Black Sabbath were a phenomenon when they burst onto the scene at the beginning of the seventies. They did so with a canon of songs that cracked through the public consciousness and announced the arrival of heavy metal, but which albums from the genre they birthed mean the most to former drummer Bill Ward? Thankfully, that’s a question he’s answered, and these ten records need to be in every true metalhead’s collection.
Black Sabbath were pioneers in every sense. The Brummies were unlike anything that came before them, and they rapidly became heroes for a generation of kids who would do their best to replicate their anarchic sound. What made Sabbath so sumptuous was that the band was never merely the Ozzy Osbourne show; all four group members brought their own individual ingredients to the party, which created unmatched headbanging anthems.
The band’s primary songwriter was guitar wizard Tony Iommi, a creative who was firmly the brains behind the majority of Black Sabbath’s music. While Osbourne would write vocal melodies and bassist Geezer Butler would chip in with lyrics, the band hung on Iommi’s distinct sound. However, even with that considered, Ward’s powerhouse drumming was the glue that kept it all together.
When you ponder that Ward has been there since the beginning of metal, he’s somewhat of a leading expert on what makes a good metal album. Thankfully, he listed his favourite ten to Rolling Stone in 2017, which is hard to argue against considering his know-how on the topic.
The first record on his list is the third offering from his own band, Black Sabbath. After everything they achieved together, it’s hard to argue against Ward putting humbleness to the side and including Master of Reality. “I like every single Sabbath album that I worked on,” Ward notes. “But I just happen to like Master of Reality. I liked it because the band was, by that time, very much a completely on-the-road, touring band. We hadn’t come off the road for several years and there’s a maturity about it.
“I’m not saying that the other two – Black Sabbath and Paranoid – weren’t mature. I think they were, actually. But there’s something about Master; there’s something different about it. It’s always been one of my favourites. I just happen to really, really like that album,” he added.
Another album that every metal fan on the planet undoubtedly nods with approval at Ward’s choice to include is Metallica’s eponymous 1981 album, which featured heavy-hitting singles like ‘Enter Sandman’ and ‘The Unforgiven’. “I love the Black Album because I think it was the beginning of something, primarily,” Ward explains. “I’d met Metallica, and I’d heard Metallica before that, but when I heard the Black Album, I actually had a response rather like I did with Sgt. Pepper. When I heard Sgt. Pepper for the first time, I sat down – along with a lot of other people – and listened to it over and over and over again. I did the same thing with the Black Album.” Praise doesn’t get much loftier than that.
Motörhead’s 2010 effort, The Wörld Is Yours, also features on the list with Ward dotingly saying: “Lemmy had all the basic gut instincts about what metal is and there’s no question about that. He’s from that fairground way of life. I saw them in a bar in Worcester years and years ago when they were first setting out – I think it was 1981 or 1982 – and I couldn’t believe the energy. It was fucking unbelievable. You knew that they were gonna be on the move, that they were a big band, that they were gonna tour the world multiple times. It’s just absolutely plain in the way that they were.”
There’s also room for Slipknot’s 5: The Gray Chapter from 2014, which shows that Ward’s music taste doesn’t have a cut-off point, and his love of metal isn’t ending anytime soon. Commenting on the record, the former Black Sabbath man states: “I was gonna pick [Slipknot’s] first album [1999’s Slipknot], but I thought, ‘No, let’s go with the last album that they did.’ The reason that I picked it, primarily, is because of Corey [Taylor’s] lyrics. I was talking to #3 [percussionist Chris Fehn] only a couple of days ago – he’s a really close friend of mine.”
Ward continued, “I was talking about Corey’s lyrics, about how I’m amazed by every time I played the album, I learned something more. It’s the way that Corey will give you a barrage of lyrics and then become subdued. There are some really hardcore lyrics on this album. I’m not saying that there weren’t before with Slipknot; they’ve always been a hardcore band, period. But that’s what drew me to it, and that’s what brought me to the decision. There’s excellent playing from every member of the band, as well.”
Check out the list, below.
Black Sabbath’s Bill Ward’s favourite metal albums:
- Black Sabbath – Master of Reality
- Metallica – Metallica
- Slipknot – 5: The Gray Chapter
- Judas Priest – The Best of Judas Priest: Living After Midnight
- Motörhead – The Wörld Is Yours
- Type O Negative – October Rust
- Krisiun – Southern Storm
- Fear Factory – Mechanize
- DevilDriver – Beast
- Dead Cross – Dead Cross