘Supernaut,’ thus easily earning them a place in our list of Top 10 Covers of Black Sabbath Songs. The second ensemble’s version was of course included in ’94’s trend-setting ‘Nativity in Black’ tribute album, but on this occasion we’ll give props to the oft-forgotten first one, cut by Al Jourgensen’s main crew.
Another ‘Nativity in Black’ entry -- this time culled from Black Sabbath’s dark-hearted third opus, ‘Master of Reality,’ and performed by early crossover pioneers-turned-doom revivalists, Corrosion of Conformity -- ‘Lord of this World’ represents the peak (or depths, as it were) of the great band’s depressive heavy metal template. And, in C.O.C’s capable fists, the song’s sodden riffs and sullen poetry found a perfectly suitable group of misanthropic interpreters, over twenty years after its initial unveiling.
“What?,” you may logically ask, “ Dave Mustaine ...‘Paranoid’?” All kidding aside, it is hard to imagine a more perfect match-made-in-hell between artist and cover song than the one that saw Megadeth covering this proto-thrashing classic about unwelcome voices in one’s head. Luckily for Ozzy, though, we can safely assume that none of the demons flying around his noggin chattered away with Lars Ulrich’s distinctively grating Danish accent, or else ‘Crazy Train’ would be more to him than just a hit song title.
Even by Pantera’s frighteningly heavy standards, 1993’s ‘Far Beyond Driven’ album was so uncompromising in its sheer metallic violence and sonic extremity that it obviously scared the bejesus out of everyone at the band’s then record company. So it’s easy to imagine a scenario where the pee-stained label suits fairly begged Anselmo, Dime, and company to record this faithful cover of Black Sabbath’s best-known mellow moment, ‘Planet Caravan’ -- just in case a viable radio single were needed. It wasn’t: against all odds, ‘Far Beyond Driven’ went straight to number one!
Far be it from the world’s most successful heavy metal band to deny their colossal debt to Ozzy and Sabbath! But while Metallica has made a point of covering many a Black Sabbath song onstage over the years (most notable among them, perhaps, being the simply spectacular ‘Symptom of the Universe’), they waited until 1998’s ‘Garage, Inc.’ to capture something in the studio. When they did, their selection of ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’’s ‘Sabbra Cadabra’ was as surprising as the band’s respectfully precise rendition was not. But we’re not complaining, obviously.
The title track of that legendary Sabbath LP from ’73 is up next in our Top 10 Covers of Ozzy-Era Black Sabbath Songs, by way of an enduringly powerful, fully committed rendition delivered by New York thrashers Anthrax. And it had to be, since this version was tasked with bringing some familiarly metallic heft to the band’s somewhat controversial 1987 deep dive into rap via the ‘I’m the Man‘ EP. The verdict? Mission accomplished, and much credit must go to singer Joey Belladonna’s contributions, as he rarely sounded this comfortable and capable as Anthrax’s frontman again.
When desert/stoner rock pioneers Kyuss first astounded fans of underground metal with seminal works like ‘Blues for the Red Sun’ and ‘Welcome to Sky Valley,’ many found it impossible to believe guitarist Josh Homme’s assertion that he’d never even heard Black Sabbath (just Black Flag) at the time. So when the soon-to-be-fractured foursome deigned to cover ‘Into the Void’ for a split EP with Homme’s future project, Queens of the Stone Age, no one could tell if they did so out of subconscious guilt or belated acceptance of Sabbath’s obvious influence. Whatever the truth, their version rocks -- big time.
Here we go with another, top-notch ‘Nativity in Black’ track -- that being gothic metal titans Type O Negative’s astoundingly evocative reading of Black Sabbath’s signature eponymous track. Needless to say, there’s no easy way to tackle such a fundamental heavy metal behemoth, so credit Peter Steele and his merry me for cleverly adapting this minor key marvel to suit their low frequency monster movie aesthetic to give the infamous devil’s tritone (“Diabolus in Musica”) an entirely new spin for the '90s.
And we conclude our Top 10 Covers of Ozzy-Era Black Sabbath Songs with Faith No More’s positively, errr ... epic (get it? ‘Epic’) interpretation of ‘War Pigs.’ Though originally intended simply as a CD bonus track for the band’s watershed third album, ‘The Real Thing,‘ this cover became a fixture in the band’s live sets for several years to come. And for good reason, since each band member attacks the song to the very limit of their individual instruments behind Mike Patton’s soaring vocal performance before collapsing into a chaotic finale -- a total winner.
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